Muktsar Fair (January):
One of the largest Sikhs fairs, it is held in themiddle of January on the Markar Sankranti day. The festival is held in commemoration of the heroic fight of the Chali Mukte, who laid down their lives warding off an attack on 29 December 1705 (the last day of the solar month of Poh) by an imperial army marching in pursuit of Guru Gobind Singh ji. The bodies were cremated the following day, the first of Mah (hence the name of the Festival – Maghi Mela), which now falls usually on the 13th of January.
The festival is spread over three days. On the first day, worshippers bath in the sacred tank. The second day is a procession (mohalla) to the three holy mounds which lie to the north-west of the town, namely, Rikhab Sahib, Tibbi Sahib and Mukhwanjana Sahib. Rikab Sahib commemorates the spot where the Guruji’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 there, the devotees then come back 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.
Kila Raipur Sports Festival (February):
Popularly known as the Rural Olympics, this fair is held annually in February at Kila Raipur, 6 Km from Ludhiana. This sports meet epitomizes the special Punjabi bonhomie and strength and danger, the customary wrestling, cock-fighting, kabaddi and jumps and races are the highlights of the festival. The meet culminates in the thrilling dances of Punjab, the giddha and the bhangra.
Jarag Fair (March-April)
This fair is held in Jarag, a village in tehsil Payal. It is held in Chet (March-April) in onor of the Goddess Seetla. It is also known as the Baheria fair. Sweet gulgulas (Jaggery cakes fried in oil) are prepared one day earlier and then given in offering to the Goddess, the family members eat the remaining savory gulgulas. This festival is observed in Malwa and Powadh but the fair is held only in Jarag. There is a pond where the devotees of Goddess Seetla gather. They scoop the earth and raise a small hillock, which is accorded the status of the Goddess’s shrine. Potters specially bring their donkeys decked in colored blankets.
The Rauza Sharif ‘Urs’ (May)
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 well-known of Khawaja Baqi Billah’s disciples.
He was teh 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 place of worship of Rauza Sharif that is situated on the Fatehgarh Sahib-Bassi Pathana road in the vicinity of Fatehgarh Sahib Gurdwara.
The Fair of Baba Sodal (August/September):
The fair of Baba Sodal is held in the month of Bhadon (Mid August-Mid September) and is a magnet for 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. It is believed that Baba Sodhal was blessed with divine power and the people celebrate his death anniversary with full dedication.
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 contributions at the Samadhi (burial site). Pilgrims take a holy dip in the tank called ‘Baba Sodal da Sarowar’.
Chhapar Fair (August/September)
This three-day fair commemorates the descent of the Gugga Pir, a Chauhan Rajpur, into the bosom of Mother Earth along with his steed.
According to the legend, he obsessed extraordinary powers over all kinds of snakes. The fair is celebrated at Gugge di Marhi, a big holy place built in his memory that has a reputation for curing people of snake bites. Earth is scooped up seven times to appeal to Gugga Pir for safety against snakes. People sing folk songs and present folk dances. The fair is held on the Anand Chaudas on the 4th day of the of Bhadon (month of 15 August-13 September as per Hindu calendar).
Gugga Naumi (September):
Gugga Naumi, which is a festival in honor of gugga Pir, also falls in Bhadon. It is celebrated right after the Janamasthmi. The pir’s devotees paint his image on the wall in turmeric, as also paint a snake in black right in front of it and then perform the ritual of worship. People also pour milk and butter milk into the holes of snakes. Sweet sevian is the special dish of the festival. The Lalbagis who are devout followers of Gugga Pir, also known as Zahir Pir, erect a long pole covered with flags, colored cloth, coconuts, etc. and render worship to it as to a God. The devotees carry the pir’s standard from house to house. The disciple who carries the standard is known as the pir’s horse. The privilege of carrying the standard is much coveted.
Roshni Fair at Jagraon (Fair of the lights):
This fair is held in Jagraon from the 23rd to the 25the of Phagun in honor of a Muslim Pir, Abdul Kader Jalani. It is held in the vicinity of his tomb. Although it is a Muslim fair in origin, the Hindus of the area also flock to the site of this shrine. Even after Partition, this fair has been held regularly. It is called the ‘fair of lights’ because innumerable devotees who come to visit the place light earthen lamps at the shrine of the pir. The lights are visible from long distance. It is believed that whatever wish one sincerely makes at the shrine of this pir is granted. Young people sing bolian and perform dances, thus adding to the gaiety and glamour of the fair. It is sheer delight to villages performing dances and singing songs to the sweet strains of the flute and the one-stringed instrument called Toomba.
