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Hola Mohalla
The most colorful and hilarious
of all the festivals, which are
celebrated in, Punjab is Hola
Mohalla. Each year, spring is
ushered in by the Sikhs with the
celebration of a vigorous and
colorful festival at Anandpur
Sahib. The festival is slated for
the day after Holi and is called
Hola Mohalla.
It was here at Anandpur Sahib
that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth
and last guru, instituted the
pahul (baptism of the Khalsas),
and elected the panj pyare (the
beloved five), and militarized his
followers into the order of
Nihangs (warrior-mendicants) at
this site.
This festival of the Nihangs held
at their headquarters Anandpur
Sahib began as a counterpart to
Holi. Though it almost did away
with the throwing of colors,
nonetheless, it is more colorful.
Martial arts like archery, sword
fencing, fancy horse-riding, tent-
pegging, and the deft handling
of other contraptions of offence
and defense are displayed by the
Nihangs. Spectacular and thrilling
acts of dare-devilry nimbly
executed are performed. The
festivities close with a ceremonial
procession taken through the
township. The langar
(community feast) is open
through the day and lasts as long
as there are any takers.
Dressed in along tunic of bright
deep blue, an elaborate turban,
sometimes of enormous size, at
times banded with strips of
bright yellow, armed with
weapons of one ’s liking – bows
and arrows, spears, swords and
shield, muskets, guns or what
have you – the Nihang displays
his skills at this festival of valor, a
pageant of the past.
The festivals held in honor of the
Sikh Gurus are called Gurupurabs.
They are well spread over the
year but there are three
important ones. On the full moon
of Kartik the birth anniversary of
Guru Nanak is celebrated by the
devotees with great ardor. Two
days earlier a non-stop reading
of the Adi Granth is started. At
different places religious
congregations are held and
hymns from the Granth Sahib are
chanted. Large processions and
are taken out through the towns.
At night buildings are
illuminated. The birth anniversary
of Guru Gobind Singh is also
celebrated in a similar manner.
The third important Gurupurab is
the one associated with the
martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev.
The festivals connected with the
lunar days, Ekadashi (eleventh
lunar day), Pooranmashi (full
moon), and Masya (new moon)
occur every rnonth. Similarly,
Sankranti, when the sun enters
the new Zodiac sign, is
celebrated on the first of every
month of the Vikrarmi era with
great gusto. It is also an occasion
to prepare and eat the nicest of
In the Punjab, where the Vikrami
era is followed, the year begins
with Chet (March-April). On the
first of this month the arrival of
the new year is celebrated by the
performance of a ritual of taking
the new corn, known as ann
nawan karna. Sheafs of new corn
are roasted and then the
parched grain is eaten. Everyone
must have a bath on the new
year day, and put on new clothes.
Delicacies like kheer and halwa
are prepared and eaten.
It is one of the most popular
festivals of the Punjab, with fairs
held at various places. Baisakhi,
the first day of the month of
Baisakh (April/May) is New Year ’s
Day, going by the Saka calendar.
It corresponds to April 13th of
the Gregorian calendar.
Essentially it 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
Through celebrated all over
North India, it is nowhere as
colorful as it is in Punjab, India’s
granary. The joy of the energetic
Punjabis is manifest in the
strenuous folk dance, the
Bhangra. This dance usually
enacts the entire process of
agriculture from the tilling of the
soil through harvesting. As the
beat of the dholak (drum)
changes, the sequences
progress. The dance movements
express ploughing, sowing,
weeding, reaping and
winnowing. The final sequence
shows the farmer celebrating the
Though in real life the farmer has
to toil hard in order to win grain
from the soil, this dance shows
him performing his labors with
grace and ease, a smile to his
lips. Women too join the men,
both at reaping during the day,
and in the many dances and folk
songs at evening. Baisakhi has a
special significance for the
Hindus. It is believed that the
Ganga descended to the earth on
this auspicious day. The Kumbha
is held every twelve years at
Hardwar on this occasion.
For the Sikhs the day has a deep
religious meaning. At Anandpur
this day in 1699 AD, the tenth
and last Guru, Gobind Singh,
baptized the Sikhs into the
Khalsa, meaning the Elect. This
baptism of the sword, called
pahul, led to the creating of the
panch pyare, the Beloved Five.
The Sikhs became a militant
order so as to meet the
challenges of persecution at the
hands of the Mughal rulers. The
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 their distinctive signs.
The Guru enthused their valor by
calling them Singh (lion), now a
suffix to every Sikh ’s name. To
commemorate the day of the
initiation of the sword, a large
number of Sikhs flock to
Harmandir Sahib (the Golden
Temple, Amritsar), their major
shrine. They take a dip in the holy
Amrit sarovar (pool of nectar),
the lake in the midst of which the
Golden Temple stands. Religious
service follows in the form of
Akhand Paath – an end chanting
of the holy
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 and
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.
Teeyan, a festival of the rainy
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 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 brother
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 song and
drama has, from year to year,
contributed largely to the
continuance of the tradition of
folk-drama in India
Karva Chauth
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.
On the eleventh lunar day in this
month falls the festival of
Devuthan (waking up the
deities). Metal plates are beaten
in order to awaken the deities
who are supposed to go to sleep
between the summer harvest
and the first ploughing after the
start of the autumnal rains.
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 ...
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