Odds are Baisakhi is not a holy day you celebrate and it may not even be one of which you have heard. While the day is celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus for a number of reasons, it is the Sikh religion, centered in Northern India, which has been celebrating the day since 1699. This year’s celebration of Baisakhi will occur this Saturday, on April 13th when much of the region of Punjab will take the day off to attend special ceremonies in local temples.
Baisakhi is spelled a half dozen different ways and celebrate a dozen more ways in areas of India, Pakistan and beyond. Wikipedia will tell you the day is holy to Sikhs because of the end of the line of guru leaders with the transference of authority to the Gurū Graṅth Sāhib (written scripture) and Khalsa (living body of the Sikh community). What Wikipedia won’t show you are the festivities inside the Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, in Amritsar, India where the original version of the Gurū Graṅth Sāhib is housed.
My experience at the Golden Temple during Baisakhi was with a group of photographers interested in seeing the many sides of the complex. Because of the experience of our guide, we were able to access a number of areas most tourists don’t bother to visit but really should if they want to scratch below the surface. The Sikh religion is an open and welcoming religion as demonstrated by the four openings to the Golden Temple facing each direction. Non-Sikhs are also allowed to view the original Gurū Graṅth Sāhib and participate in meals served at the temple.
All throughout our experience at the Golden Temple, I was amazed at how warmly we, clearly outsiders, were welcomed. Everywhere we went there were smiling faces greeting us, some turning more stoic when posing for a photo. Many wanted their picture taken with us, either with their cell phone camera or with our cameras, to the point where it was often hard to walk 100’ without being summoned to be included in a group photo.
Here then is a visual tour of the Golden Temple as seen in the faces of the many pilgrims, workers and visitors to this special location during the annual Baisakhi celebration.