Fairs and Festivals of Punjab
Celebrated on the 13th day of January, Lohri is a festival of zeal and verve and marks the culmination of the chilly winter. In true spirit of the Punjabi culture, men and women perform Bhangra and Giddha, popular Punjabi folk dances, around a bonfire. Enthusiastic children go from house to house singing songs and people oblige them generously by giving them money and eatables as offering for the festival. Late in the evening, people gather around the bonfire and throw sweets (gachak and rewri), puffed rice and popcorn (as holy offering) into it and sing folk songs. Lohri is also an auspicious occasion to celebrate a newly born baby’s or a new bride’s arrival in the family. The day ends with a traditional feast of sarson da saag and makki di roti and a dessert of rau di kheer (a dessert made of sugarcane juice and rice).
The festival is in commemoration of a battle fought in 1705-06 by Guru Gobind Singh against the imperial forces of the Moguls and pays tribute to the forty Sikhs who achieved martyrdom on this day. One of the largest Sikh fairs, it is held in the middle of January on the Makar Sankranti day. The festival is spread over three days. On the first day worshippers bathe in the sacred tank. The second day is a procession to the three holy mounds which lie to the north-west of the town, namely, Rikab Sahib, Tibbi Sahib, and Mukhwanjana Sahib. Rikab Sahib, commemorates the spot where the Guru's stirrup broke. Tibbi Sahib crowned with a Gurudwara, is the mound where Guru Gobind Singh stood and aimed his arrows at the imperial forces. At Mukhwanjana Sahib, Guru is said to have cleaned his teeth with a tooth-stick. After offering prayers here, the devotees then return to visit Tambu Sahib where the Guru's tent was pitched before the fight started, Shahid Ganj, which is the samadhi of the forty martyrs, and Darbar Sahib, where the Guru held his darbar after the cremation of the slain.
This national Fair is held in February at Kila Raipur, 6 km from Ludhiana. This sports meet epitomises the special Punjabi bonhomie and the spirit of never say die. Ingenious tournaments likes Bullock carts and animal races, awe inspiring feats of strength and danger, the traditional wrestling, cock-fighting, kabaddi and jumps and races are the highlights of the festival. The meet culminates in the electrifying dances of Punjab, the giddha and the bhangra.
The spring season is ushered in by the Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib. The Festival has great historical significance as it observes the militarization of Sikh followers into the order of Nihangs (warriors) by Guru Gobind at Anandpur Sahib. Celebrated on the day after Holi, the festival makes for a thrilling spectacle. Martial arts like archery, sword fencing, skillful horse-riding, tent-pegging, and the deft handling of other martial contraptions are displayed by the Nihangs. The festivities close with a ceremonial procession taken through the township and culminate in langar (The Common Kitchen).
Basant Panchami is the most famous of the seasonal fairs and marks the advent of spring. At the time of Basant Panchami, fields of mustard bloom all over rural Punjab, a spirit of gay abandon pervades the air and the heart and soul become one with nature. Basant Panchami held in many villages of Punjab presents a bright yellow scene as people put on yellow costumes maintaining the mood of the season. Kite-flying is the major attraction of Basant Panchami and an innumerable number of multi coloured kites dot the skies on this day.
Baisakhi marks the jubilation of a bountiful harvest and is celebrated on the first day of the month of Baisakh (April/May). This is the New Year’s Day, going by the Saka calendar and corresponds to April 13th of the Gregorian calendar. Essentially, a North Indian harvest festival, it is the time for the reaping of the rabi (winter crop).
Joyful Punjabis perform Bhangra to dholak and enact the entire process of agriculture from the tilling of the soil through harvesting. For the Sikhs, the day has great religious meaning as Guru Gobind, the 10th guru of Sikhs, established Khalsa on this day at Anandpur in 1699 AD. The Sikhs were baptized to form the Elect. This baptism of the sword led to the creating of the Panj Pyare, the Beloved Five. Each Khalsa was to adopt the panch kakkas, (the five K’s), Kesh (unshorn hair), kanga (small boxwood comb in their hair), kaccha (a pair of shorts), kara (a steel bangle), and a kirpan (a short dagger), which have since become an integral part of the Sikh identity.
The Rauza Sharif 'Urs'
Rauza Sharif ‘Urs’ is celebrated in the memory of great Sufi Saint Sheikh Ahmad Farooqui Sirhindi on May 31 every year. Sheikh Ahmed was the most eminent of Khawaja Baqi Billah’s disciples. He was the fourth of the seven sons of Sheikh Abdul Ahmad Farooqi Naqshbandi and was born in Sirhind. People of all faiths pay their homage at the shrine of Rauza Sharif that is located on the Fatehgarh Saheb-Bassi Pathana road in the vicinity of Fatehgarh Sahib Gurudwara.
This three-day fair commemorates the descent of the Gugga Pir, a Chauhan Rajput, into the bosom of Mother Earth along with his steed. According to the legend, he possessed special powers over all kinds of snakes. The fair is celebrated at Gugge di Marhi, a big shrine built in his memory that has a reputation for curing people of snake bites. Earth is scooped up seven times to invoke Gugga Pir for protection against snakes. People sing folk songs and perform folk dances. The fair is held on the Anand Chaudas on the 14th day of the bright half of Bhadon.
The Fair Of Baba Sodal
The fair of Baba Sodal is held in the month of Bhadon (Mid August- Mid September) and attracts pilgrims of all religions from different parts of Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Baba Sodal was born in Jalandhar and the fair commemorates his death. According to the legend, Baba Sodal died by drowning in the pond where his mother used to wash clothes. He has come to be worshipped as the infant god. The fair begins early in the morning when women come in large numbers to make offerings at the samadhi (burial site). Pilgrims take a holy dip in the a tank called ‘Baba Sodal da Sarowar’.
Gurupurabs celebrate the births and honor the martyrdom of Sikh Gurus. Three major Gurupurabs are: the birth anniversaries of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind and the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev. On the full moon of Kartik, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak is celebrated by the devotees with great ardor. Two days before the day of Gurupurab a non-stop reading of the Adi Granth starts and religious congregations are held and hymns from the Granth Sahib are chanted. Large processions of people singing and offering prayers march through the towns. At night buildings are illuminated.
The festival of lights, Diwali at the Golden Temple with rich decorations illuminations and fire works, creates an ambience which lingers in the minds of the onlookers for a long time. On this day Guru Hargobind Singh, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs reached Amritsar after his release from Gwalior during the reign of the Jehangir. The fair attracts lakhs of people.
Haribhallabh Sangeet Mela
Organized every year from December 27-30, this music festival honors the memory of Swami Hariballabh, a famous saint musician. Swami Haribhallabh belonged to a rich family from Hoshiarpur and renounced the material way of life to become a disciple of Swami Tulja Gir who initiated him into the art of music. Held at the saint’s shrine on the banks of Devi Talab, near Jalandhar, the event attracts classical singers and musicians of repute from all over the country.
Shaheedi Jor Mela
Shaheedi divas occupies a special place in the Sikh history as it pays homage to the two tender Sahibzadas (princes) of Guru Gobind—Zorawar Singh (9 years) and Fateh Singh (7 years) who were cremated alive in the walls on their refusal to convert to Islam during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb. The Fatehgarh Sahib Gurudwara is the holy spot where the two brave children died for the noble cause.
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