The festivals in Punjab have always been celebrated with much exuberance and fanfare. For the masses these festivals are popular occasions for social interaction and enjoyment. The festivals of Punjab have one common objective of bringing people together to participate in the happiness of the occasion. The important festivals and fairs celebrated in Punjab are:
|Birthday Guru Harrai||Jan-Feb|
|Birthday Guru Angaddevji||Mar-Apr|
|Birthday guru Arjundevji||Apr-May|
|Birthday Guru Tegbahadurji||Apr-May|
|Birthday Guru Amardasji||May-June|
|Martyrdom of Guru Arjundevji||May-June|
|Birthday Guru Hargobindji||June-July|
|Birthday guru Harkishanji||July-August|
|Birthday Guru Ramdassji||Sep-Oct|
|Installation of Guru Granth Sahibji||Sep-Oct|
|Birthday Guru Nanakdevji||Oct-Nov|
|Martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadurji||Nov-Dec|
|Birthday of GuruGobind Singhji||Dec-Jan|
|Rural Sports||Kila Raipur (Ludhiana)||February|
|Hola Mohalla||Anandpur Sahib (Rupnagar)||March|
|Baisakhi||Talwandi Sabo (Bhatinda)||April|
|Urs of Sheikh Mujaddid-Alif-Saani|
Rauza of Sheikh Ahmed Farooqi
|Chappar Mela||Chappar (Ludhiana)||September|
|Sheikh Farid Agman Purb||Faridkot||September|
|Ram Tirth||V.Ram Tirth(Amritsar)||November|
|Shaheedi Jor Mela||Sirhind||December|
|Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan||Jalandhar||December|
Literally festivals, Gurupurabs are anniversaries associated with the lives of the Sikh Gurus. The Sikhs celebrate 10 Gurpurabs in a year. At each of these festivals, one of the ten gurus of the Khalsa Pantha is honored. Of these the important ones are the birthdays of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh and the martyrdom days of Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Teg Bahadur. Prabhat Pheris, the early morning religious procession that goes around the localities singing shabads (hymns) start three weeks before the festival. The Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs) is read continuously from beginning to end without a break for three days.
This is known as akhand path. It is concluded on the day of the festival. On the Gurpurab day, the Divan begins early in morning at about 4 or 5 a.m. with the singing of Asa-di-var and hymns from Guru Granth Sahib. Sometimes it is followed by katha (discourse), religious and Sikh Historical lectures and recitation of poems in praise of the Guru. Kirtan-Darbars and Amrit Sanchar ceremonies are also held in the Gurdwara hall. After Ardas and distribution of Karah Parshad (sweet pudding) the Langar (food) is served to one and all and there is kirtan till late in the night, the distribution of langar continues to the end of the programme. The Granth Sahib is also carried in procession on a float decorated with flowers. Five armed guards, who represent the Panj Pyares, head the procession carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag). Local bands play religious music and marching schoolchildren form a special part of the procession. Sikhs visit gurdwaras where special programmes are arranged and (religious songs) sung. Houses and gurudwaras are lit up to add to the festivities. On the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev sweetened milk is offered to the thirsty passers-by to commemorate the death of the Guru.
Guru Nanak Sahib (the First Nanak, the founder of Sikhism) was born on 20th October, 1469 at Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present distrect of Shekhupura (Pakistan), now Nanakana Sahib. The Birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib falls on Kartik Puranmashi i.e. full moon day of the month Kartik. On this day the Birthday is celebrated every year. The Shrine (Gurdwara) repsesenting the home of Baba Kalu (Father) and Mata Tripta (Mother) is called Gurdwara Janam Asthan, situated at Rai-Bhoi-di-Talwandi in the present district of Shekhupura (now Nanakana Sahib in Pakistan). The Sikhs from all over the world gather here and celebrate the Gurupurab every year with great devotion and enthusiasm.
Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the tenth Nanak was born at Patna Sahib on 22nd December 1666, (Poh Sudi Saptmi). His birthday generally falls in December or January or sometimes twice within a year as it is calculated according to Hindu Bikrami Calendar based on moon-year.
