Vaisakhi is traditionally a celebration of the harvest festival in the Punjab, a colourful and joyous commemoration which falls on the first day of the Vaisakh month. It is also the anniversary of the day Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa. He declared that Skihs belonged to a family of soldier saints and gave all men the name of Singh or Lion, and women the title of Kaur or Princess.
Sikhs begin Vaisakhi at dawn with a ritual thorough cleansing from head to toe. Families gather for prayers either at home or at a temple. They give thanks to God, remember past loved ones or look to the future in their prayer. It is a time for family togetherness and worship, each family focusing and praying for what is special and meaningful to them.
At gurdwaras or temples, the Sikh flag is raised and langars or community kitchen serve young and old seated on the floor in long rows, and partaking together. Attendees listen to the chanting of scriptures and hymns from the Guru Grant Sahib or the Sikh holy book.
Many Sikhs choose to be Khalsa on Vaisakhi. The baptism is part of a personal spiritual evolution which Sikhs undergo when they are ready. All Sikhs are expected to be Khalsa or to work towards that objective. The ceremony is watched by five specially dressed men representing the Panj Piaras or the first five Sikhs who were baptized in 1699. Children play Vaisakhi games, reenacting activities from that historic day.