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Punjab is the true cradle of the Indus Valley civilization. The state of Punjab astonishingly combines both antiquity and plenty. In fact the festivals of Punjab can be redefined as a spiritual canvas of soul stirring celebration. Not only that festivals in the state of Punjab make for unrestrained jollification. Punjab participates in almost all the festivals taking place in the country. The festivals of Punjab would not only enliven your spirits but also would be a warm welcome from the monotonous schedule of your regular life. Festivals of almost all religions are celebrated with equal splendor and jollity in the state of Punjab.

The festival of Maghi comes just the day after the Lohri festival and is very popular with the entire Punjabi community. The locals go for a holy dip and give away a lot in charity. The special delicacies of this festival include kheer cooked in sugarcane juice.

This festival in fact commemorates the heroic fight of the Chali Mukte or the Forty Liberated Ones who sacrificed their own lives to save the life of Guru Gobind Singh. Fairs are held in many regions of the state to observes the festival.

Diwali

Diwali

As some Sikh texts record, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was born during the month of Baisakhi. According to Sarup Das Bhalla, Mahima Prakash, Part 2, Guru Amar Das (1479-1574), at the suggestion of Sikhs led by Bhai Paro, started an annual congregational fair at Goindval on the occasion of Baisakhi. It became customary for distant sangats of Sikhs to assemble at the seat of the Gurus on every Baisakhi (and Diwali) day. Diwali means festival of lights (from Sanskrit dipamala or dipavali meaning row of lamps or nocturnal illumination), is observed all over India on amavasyia, the last day of the dark half of the lunar month of Kartika (October-November). Like other seasonal festivals, Diwali has been celebrated since time immemorial. In its earliest form, it was regarded as a means to ward off, expel or appease the malignant spirits of darkness and ill luck. The festival is usually linked with the return to Ayodhya of Lord Rama at the end of his fourteen-year exile. For the Hindus it is also an occasion for the worship of Laksmi, the goddess of good fortune, beauty and wealth. Among the Sikhs, Diwali came to have special significance from the day the town of Amritsar was illuminated on the return to it of Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) who had been held captive in the Fort at Gwalior under the orders of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir (1570-1627) . Hence forth Diwali, like Baisakhi, became a day of pilgrimage to the seat of the Gurus. Bhai Gurdas (d. 1636) in his Varan, 6, has drawn an image of lamps lighted on the night of Diwali like the stars, big and small, twinkling in the firmament going out one by one bringing home to the gurmukh, one who has his face turned towards the Guru, i.e. he who is attached to the Guru, how transitory the world is. During the turbulent eighteenth century, it was customary for the roaming warrior bands of Sikhs to converge upon Amritsar braving all hazards to celebrate Diwali. It was for his endeavour to hold such a congregation at Amritsar that Bhai Mani Singh, a most widely revered Sikh of his time, was put to death under the imperial fiat. Amritsar still attracts vast numbers of Sikhs for the festival and although all gurdwaras and Sikh homes are generally illuminated on Diwali night, the best and the most expensive display of lights and fireworks takes place at the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple), Amritsar.

