Processions form an important part of Sikh culture and religious celebrations and are taken out by much devotion and enthusiasm on the occasion of Baisakhi - a festival that marks the birth of Khalsa Panth. The most essential aspect of Baisakhi Procession is that Sikh’s most sacred scripture Granth Sahib is taken out with honor by traditionally dressed Panj Piaras or the five senior religious Sikhs who are symbolic of the original leaders. Baisakhi processions move through the streets and lanes of the city and are accompanied by music, singing and chanting scriptures and hymns. Large number of devotees including women, school children, band parties and members of various Sikh religious organizations participate in the Baisakhi processions making them more lively and joyful.
Nagar Kirtans is the term most popularly used for traditional Processions lead by Panj Pyaras. Here, ‘Nagar’ means town and ‘Kirtan’ is a term that means singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. The term, ‘Nagar Kirtan’ therefore effectively describes the most essential feature of Baisakhi Procession, which is recitation of hymns from Guru Granth Sahib through the streets of the town. During the Baisakhi processions children and youth demonstrate their skills in martial arts to the accompaniment of musical bands, making the event more colorful.
Popularity of Baisakhi Nagar Kirtans can be gauged from the fact that the entire route of the procession is decorated with gates, buntings, streamers and flowers. Everywhere the procession moves, it receives warm reception from the people. Several religious, social and cultural societies besides market associations put up langars and chabeels at different places to mark the event.
Baisakhi Processions end with a discourse by senior members of Sikh religion who enlighten people on the significance of the tradition of Nagar Kirtans on important days in Sikh history. Children are taught to perform acts of charity on this auspicious occasion and are expected to continue to do so all through their life.
For people in the villages of Punjab, Nagar Kirtan is the last opportunity for relaxing before starting of the harvesting of corn. Vaisakhi processions are a special feature of the temples of Anandpur Sahib and Muktsar.
Baisakhi Processions are carried out with much gusto in countries where there is a significant Sikh population. Vasaikhi Processions of Toronto, Canada is particularly marked. Here, after the morning ardas, procession is lead through important streets of Toronto and culminates with speeches by religious men.