Guru Arjan's martyrdom day falls towards the close of May or beginning of June. Nowadays this day is celebrated everywhere in gurdwaras and by leading processions and serving chabeels.
Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom day falls in November-December. The day is celebrated by organising processions, singing hymns in gurdwaras, and by organising lectures, sermons, kirtans, etc.
Lohri, which comes on the last day of Poh (December-January), is another extremely popular festival. A huge bonfire is made in every house and the fire god is worshipped. This is a special day for making offerings to fire. When fire is lit up in the evening, all the members of family go round it, pour offerings into it, and bow before it in reverence. The first Lohri for a new bride, or a new-born babe, is enthusiastically celebrated, and sweets are distributed. Children visit homes in the neighbourhood and sing songs. Lohri marks the end of the winter season.
Next day after Lohri comes Maghi, also called Makar Sakranti (entry of the sun in the sign or Capricorn). It is very popular with the punjabis. The people go out for a holy dip and give away a lot of charity. The special dish of the day is kheer cooked in sugarcane juice. On this day fairs are held at many places. For Sikhs, Maghi means primarily the festival at Muktsar, a district town of the Punjab, in commemoration of the heroic fight of the Chali Mukte, literally, the Forty Liberated Ones, who laid down their lives warding off an attack by an imperial army marching in pursuit of Guru Gobind Singh.The action took place near a pool of water, Khidrane di Dhab, on 29 December 1705. The bodies were cremated the following day, the first of Magh (hence the name of the festival), which now falls usually on the 13th of January. Largest assembly takes place at Muktsar in the form of a big fair during which pilgrims take a dip in the sacred sarovar and visit several shrines connected with the historic battle. A mahala or big march of pilgrims from the main shrine to gurdwara Tibbi Sahib, sacred to Guru Gobind Singh, marks the conclusion of the three-day celebration. Maghi is also celebrated in the Gurudwaras.
The most colorful and hilarious of all the festivals, which are celebrated in, Punjab is Holi, celebrated on the full moon day of Phagun. Holi is a festival of colors. It is spring time in India, flowers and fields are in bloom and the country goes wild with people running on the streets and smearing each other with gulal and coloured water.
Originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story centres around an arrogant king who resents his son worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time. Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy in a huge fire. However, the prince Prahlad emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.
This exuberant festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura - the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation. Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vitality.
Holla Mohalla is a Sikh festival celebrated in the month of Phalguna , a day after Holi. An annual festival held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, Hola Mohalla was started by the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the festival of Holi. It reminds the people of valour and defence preparedness, concepts dear to the Tenth Guru who was at that time battling the Mughal empire. On this three-day festival mock battles are held followed by music and poetry competitions. The Nihang Singhs (members of the Sikh army that was founded by Guru Govind Singh) carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding. They perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding and standing erect on two speeding horses.
There are also a number of durbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. Sporting shining swords, long spears, conical turbans, the Nihangs present a fierce picture as they gallop past on horseback spraying colors on people.On the last day a long procession, led by Panj Pyaras, starts from Takth Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five Sikh religious seats, and passes through various important gurdwaras like Qila Anandgarh, Lohgarh Sahib, Mata Jitoji and terminates at the Takth.For people visiting Anandpur Sahib, langars (voluntary community kitchens) are organized by the local people as a part of sewa (community service). Raw materials like wheat flour, rice, vegetables, milk and sugar is provided by the villagers living nearby. Women volunteer to cook and others take part in cleaning the utensils. Traditional cuisine is served to the pilgrim who eat while sitting in rows on the ground.
Like all other festiva, this festival is also celerated at all the Gurudwaras with same enthusiasm. Holla Mohalla is an occasion for the Sikhs to reaffirm their commitment to the Khalsa Pantha.
