Posted on: Monday April 13, 2015
The Byrds have been on my mind of late, their one song in particular, Turn, Turn, Turn:
To everything - turn, turn, turn/ There is a season - turn, turn, turn/ And a time to every purpose under heaven/ A time to be born, a time to die/ A time to plant, a time to reap...
These very resonant lyrics are a veritable inner soundscape in my head as we find ourselves in early April, keenly anticipating the harvest festival of Baisakhi and its varied, vibrant expressions across India (in particular, their farm to table palatable articulation!).
Baisakhi is a thanksgiving of sorts for people in Punjab and Haryana, for this is the day the rabi crop is harvested, marking an end as well as the start of a new crop cycle. Spirited celebrations of auspicious beginnings animate the length and breadth of India, for Baisakhi also marks the first month of the solar Vedic calendars observed by different communities studded into India’s mosaic. You’ll find that while dhol beats reach a crescendo in Punjab and Haryana and people dance the gidda and bhangra to celebrate the new year as well as give thanks for the bountiful harvest on Baisakhi, in the eastern part of India the Assamese celebrate Rongali Bihu and dance in their agricultural new year and seeding time. Tamilians observe this day as Varshu Pirappu (birth of the New Year) to honour the day Brahma started creation, the Malyalis as Pooram Vishu (start of New Year) and Bengalis as ‘Naba Barsho’ (New Year).
This harvest festival also marks an important day for the Sikh community: the founding day of the Khalsa Pant (Order of Pure Five Ones). It is believed that in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, administered amrit (nectar) to his first batch of disciples and pronounced them Singhs, casting aside prejudice and caste and seeing all people as equal. On the same day, in 1875, Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj - a reformist movement that discouraged idol worship and turned to the Vedas instead for spiritual guidance. Buddhists the world over observe this day as Vesak, the day, according to the Theravada school of Buddhism, when the Buddha was born two and a half millennia ago, also the day he attained enlightenment and the day too, when the Buddha passed away. Baisakhi is a hopeful time and, as it is celebrated across cultures, a moment for us to realise our full human potential for kindness and to reflect upon our rootedness - to our cultural traditions and to the earth that nourishes us.
This April 12 and 13, experience the true spirit of Baisakhi at the The Baisakhi Festival at Pavilion 75, WelcomHotel Dwarka, for feasting is integral to this celebration of soil and what earth provides. On April 14, attend the food festival Vaisakh and Poila Baisakh at ITC Grand Central’s Hornby’s Pavilion, to savour the varied and unique flavours that this seasonal celebration gets in Punjab and West Bengal, two very different parts of India with hearty culinary traditions. Perchance you are in Delhi, relish the spread at the food festival Baisakhi at Baywatch, Sheraton Delhi as ITC celebrates food as an expression of creation, love, and grace and of much else, that sustains our time on earth.