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Punjab and Haryana Fairs and Festivals

>Barring the last decade Punjab has always been known and identified as a land of celebrations. Similarly Haryana, once part of Punjab, has also imbibed the same exuberant characteristics. With the region’s return to normalcy after a long period of disturbances it is time once again for the gregarious people of these two States to rejoice.

Festivals in Punjab and Haryana have always been celebrated with much exuberance and fanfare. The same sturdy north Indians who, since time immemorial, have bravely faced the invaders of India from across the borders, have also believed in celebrating festivals and rejoicing to the fullest.

For the masses these festivals are popular occasions for social intercourse and enjoyment.

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. The word Baisakhi is derived from the month of Vaisakha (April-May) in which the festival is celebrated. Inevitably falling on the 13th of April every year – a time when the farmer returns home with his bumper crop, the fruit of his whole year’s hard labour – cries of jatta aai baisakhi rent the skies as the people of Punjab attired in t heir best clothes break into the Bhangra dance to express their joy. The dancers and drummers challenge each other to continue the dance. The scenes of sowing, harvesting, winnowing and gathering of crops are expressed through zestful movements of the body to the accompaniment of ballads.

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. On this day he administered amrit (nectar) to his first batch of five disciples making them Singhs, a martial community. Fairs are organized at various places in Punjab, where besides other recreational activities, wrestling bouts are also held. The occasion is celebrated with great gusto at Talwandi Sabo, where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Baisakhi celebrations in Haryana are also vibrant and joyous. Baisakhi marks the end of religious austerity of nine holy days of fasting. As in Punjab, here, too, people bathe in some nearby river, canal, tank or well and thereafter go to temples or gurudwaras for offering prayers, followed by song, dance and merry-making.

The Gurparb festival is celebrated by the Sikhs to commemorate their gurus. Two major Gurparbs are held during the year. The first in the month of Kartikai (Oct.-Nov.) to celebrate the teachings of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, and the second in the month of Pausa (December-January) to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Govind Singhji. On the Gurparb day. The Granth Sahib is taken out in a procession through the streets of all the cities and towns and prayers are offered at the gurudwaras, and prasada is distributed to the devotees. For two days and nights the Granth Sahib and the Japji Sahib are recited continuously from beginning to the end. The second Gurparb is also celebrated with great zeal and fervour by the Sikh community, especially at Patna Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh. The martydom of Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Teg Bahadur are also observed as Gurparbs. On all Gurparbs non-stop recital of the granths and religious discourses are held. Langars (free meals) are served to all without distinction of caste or creed.

A day after Holi the Sikh community in Punjab observes Holla Mohalla with thousands of devout Sikhs gathering at Anandpur Sahib – where Guru Gobind Singh was baptized – to participate in the grand fair of Holla Mohalla. The whole place wears a festive look and processions are taken place and the people partake of the festivities with zealous fervour.

Tika is celebrated in the month of Kartika (Oct-Nov.) on the day following Diwali. Women put a tika of saffron and rice grains on the foreheads of their brothers, to protect them from evil. The women dress up in finery to perform the ceremony. While they feed their brothers sweets on this auspicious occasion they also sing and pray for their longevity and prosperity. The brothers in turn give some gifts or money as a token of their affection. Tika is celebrated with equal zeal in Punjab and Haryana.

Like most other festivals of Punjab and Haryana, Lohri too is a festival related to the seasons. Celebrated in the month of Pausa (December-January), it marks the end of the winter season. On this occasion, children go from home to home, singing popular Lohri folk songs and collect money. In the evening people gather together and light bonfires. They throw in sweets made from sugar and til, crispies etc. and sing songs. The joyous festivities assume a greater fervour on the birth of a child. Lohri is celebrated both in Punjab and Haryana.

Teej heralds the onset of Sawan (monsoon), which is essential for the agricultural prosperity of the state. Dressed in all their finery, with mehndi on their hands, the womenfolk converge to welcome the rains. The festive occasion has them on their feet with gidda and kikli (two folk dances). Makeshift swings are hung from trees and the women frolic on them, singing the traditional bojeeyan and tappe. Songs are also sung in praise of Goddess Parvati, as it was on this auspicious day that Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva, won him after much penance. This festival too, is celebrated in both Punjab and Haryana.

A festival particular to women in rural Haryana, Sanjhi is a day for rituals, prayers and celebrations. It is celebrated in the month of October. Sanjhi is the name given to images of the Mother Goddess designed by the rural women. Made of cowdung paste, the form of the Goddess is a symbol of health, wealth and prosperity. According to folklore, the Goddess of wealth only enters those houses the walls of which are decorated with the form of Sanjhi. The image is designed on the first day of the nine days of Durga Puja. And with the prayers everyday the Goddess on the front wall of the house is also offered food.

A modern festival celebrated at Kurukshetra in Haryana. Gita Jayanti, has its roots in the Shrimad Bhagwad Gita. To commemorate the holy Gita and Lord Krishna, festivities go on the ten days. The arti and deep daan at the Brahma Sarovar, where lit diyas (lamps) are set afloat in the sarovar (lake) to the chant of devotional songs, are an exercise in spiritual rejuvenation. A series of events take place during these ten days, which include the recitation of the Gita, a pageant depicting scenes from the Mahabharata, seminars and discussions on the Gita, and recitals of bhajans (devotional songs). A colourful celebration of the ethos and culture of the place where the historical battle of the Mahabharata is said to have been fought between the Kauravas and Pandavas.

Many other festivals like Basant Panchmi, Karva Chauth, Holi, Diwali and Dussehra are celebrated with gay abandonment and joyousness, traits that are intrinsic to the culture of the north Indian States of Punjab and Haryana.

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