Being the famous seasonal fair heralds the advent of spring. Yellow mustard flowers all around create an aura of romantic vive infecting the spirit of the Punjabis. Deeply merged in heart and soul with the Nature, every Punjabi expresses his gratitude with dance and songs. Basant is celebrated towards the close of winter in the month of January-February. The weather circle seems to be changing otherwise Basant used to bring a message of softness in the weather in place of the hard cold season. Basant is the time when mustard fields are yellow with it the spring is ushered in. Punjabis welcome the change and celebrate the day by wearing yellow clothes, holding feasts and by organising kite flying.
Punjab being a predominantly agricultural state that prides itself on its food grain production, it is little wonder that its most significant festival is Baisakhi, which marks the arrival of the harvesting season. For the Sikhs, Baisakhi has a special significance because on this day in 1699, their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh organized the Order of the Khalsa. Baisakhi is New Year's Day in Punjab. It falls on the month of Vaisakh.
The tenth guru Guru Govind Singh selected the auspicious day of Baisakhi to form the order of the Khalsa. On the13th of April in 1699, at a meeting in Anandpur in Punjab, the guru called upon his people to come forward to sacrifice themselves for the good of the clan. Initially there were no response from the audience. However, after several calls from the guru five persons- Daya Ram Khatri, Dharm Das, Mokhan Chand, Sahib Chand and Himmat Rai -were ready to offer themselves. Guru took each of them to the tent nearby and every time he returned alone with his bloodied sword. Then the guru went to the tent yet again, this time for a long time. He reappeared followed by the five men, clad in saffron-colored garments.
They sat on the dais while the guru prepared water to bless them. In an iron vessel, he stirred the batasha that his wife, Mata Jitoji had put into water, with a sword called Khanda Sahib.The water was now considered the sacred nectar of immortality called amrita. It was first given to the five volunteers, then drunk by the guru and later distributed to the crowd. All present, irrespective of caste or creed, became members of the Khalsa Pantha. Those five men were christened the Panch Pyare. He discontinued the tradition of gurus and asked all Sikhs to accept the Grantha Sahib as their eternal guide. The suffix Singh derived from the Sanskrit word singha meaning 'lion', was added to the name of all male Sikhs, while the women were to call themselves Kaur, assistants to the Singh.
The celebrations of Baisakhi are similar to the three-day schedule of the celebrations of other Gurpurabs. It is generally celebrated on 13th April every year.
Teej heralds the onset of Sawan (monsoon), which is essential for the agricultural prosperity of the state. Dressed in all their finery, with menndi on their hands, the womenfolk converge to welcome the rains and pray for the long life of their husbands. 'Teej' or Teeans, which is celebrated in the month of Sawan (July), is also a source of entertainment for girls. Teej festival starts on the third day of Sawan and continues for about thirteen days. This is a period when rainy season is at its best, having said good bye to the scorching heat, people are out to enjoy the rains. It is also the time for sowing. The whole atmosphere is relaxed and people have a sigh of relief. The girls celebrate it by having swings. One sees girls, even today, on the swings all over the villages during the rainy season. They have new clothes, special dishes to eat and special songs for the occasion. This festival has also made inroads into the urban society.
Dussehra (tenth day) is one of the significant Hindu festivals, celebrated in the entire country. The occasion marks the triumph of Lord Rama over the demon king, Ravana, the victory of good over evil. Brilliantly decorated tableaux and processions depicting various facets of Rama's life are taken out. On the tenth day, the Vijayadasmi day, colossal effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath are placed in vast open spaces. Rama, accompanied by his consort Sita and his brother Lakshmana, arrive and shoot arrows of fire at these effigies, which are stuffed with explosive material. The result is a deafening blast, enhanced by the shouts of merriment and triumph from the spectators. In Punjab, the festival wears the colourful garb of Ramlila wherein various incidents from Rama's life are enacted, as is the destruction of Ravana and Bharat Milap, that is the reunion of Ram and his estranged brother Bharat, on the former's return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.
