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Last week, we celebrated Ugaadi here in Hyderabad, and I had great fun bringing in the Telugu version of the New Year with my kiddos. From making the traditional delicacies to greeting everyone the traditional way, my kids had a blast and of course, so did I!
My husband and I are both Hindus by birth, but we practice the Sikh religion and we have found great solace in the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev ji and all the other Gurus. This is not to say that we don’t follow our Hindu traditions. I like to think of myself and my extension my family, as sort of gypsies when it comes to following traditions related to festivals. I celebrate Ashthmi with as much zeal as I do Christmas, and cook up a feast on Diwali as well as on Eid.
So today, being Baisakhi, of course I’m going to go all out and celebrate it with my kids. The Punjabi New Year is heralded with love, joy, laughter, fun and frolic, and I can think of no better way to pass on this important part of my belief and my culture to my children!
I’m trying very hard to find the perfect balance with my kids- of preserving our culture, the way our parents and grandparents did and passed on to us, and the many modern conveniences and ways of life we’ve gotten used to as 21st century supposedly “Westernized” parents. Simple ways of doing this include introducing them to our wonderful folklore through our books and stories, teaching them about our glorious history as a nation and how we came to be, introducing various cuisines as a way of learning more about different cultures and traditions, etc.
So here’s what I plan to do with my kids today, this very special day, Baisakhi, which is celebrated all over the world as the birthday of the Sikh religion while simultaneously ringing in the new harvest season in various parts of North India:-
1) GIVE THEM A CRASH COURSE ON BAISAKHI!
There are lots of simple ways online to teach kids about this day, but I figure the best way to do this is just leave the boys with their grandparents (i.e. my parents!) and they will be fully updated. My mom and dad are deeply religious people with a passion for passing on Babaji’s teachings to as many people as they can, so why not to their own grandchildren!
I also recommend this delightful way of teaching kids about Baisakhi- an illustrative guide to the roots of the festival with an audio story as well.
2) PLANT SOMETHING
Since Baisakhi is also celebrated as a harvest festival, one of the activities on the agenda for today with my kids is to plant a seed and promise to take care of it and nurture it, similar to how our farmers plant their crops and nurture them towards a good harvest.
3) VISIT THE GURUDWARA
As this is a part of our weekly routine anyway, we will be visiting the Gurudwara today, but of course it will be special and significant today as the boys will get to see how the festival is celebrated in their favourite Gurudwara and how it is decorated to herald the New Year, before taking blessings from the Gyaani Ji of the Gurudwara. If you are in Hyderabad, this is a list of Gurudwaras you can visit with your kids.
4) DANCE TO THE BHANGRA
No Indian festival is complete without the music, dance and fervour associated with it and Baisakhi is no different. I plan to let go of all inhibitions and dance myself silly with my kids to the tunes of popular Punjabi songs, dancing the Bhangra! Bhangra is traditional folk-dancing from the Punjab region associated with the harvest. I recommend this super fun Bhangra dance for kids video!
5) MAKE KADHA PRASAD AND KHEER
Where there’s an Indian festival, there’s got to be lots of yummy food! Kadha Prasad and Kheer are both traditional desserts relished on Baisakhi, and I’m going to try my hand at them this year. This will be a cooking as well as a culture lesson for my kids, as they can be told the significance of these foods while I cook!
6) CHANT THE MOOL MANTAR AND ENSURE THAT MY KIDS LEARN IT TOO
The Mool Mantar means 'basic teaching' and is found at the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Book). It is repeated each day during early morning prayers. The first words of the Mool Mantar are 'Ik Onkar' meaning “there is one God”. This is indeed, I believe, the best way to teach kids about the significance of our religions, and that all religions point towards one God, one Supreme Being.
We’re lucky we stay in a country as diverse as India, with its multitude of festivals, religions and cultures. When we teach our kids about the fascinating aspects of all our cultural components, I think it’s also important to imbibe a healthy respect for ALL RELIGIONS AND CULTURES, irrespective of the one we primarily follow. This will go a long way in raising liberal kids and fighting this wave of “intolerance” that has suddenly hit our nation.
Happy Baisakhi everyone! May Waheguru bless you in all that you do!