Punjab has traditional, religious and state festivals organized and celebrated throughout the state. These festivals are full of messages and are linked with Punjab's culture and reflect the various phases of its life depicting some of the distinct Punjabi traits. Some of these festivals such as Holi, Diwali, Dasara, Mohurrum, Shivratri, etc. are celebrated nation wide. Some of the popular festivals celebrated in Punjab are briefed below.
Lohri marks the end of winter and for Punjabis, this is more than just a festival, as it is 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. An extremely auspicious day, Lohri marks the sun's entry in to the 'Makar Rashi' (northern hemisphere). There is puja that symbolises a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundant crops and prosperity.
Basant Panchami heralds the advent of spring. Fully blossomed mustard fields glow all over rural Punjab in gorgeous golden yellow. The Basant fair is held in many villages of the Punjab. People put on yellow costumes appropriate to the season looking like a huge mass of mustard blossom walking down to the fair. Kite-flying was a popular entertainment of the people on this occasion. On a breezy Basant Panchami day, one could see nothing but innumerable multi-coloured kites in the sky, swishing over in all directions.
Hola Mohalla, Anandpur Sahib Hola Mohalla, celebrated in Anandpur Sahib was started by Guru Gobind Singh in 1700 AD, adding spiritual and martial elements to Holi, as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the festival of Holi. The fair begins a few days before Holi and is marked by the congregation of Sikhs from all over the State, who arrive on trucks and tractors. A large number of 'Langars' (community kitchen) are set up to provide free food to all.
The day after Holi, the three days Hola Mahalla begins with the singing of the divine hymns in the ambrosial hours of very early morning. With the dawning of the day the Nihangs, perform feats of martial valour in archery, sword fencing, fancy horse-riding, tent-pegging, and the deft handling, displaying their skills at this festival of valour, a pageant of the past. On the last day led by Panj Pyaras, a long procession starts from Takth Keshgarh Sahib, wearing traditional robes and armour of blue and saffron colours and all steel, they move out through the township which concludes the festival.
Baisakhi is the first day of the New Year in the traditional Vikrami calendar and it is one of the high points of the year for Sikhs as it is the anniversary of the founding of Khalsa. The story of Baisakhi Festival began with the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru who was publicly beheaded by Aurungzeb. Guru's son, Guru Gobind Singh the 10th Guru of the Sikhs set up the Khalsa on the Baisakhi Day congregation of Sikhs at Keshgarh Sahib near Anandpur on March 30, 1699.
Baisakhi is a North Indian harvest festival, for it is the day when the reaping of the rabi (winter crop) begins. The jubilation at a bountiful harvest becomes the reason for celebration. It is one of the most popular and colourful festivals of Punjab, with fairs held at various places. Dancing men and women, on the day of Baisakhi, emerge singing and dancing from the surrounding villages carrying a portion of the first harvest of wheat.
The Chhapaar Mela
It is celebratedin the village of Chhapaar in Ludhiana District, every September, to propitiate Guga-the Zahir Pir. He is known as the Lord of the snakes. It is believed that snake poison is neutralised by his grace and barren women are blessed with offsprings. Thousands of devotees take Guga Pir in a procession. Peoples of different faiths paricipate in the Mela.
The festivals held in association with the lives of the Sikh Gurus are called Gurupurbs. The important Gurupurbs celebrated are the birthdays of Guru Nanak and Guru Govind Singh and the martyrdom days of Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Teg Bahadur.
In the early morning a religious procession goes around the localities singing shabads (hymns). Devotees offer sweets and tea when the procession passes by their residence. The celebrations start with the three-day akhand path in which the Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs) is read continuously from beginning to end without a break. Conclusion of the reading coincides with the day of the festival. On this day the Granth Sahib is carried in procession on a float. Five armed guards representing the panj pyares, head the procession. Sikhs visit gurdwaras where kirtans (religious songs) are sung and special programmes and langar are arranged.
This three-day annual Shahidi Jor Mela is celebrated in Fatehgarh Sahib. This is in the memory of Guru Gobind Singh's two sons Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh who were buried alive in a brick-wall here. The Mela starts with the Akhand Path of Guru Garanth Sahib and would conclude with the Bhog ceremony of the Akhand Path. A religious procession would also be taken out on the concluding day. More than a million people are expected to pay homage at Fatehgarh Sahib to the great martyrs.
Hariballabh Sangeet Mela
The famous Hariballabh Sangeet Mela is held in Jalandhar in the memory of the sant-musician, Swami Hariballabh, who attained great heights in classical music and whose dhrupadhs were master pieces. The Mela is organised at Devi Talab near the samadhi of the saint from 27 December to 30 December. Every year classical singers and musicians of repute will partake in this mela.
Makara Samkramana, Sri Krishna Janmashtami, Raksha Bandhan, Sri Ramanavami, Diwali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Milad-un-Nabi, Moharrum, Christmas, Easter and Good Friday are some of the other festivals celebrated in devotion together with other regions of the country.