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Baisakhi — the season for rejoicing
By Imran Saleem
GUJRANWALA, April 17: The Baisakhi fair at Eminabad (Gujranwala) continues to inspire locals as well as the Sikh community from India even three centuries after its inception.
One of its undying traditions is cattle trade which is gaining popularity with every passing year. More than 7,000 animals have been traded during this year’s festival.
Of equal importance is the ritual of bathing on the first day of Baisakh. It was the Sikhs initially who had a firm faith in the ritual, but over the years Muslims (especially the local population) have begun to believe that bathing would prove a cure-all and they would remain immune from all kinds of diseases the whole year through.
A number of men, women and children throng the Upper Chenab Canal before dawn, keeping the spirit of Sikhs’ ritual of taking bath in the ‘swimming pool’ of Rori Sahib Gurdwara alive.
An estimated 20,000 people enjoy the fair by participating in traditional recreations, watching dances, circus, acrobatics and the most popular death well. Owing to a lack of interest by the Khiali Shahpur town administration, unhygienic foodstuff and beverages are sold to the visitors.
The fair will continue till April 18 when almost 3,000 Sikh yatrees will visit Rori Sahib Gurdwara after participating in the Baisakhi fair at Hassanabdal.
For Sikhs, Baisakhi had been a religious custom but the villagers of Eminabad suburbs added colour to the event by introducing ‘Mela-i-Mowaishiyan’. After partition, the Sikhs did not participate in the Eminabad’s fair for a decade, but Muslim villagers, though poor, kept organising the animal fair which has over the years become one of the biggest fairs of the Punjab. Cattle trade remains at peak for the first three days.
This year, more than 7,000 horses, mules and donkeys were brought to the ‘mela’ for trading. A donkey price ranges from Rs700 to Rs7,000, mule (Rs30,000 to Rs80,000) and a horse is sold between Rs25,000 and Rs90,000. The customers of these animals are owners of donkey and mule carts, and tongas. Horses are also bought for races at villages nearby.
The most sought-after donkeys are of Wandu village, mules of South Punjab and ‘Rajhistani’ horse which is used in horse races for gambling.
Baisakhi is celebrated on 1st of Baisakh (first day of Sanskrit calendar and solar Nanakshahi calendar) and the beginning of Sikh year (April 13). It’s celebrated as a day of happiness and prosperity on the eve of first harvest of wheat crop which had been the only business of the locals in the past.
Baisakhi’s traces were also found when the Aryans arrived in the Indus Valley Civilisation, but Guru Amar Das (1475-1574) started a congregational fair at Goindval in the month of Baisakh and with the lapse of time it became popular in the Punjab.
According to the Sikh community, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb beheaded the 9th Guru of Sikhs, Guru Teg Bahadur and then the next one, Guru Gobind Singh, called a congregation of Sikh communities in Anandpur (India) in 1699 to inject courage and sense of unity against the Mughal oppression and tyranny on the 1st day of Baisakh.
According to another legend, Baisakh is the birth month of Baba Guru Nanak Dev and also the first month of Sikh calendar.