Baisakhi

Baisakhi

On this memorable Baisakhi day (March,30 of A.D.1699) , Guru Gobind Singh Sahib called a big meeting at Kesgarh Sahib near the City of Anandpur Sahib. Between fifty to eighty thousand Sikhs attended this meeting. When all were expecting to hear words of comfort and consolation from the lips of their Guru, they were perturbed to see him with a drawn sword in his hand and cried Is there anyone here who would lay down his life for Dharam? There was a big silence, but the Guru went on repeating his demand. At the third call Daya Ram, a Khatri of Lahore, rose from his seat and offered himself. The Guru took him into an adjoining enclosure(and soon after) came out with the (blood) dripping.(sword in hand) and flourshing it before the gathering, asked again, Is there any other Sikh here who will offer himself as a sacrifice(for the cause of dharma) At this Daram Das, a Jat of Delhi (Haryana side) came forward and was taken into the enclosure.(The Guru again came out with the blood-stained sword, and made his previous demand). In the same way three other men stood up, one after another, and offered themselves for the sacrifice. One was Mohkam Chand, a chhimba of Dwarka (Gujarat State); another was Himmat, a cook of Jagannath (Orissa State); and the third was Sahib Chand, a barber of Bidar (Karnataka State). The Guru, after dressing the five in handsome clothes, brought them from the assembly. These five were then administered Khande di Pahul (the double-edged Sword Amrit). They were then knighted as Singhs, as the Five beloved ones, the first members of the Order of the Khalsa. The Guru then asked them to administer the Pahul to him in the same manner in which he had given the Pahul to them, and it was done so. With the creation of Khalsa, the Khalsa created history and since the birth of Khalsa, the history of Punjab has been the history of Sikhs. Baisakhi played a significant role in this regard. In 1762, Ahmed Shah Abdali, with the sole purpose to destroy the entire Sikh nation, declared Jehadâ (holy-war) against the Sikhs and all the Muslims of the Punjab rallied under this slogan. The Sikhs were surrounded near the village Kup in Ludhiana District. Chronicles mention that about twenty thousand Sikhs were martyred in a single day. This event is known in the history of the Sikhs as Ghallughara (Bloody Carnage). After this, Ahmed Shah Abdali thought that he had crushed the entire Sikh nation, but was greatly disillusioned when after a few months heard that the Sikhs in large number are celebrating Baisakhi at Amritsar. In due course of time Baisakhi reminds every Sikh of his cultural and religious heritage. On Baisakhi day all the Sikhs used to assemble at Amritsar and decide their problems relating to politics and religion. This convention still goes on. The celebrations of Baisakhi are similar to the three-day schedule of the the celebrations of other Gurpurabs. It is generally celebrated on 13th April every year.

Hola Mohalla

Hola Mohalla

Hola Mahalla or simply Hola is a Sikh festival, which takes place on the first of the lunar month of Chet, which usually falls in March. This follows the Hindu festival of Holi; Hola is the masculine form of the feminine noun Holi. Mahalia, derived from the Arabic root hal (alighting, descending), is a Punjabi word that implies an organized procession in the form of an army column accompanied by war drums and standard-bearers, and proceeding to a given location or moving in state from one Gurdwara to another.

This custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) who held the first march at Anandpur on Chet vadi 1, 1757 Bk (22nd February, 1701). Unlike Holi, when people playfully sprinkle colored powders, dry or mixed in water, on each other the Guru made Hola Mahalla an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles. This was probably done forestalling a grimmer struggle against the imperial power following the battle of Ninnohgarh in 1700. Holla Mahalla became an annual event held in an open ground near Holgarh, a Fort across the rivulet Charan Ganga, northwest of Anandpur sahib.

The popularity of this festival may be judged from the fact that out of five Sikh public holidays requested by the Khalsa Diwan, of Lahore in 1889, the Government approved only.

Holla Mahalla and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Hola Mahalla is presently the biggest festival at Anandpur. It will be appropriate here to discuss briefly the town and the participants of this festival.

Holla Mohalla, or Hola Mohalla, is the festival of Punjab. Celebrated over three days, the festival retains the character of fun and enjoyment that Holi has embodied. In addition to this, it is also a community festival that brings people together in an atmosphere of sharing and caring. It is also an occasion to remember the valor of the Sikhs in battling the enemies of the land. The festival day begins with early morning prayers at the Gurdwaras. The Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously taken out and bathed ritually with milk and water. Thereafter, it is placed on a platform and venerated.

Kirtans are sung, the prasad is consecrated and everyone shares a part of it. After the service, community lunch is served at the common hall. Evening is a time for numerous cultural activities. The Nihang Sikhs, who are part of the Sikh army that Guru Gobind Singh founded, exhibit their martial skills and daring through mock battles, sword-fighting displays, archery and horse-riding exercises. The Nihangs also splash color on the spectators, and everyone follows suit. Stories and songs about the life, valor and wisdom of the ten Sikh gurus, right from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, are told and recited.

Music, dance and poetry programs and competitions are held at many venues. A procession is carried through the important Gurdwaras in town marking the highlights of the last day celebrations. Holla Mohalla, while being an occasion to rejoice, is also a time to restore faith in the Khalsa Panth and rededicate oneself to the service of the community. Everyone, irrespective of their social standing, involves themselves in kar seva - manual labor, such as helping in the langars or public kitchens, cleaning the Gurdwaras and washing dishes.