Shaheedi Jor Mela:
Shaheedi divas take up a unique place in the Sikh history as it pays homage to the two tender Sahibzadas (princes) of Guru Gobind Singh ji – Sahibzada Zorawar Singh (9 years) and Sahibzada Fateh Singh (7 years) who were buried alive in the walls on their rejection to convert to Islam during the reign of the ruler Aurangzeb.
Shaheedi Jor Mela is organized every year in the month of December at Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib. This Gurdwara is the holy spot where the two brave children attained martyrdom for the noble cause.
Harballabh Sangeet Mela (December):
It is a festival of Indian classical music, held every year in the last week of December in Jalandhar, in the memory of Swami Harballabh, a famous saint musician, at the saint’s holy place on the banks of Devi Talab mandir, Jalandhar.
Swami Harballabh belonged to a rich family from Hoshiarpur and renounced the material way of life to become a believer of Swami Tulja Gir who initiated him into the skill of music. The event attracts traditional singers and musicians of repute from all over the country. This is the famous fest of classical music occurring in North India and attracts classical singers and musicians from all over the country.
Haider Sheikh at Malerkotla:
A big fair is held for four days every year in Malerkotla at the shrine of Haider Sheikh. It is believed that if childless women visit the shrine of Haider Sheikh and propitiates the pir, their wish for progency is granted. Another belief is that if someone overpowered by a malignant spirit or under the effect of an evil shadow comes here during these days, he will be cured if he propitiates the pir at the shrine and offers rots (large sweet cakes) specially cooked.
Bathinda Virasat Mela:
It is a traditional fair, held every year in Bathinda in November/December which showcases an amalgam of culture of Punjab (Malwa), Rajasthan and Haryana. The mela represents traditional Punjabi culture at the Jaipal theme village inside the Bathinda Sports Stadium. The mela also envolves heritage walks from Gurdwara Haji Rattan to Jaipalgarh theme village.
Celebrated on the 13th day of January, Lohri is a festival of enthusiasm 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 kindly by giving them eatables as offering for the festival.
Late in the evening, people meet 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 coming in the family. The day ends with a traditional feast of sarson da saag and makki di roti and a dessert of roh di kheer (a dessert made of sugarcane juice and rice).
Basant Panchami (March):
Festival of kites, it s a well known seasonal festival and marks the advent of spring. The Basant Panchmi fair was started by the ruler of Kapurthala Princely State, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh. At this time, fields of mustard bloom all over rural Punjab. Basant Panchami fair held in many villages of Punjab presents a bright yellow sight as people put on yellow costumes maintaining the feel of the season. Kite-flying is the major attraction of Basant Panchami and an innumerable figure of multi colored kites dot the skies on this day.
The spring season is ushered in by the Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib. The Festival has great historical importance as it observes the militarization of Sikh followers into the order of Nihangs (warriors) by Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Anandpur Sahib.
Celebrated on the day after Holi, the festival makes for a thrilling vision. Martial arts like archery, sword fencing, clever horse-riding, tent-pegging, and the deft handling of other martial contraptions are displayed by the Nihangs. The festivities close with a ritual procession taken through the township and conclude in langar (The Common Kitchen).
Baisakhi marks the jubilation of a plentiful harvest and is celebrated on the first day of the month of Baisakhi (April/May). This is the New Year’s Day, going by the Saka calendar and corresponds to April 13th of the Gergorian calendar.
Essentially, a North Indian harvest festival, it is the time for the reaping of the Rabi (winter crop). Joyful Punjabi’s perform Bhangra to dhol and enact the complete process of agriculture from the tilling of the soil through harvesting.
For the Sikhs, the day has great spiritual meaning as Guru Gobind Singh ji, the 10th guru of Sikhs, established Khalsa was on this day at Anandpur in 1699 AD.
The baptism of the sword, called pahul, 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.
Gurpurbs celebrate the births and respect the martyrdom of Sikh Gurus. Main Gurpurbs are: the birth anniversaries of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Gobind Singh ji and the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev ji and Guru Tegh Bahadur ji.
On the full moon of kartik, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak is celebrated by the devotees with immense devotion. Two days before the day of Gurpurb, 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 aned contribution prayers march through the towns. At night buildings are illuminated.