The Sikh celebration of the return of the sixth Guru Hargobindji from detention in the Gwalior Fort coincides with Hindu festival of Diwali. This coincidence has resulted in similarity of celebration amongst Sikhs and Hindus. The Sixth Guru Hargobind, was freed from imprisonment in the famous fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir in October, 1619 because he was afraid of the Guru's growing following and power. The Guru's father, Guru Arjan, had been martyred for the same reason. According to Sikh tradition, the Guru agreed to be freed only if the other Indian chiefs (rajahs) imprisoned with him were freed. Jahangir was under pressure from moderate but influential Muslim religious leaders like Hajrat Mian Mir, a friend of the Guru. So he relented grudgingly and ordained, "Let those rajahs be freed who can hold on to the Guru's coat tails and walk out of prison". He had in mind no more than four or five being freed with the Guru.
However, the Guru was not to be outmanoeuvred in this way. He asked for a special coat to be made with 52 coat tails - same number as the rajahs in prison with him! And so the rajahs were freed and the Guru became known popularly as the "Bandi Chhor" (Deliverer from prison). The Sikhs celebrate this day as Bandi Chhorh Divas i.e., "the day of release of detainees", He arrived at Amritsar on the Divali day and the Har Mandar (now known as the "Golden Temple") was lit with hundreds of lamps i.e. he was received in the same way as the Lord Rama and the day came to be known as the "Bandi Chhor Divas" (the day of freedom). The Sikhs on this day, which generally falls in october-November, hold a one-day celebrations in the Gurdwaras. So in the evening, illuminations are done with Deewe (earthen oil lamps) or candles and fireworks. The celebrations are held both in the Gurdwaras and in homes.
Another important Sikh event associated with Divali is the martyrdom in 1734 of the elderly Sikh scholar and strategist Bhai Mani Singh, the Granthi (priest) of Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple).
Deepawali or Diwali is a festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. The word `Deepawali' literally means rows of diyas (clay lamps). A family festival, it is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Asvin (October-November).
Continuing the story of Rama, this festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile. Twinkling oil lamps or diyas light up every home and firework displays are common all across the country. The goddess Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu), who is the symbol of wealth and prosperity, is also worshipped on this day.
This festive occasion also marks the beginning of the Hindu new year and Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day.
Another view is that Deepawali is meant to celebrate the destruction of the arrogant tyrant Bali at the hands of Vishnu when the latter appeared in his Vamana (dwarf) avatar.
The occasion of Deepawali sees the spring-cleaning and white-washing of houses; decorative designs or rangolis are painted on floors and walls. New clothes are bought and family members and relatives gather together to offer prayers, distribute sweets and to light up their homes.
In West Bengal, the Deepawali festival is celebrated as Kali Puja and Kali, Siva's consort, is worshipped on this day.
Tika is celebrated in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov.) one day after Diwali. Women put a tika of saffron and rice grains on the foreheads of their brothers, to protect them from evil.
The fair is celebrated near the shrine 'Gugge di Marhi' of Gugga Pir on Anand Chaudus, the 14th day of bright half of the month of Bhadon. Gugga Pir was a Chauhan Rajput who believed to have come down to earth directly with his steed and never returned. The Pir possessed special power over all kinds of Snakes. On his day of the fair, the villagers scoop the earth seven times by invoking Gugga Pir to protect them against Snakes. The fair lasts for three days with fun, music and dance.
The Jarag fair of village Pail in the month of chet (March-April) is celebrated in the honour of Goddess Seetla. The fair is otherwise known as Baheria fair. In the Puja sweet gurgulas i.e. jaggery cakes are offered to the goddess and thereafter to the donkey who is her favourite. All the devotees of Seetla gather near the pond and scoop the earth and raise a small hillock, which is treated as the shrine of the Goddess, and offer Puja. The attraction of the fair is the colourfully dressed donkeys of the plotters.
The Roshni fair held in Jagranvan from 14th to 16th day of Phagun honours Abdul Kader Jalani the Muslim Pir. Celebrated by both Hindus and Muslims, lighted earthen lamps are offered near the tomb of the Pir making the light visible from long distances. The fair gets its colour with the Bolian and dances of the village's to the tune of the flute and Toomba.
Bawan Doadsi is celebrated 18 days after Krishna Janmastami at Patiala; Jor Mela at Sirhind; Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan is organised every year in last week of December at Jalandhar.