Gurpurab

Gurpurab

Gurpurabs are part and parcel of Sikhism. In history we see that the Sikhs have to sacrifice even their lives in order to celebrate the Gurpurab. Whether it is DIWALI (Bandi Chhor Diwas), BAISAKHI (Khalsa Sajna Diwas), or Martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Sahib (Sahidi Diwas), Sikhs gather and remember their Gurus & pay homage to the great Martyrs. All the Gurpurabs are celebrated with great fervor & enthusiasm by the Sikhs throughout the world. We are giving the account of the main & widely celebrated Gurpurab. The birth-day celebrations & Gurpurab of Guru Sahibs usually last for three days. Generally before the birthday-date Akhand Path is held in the Gurdwara. A large procession (Nagarkirtan) is organized one day before the birthday. This is led by the Panj Piyaras (Five beloved ones) and the Palki (Palanquin) of Shri Guru Granth Sahib and followed by groups of kirtani Jatha, Various School bands and students, emenent Citizans, Gatka Parties (displaying mock-battle with the traditional weapons), and devotees singing hymns from Guru Granth Sahib in chorus. The passage of the nagarkirtan is decorated with flags, flowers, religious posters decorated gates and banners depicting various aspects of Sikhism. 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 program. Birthday Of Guru Nanak Sahib Guru Nanak Sahib (the First Nanak, the founder of Sikhism) was born on 15th April, 1469 at Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present district 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. Birthday Of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib 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. According to Nanakshahi calendar the birth-day of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib falls only once in a year i.e. on 5th January (every year).

Lohri

Lohri

Lohri marks the culmination of winter, and is celebrated on the 13th day of January in the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti. For Punjabis, this is more than just a festival, it is also an example of a way of life. Lohri celebrates fertility and the spark of life. People gather round the bonfires, throw sweets, puffed rice and popcorn into the flames, sing popular songs and exchange greetings. In the North Makar Sankranti is called Lohri. Lohri is the time after which the biting cold of the winters begins to taper off. On this day children go from door to door to collect funds for community bonfires which are lit up in the evening. Lohri is more of a community festival as people gather around the bonfires and offer sweets, crisp rice and popcorn to the flames. An extremely auspicious day, Lohri marks the suns entry in to the Makar Rashi (northern hemisphere). The period, beginning from 14 January lasting till 14 July, is known as Uttarayan. It is also the last day of the month of Maargazhi, the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The Bhagawad Gita deems it an extremely sacred and auspicious time, when Lord Krishna manifests himself most tangibly. And so, across India, people celebrate the month and the prodigious harvest it brings Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and the Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The focus of Lohri is on the bonfire. The traditional dinner with makki ki roti and sarson ka saag is quintessential. The Prasad comprises of five main things: til, gazak, gur, moongphali, phuliya and popcorn. There is puja, involving parikrama around the fire and distribution of Prasad. This symbolises a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundant crops and prosperity. It is also the one day when the womenfolk and children get attention. The first Lohri of a bride is extremely important. The first Lohri of a newborn baby, whether a girl or a boy, is also equally important. Children go from door to door singing and asking for the Lohri prasad. Over time, people have associated Lohri to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. The central character of most Lohri songs is Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar and regarded as a hero in the Punjab. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowries. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti. Dulla Bhatti was a rebel whose lineage was of Bhatti Rajputs converted to Islam. His anscestors were the rulers of Pindi Bhattian in Sandal Bar area of present day Pakistan. He was a hero of all Punjabis & his Var (life story) is available on the internet.

Basant Panchami

Basant Panchami

This festival is celebrated in Punjab with as much pomp and fervor as that of the whole country in the months of January/February according to English calendar. In this state Basant Panchami is celebrated to welcome the season of spring after the dead and decay of the winter season. The fragrance of the yellow mustard flowers creates a sensation of romantic vive infecting the spirit of the Punjabis. People welcome the change and celebrate this joyous festival with much ebullience and exuberance. They indulge themselves completely in the festive mood by wearing yellow outfits and holding grand feasts. The main attraction of this festival is kite flying.