Vaisakhi for a Sikh will always be about the Vaisakhi of 1699 with the 10th Patshah, the Tenth Sovereign. And that’s the way this extraordinary moment in Sikh history has been passed down through the centuries.
The historic Vaisakhi of 1699 is very much a part of my consciousness. I’m convinced it is a part of the Sikh DNA. This is one day that, no matter where a Sikh is, the greatest effort will be made to visit a gurduara (Sikh place of learning), be part of the sangat (congregation), and celebrate.
Each of us remembers Vaisakhi differently because we are all at different stages of our Sikhi journey.
I grew up hearing about Vaisakhi, but I must confess that I did not really connect with it. It was when the darkness in my life was unbearable that a Voice resounded within:
“You are not a commodity
You are not someone’s property.
You are a spark of Divinity,
Recognize your worth.
I give you the name “Kaur.”
It belongs to you.
Stand tall, my child.
I am with you.”
It is at that moment that I transcended and embraced “Kaur.” I understood on many levels what was being bestowed. I was somewhere in my forties.
Up until then, Kaur and I were alien.
But no more!
That moment, it became my Vaisakhi;
a Gift I’ve cherished with every breath.
Embracing Kaur has been liberating. The freedom that I felt and continue to feel is intense. I have changed, and this dramatic change has caused tension between those I loved and those who supposedly loved me. But the truth is that I could not go back, for I’ve had a fleeting taste of the “Nectar.” And I’ve wanted that flavor to continue more than anything else.
Surrender transpired, but I had always regarded surrender as a weakness. Images of white flags and conquering armies would flash before my eyes whenever the word “surrender” entered my consciousness. But that is not what this surrender is...
I can tell that it is not I who surrendered; it is my being, my essence, that surrendered on its own. My head fell intuitively, and my heart opened. And what I received was the glow—the glow of warm love. I felt cradled. The shawl of Gurbani embraced me.
ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥
ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥
ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥
ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥
If you are excited to play the game of love,
come to my street with your head placed on the palm.
Once you place your foot on this path,
do not hesitate to offer your head. 20
Guru Granth Sahib 1410
So, I continue to walk on this Path. It is challenging, to say the least. For it is finer than a hair and sharper than a double-edged sword.
I recall a line from Bhai Vir Singh’s book “Kalgidhar Chamatkar,” Sikhi is love; Sikhi is faith (Sikhi piar hai, Sikhi sidak hai - ਸਿੱਖੀ ਪਿਆਰ ਹੈ, ਸਿੱਖੀ ਸਿਦਕ ਹੈ).
I get asked repeatedly: “Why this path?” The answer is quite simple. It is because of the love that I have experienced emanating from the House of Nanak. This love nurtured me, and I blossomed.
Sikhi is love.
I can vouch for that.
Love is not abstract; it is experienced through relationships, and all relationships are based on experiences. The relationship between the Guru and a Sikh is no different. The closer one is to Guru, the more profound the bond is.
For me, Guru is Sabad.
My life changed.
The stage of sleeping was over.
My eyes opened.
I see beauty all around me.
The beauty was always there;
I just didn’t have discerning eyes to see it.
Embracing Kaur has given direction to my life, and gradually, I have learned to accept myself with all my weaknesses. In Sikh thought, Guru is Perfection, and I am a work in progress.
For me, Vaisakhi is no longer just one day of remembrance. It has become a part of me, and when I least expect it, I find myself transported to the Vaisakhi of 1699. It is never far away from my consciousness. And when asked: “What were you before Kaur?” I don’t even know what to say. Mostly, I pretend that I have not understood the question, and if the probing continues, then I say, “I was nothing worth knowing.”
I’ve been through a lot before Sikhi embraced me.
I am a Kaur now
and that’s it.
Maybe it is strange or maybe not, but I feel that the Vaisakhi of 1699 freed me. And once you have tasted freedom, there is no going back. It comes back to relationships, and I want this relationship to define my life.
I feel the Gifts are my shingar, my adornment.
They remind me of Guru.
They are a nishan (mark) of love, a nishan of belonging.
My kesh (hair) grows lovingly. I now call them my tresses.
The kara (steel bracelet) adorns my wrist. It is the only jewel I need.
I no longer call the kirpan a sword. Instead, it is an instrument of compassion to be used with great care. I long for the divine virtues to reside within before I can be worthy to carry this Gift.
It has taken me quite a while to feel this way. But then, in Sikhi, the journey is the destination. And I know my life is richer and more beautiful with Sabad in my life.
I genuinely believe that every Sikh has a connection with Sabad in some way or another. One cannot resist being touched by the beauty of Sabad.
I see all of us as jewels on the crown of Sikhi. Some of us are diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and some of us are just rock-solid gold that the gemstones rest on. Jewels need to be chiseled for their true beauty to radiate, and that is what Guru does.
We are all the jewels in the crown of Sikhi.
On this Vaisakhi, may we yearn for the chiseling.
May we yearn to be adorned with “The 5 Gifts.”
May we yearn to radiate the ideals of the Vaisakhi of 1699.
When will the Kirpan embrace me?