Nimani Kasti (May-June):
On the eleventh day of the bright half of Jeth (May-June) falls Nirjala Ekadashi, which is better known in the Punjab as Nimani Kasti. Hindus, especially women, observe fast on this day smear the body with powdered sandalwood. This fast is very hard to keep because for the whole day one has to abstain even from water. Charitably inclined people put up stalls for free distribution of sweetened and chilled water. The stalls, known as chhabils, are a common sight on this day.
Teeyan, a festival of the rainly season, is celebrated on the 3rd of the bright fortnight of Sawan (July-August). The four months from Harh (June-July) to the first half of Assu (September) are called Chaumasa. During this period the sky generally remains overcast with clouds and the weather shifts between sultriness and rainfall. Rains bring the longed-for relief to the heat-stricken Punjabis and the rhythm of the little and big drops of rain instills in them the enthusiasm which must seek expression in fun and frolic. A newly-married girl looks forward to the rainy days when a grother or some other male relative from the parental home may come to escort her to her father’s place. This reversal from bride to being just a daughter again is such a liberating and thrilling experience that it cannot be put into words. One day before the Teeyan, girls apply henna to their hands and feet, and on the day of the festival they put on their best clothes and go out to the fair. The fair resounds with the songs of love and the rhythm of dance. The songs are known as Teeyan songs. The Giddha dance has become a regular and most enchanting feature of this festival. At home women make kheer, a dish specially associated with Sawan.
In Bhadon, on the day of the full moon, the Rakhi festival is celebrated. On this day sisters tie the multicolored thread on the right wrist of their brothers. So long as a sister has not tied the rakhi to her brother, she is not supposed to eat anything. After she has done so she offers some sweets to her brother and he in return gives her some gift or money. Rakhi is meant to remind the brother of his promise to protect his sister whenever she needs this protection. The true origin of this festival is, however, lost in antiquity.
The Dussehra festival, as in most other parts of India, is celebrated in a big way. This festival marks the victory of good over evil. Big tall effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghnath are burnt at a large number of places. During the Nauratas Ram Lila is organized at innumerable places in the State. This drama has, from year to year, contributed largely to the continuance of the tradition of folk-drama in India.
In Kartik, on the fourth lunar day falls Karva Chauth. On this day married women observe a fast and pray for the long life of their husbands. Sometimes even unmarried girls observe this fast and pray for their husbands-to-be. In a way this is the mother-in-law’s day too, because it is customary on this day for the daughter-in-law to present her offerings-(Baya) in the form of money and eatables.
Earthen lamps or candles are lighted over buildings all over the State. People celebrate the festival with great gusto. Houses are white-washed days ahead of it, new clothes are purchased and sweets of all kinds are prepared. People worship Goddess Lakshmi with an offering of sweets and silver coins.
Thereafter they distribute sweets among friends and relatives. It is believed that on this night Goddess Lakshmi in the company of Vidmata (goddess of fate) takes a round of every house and wherever she takes a fancy, she bestows immense prosperity.
In the Golden Temple of Amritsar, Diwali is celebrated with great éclat. Earthern lamps are lighted all round the holy tank and their undulating reflections in the water look extremely fascinating. Sikhs started celebrating Diwali at Amritsar from the time of their Sixth Master, Guru Har Gobind Singh ji, when he rescued fifty-two rajas from imperial detention in the fort of Gwalior and reached Amritsar, the residents there welcomed him by illuminating the whole-city.
Patiala Heritage Festival:
It started in 2003, the festival takes place in Patiala in the Qila Mubarak Complex, which lasts for ten days. The festival includes the crafts mela, Indian classical music and dance concerts.
The Darbar hall in Qila Mubarak houses an impressive collection of chandeliers, historic arms and beautifully painted portraits of royalty of Patiala and Britain. Sheesk Mahal’s Natural History Gallery displays stuffed animals and birds coveted by a celebrated English taxidermist in early twentieth country.
Rupnagar Heritage Festival:
This festival is aimed at promoting local Sufi music, bhangra artists and other Punjagbi artistic talent.
Kapurthala Heritage Festival:
The Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Heritage Festival is held by Kapurthala Heritage Trust in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and also supported by the Government of Punjab. The festival takes place at Jagagit Palace and Centers on Classical Music, Dance and Theatre.
Amritsar Heritage Festival:
The festival showcases bhangra, giddha, gatka, troups, horses and elephants. The cultural programmes include theatre, music and dance. This heritage festival is intended to further lend a boost to Amritsar appearing on the global tourist map.