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Sikh Culture


It was in the jungles of Punjab where the first rays of civilization had appeared. In this respect Punjab is considered the motherland of dances. From tribals to the kings and eventually republics took shape. These changes left their seals on the sands of time and caused changes in culture also.

The exuberance and vitality of the people of Punjab are vigorously displayed in their folk dances. With the drum beat or to the tune of some other instrument of folk music, the energetic feet of the people of Punjab are spontaneously set in motion to give birth to a folk dance - an expression of the soul triumphant, an outburst of emotions.

Punjab's folk dances are replete with foreign influences. It is only in Punjab where there is no common dance for men and women

Dance forms

Punjabis performed Bhangra to celebrate the success of the harvest. Now people perform Bhangra at wedding parties, receptions, birthdays, competitions, and other happy occasions. On the day of Baisakhi, April 13, many farmers, engineers, teachers, shop owners, and other sorts of people perform Bhangra. In the villages, with large drums, called dhols, people circle round and round leaping and laughing. Persons of all types of social classes perform Bhangra together. Even the elders occasionally join the young to celebrate and dance Bhangra.


Giddha is Punjab's most famous folk dance for women. In Giddha, the women enact verses called bolis, folk poetry, and dance. The subject matter of these bolis include everything from arguments with the father-in-law to political affairs. The dance rhythm is set by the dhols and the distinctive hand claps of the dancers.


This dance, originally from Sandalbar (now in Pakistan), is very much a part of Punjab's folk heritage. It is a graceful dance based on a Jhumar rhythm. Dancers circle around the drummer and sing graceful lyrics as they dance.


Similar to bhangra, men dance in a circle.


Literally Jaago means wake up! When there is a marriage in the house, girls dance through the village streets carrying a pot (gaggar) decorated with lightened candles and sing Jaagu songs. The themes of the songs are social and usually a bit of teasing, often aimed at elders, goes with the song.


Women perform this dance in pairs. They cross their arms, hold each other's hands and whirl around singing folk songs. Sometimes four girls join hands to perform this dance.


Gatka is a Sikh martial art in which people use swords, sticks, and daggers. People believe that Guru Hargobind Sahib started the art of Gatka after the martyrdom of fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev. Wherever there is a large Khalsa Sikh population, there will be Gatka participants, which can consist of small children and adults. These participants usually perform Gatka on special holidays such as Baisakhi and Gurpurb.


Punjab’s best food is hearty country fare, based on good milk, buttermilk, ghee and freshly harvested produce. A passionate lot, the Punjabi are united as much by their culture as by their passion for healthy, protein enriched food. To retain the rich flavour, food is cooked on slow fire. Punjab’s best food is hearty country fare, based on good milk, buttermilk, ghee and freshly harvested produce. A passionate lot, the Punjabi are united as much by their culture as by their passion for healthy, protein enriched food. To retain the rich flavour, food is cooked on slow fire.

A typical Punjabi breakfast consists of layered paranthas (flaky, griddle breads, stuffed with spiced, mashed potatoes or grated, spiced radish eaten with dahi(creamy yoghurt) and tarty mango pickle for pep and pungency. This is washed down with a glass of thick, creamy milk. An exquisite country fare if Sarson-Ka-Sag (buttery mustard greens, flavoured with aniseed and asafoetida) eaten with Makki-Ki-Roti (crisp, fresh corn bread) and washed down withenormous glasses of Lassi (thick, creamy butter milk). Another typical Punjabi meal is the universal favourite chhole (spicely stewed chick peas, in green chillies and onions), Bhaturas (fully, leavended deep fried breads), and Dahi Baras (lentil dumplings in creamy yoghurt).

Tandoori food-dishes cooked in hot, clay ovens-include the delectable fish and tandoori chicken (barbecued, red and succulent, with a nicely spiced paste of tomato puree, gram masala, butter, ginger and coriander), Uncommonly good are the meat tikkas (patties of finely pounded meat, with a pleasant mixture of mint, green chillies and green coriander). Hearty eaters, other favourites of Punjabis are : the piquant baigan-ka-bharta (egg plant smoked on fire and then cooked with hot spices and tomatoes); the delicious Karhi (Yoghurt whipped with chick pea flour and chick pea dumplings); the protein rich maah-ki-dal (pulses cooked with onions, tomatoes and red-eyed beans). Rice is popular and traditional breads eaten are chapaties (flat, griddle bread), pooris (puffed, whole wheat breads) and bhaturas (puffed, white flour breads) and naans (large leaf-shaped tandoori breads).


Sikh festivals are occasions for Sikhs to rededicate themselves to the Faith. Even martyrdoms and death anniversaries of the Gurus are festivals to inspire the faithful and remind them of their history and the value of sacrifice for a good cause. People of various faiths are invited to these celebrations to give them a view of the Sikh faith and way of life.


Baisakhi is a New Year Festival in the Sikh calendar. Khalsa was created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji on this day by performing the Amrit ceremony in 1699. Traditionally, on this day which usually falls on 13th April, 'Nishan Sahib', the Sikh Flag, is replaced by a new one. A service in the open compound is held, led by 'Panj Pyara'. The Flag post is taken down and 'Chola', the flag cloth, is removed and the flag post is cleaned and washed. It is covered with a new 'Chola' and re-hoisted. The ceremony is completed by an Ardas. The whole scene is very inspiring.


Diwali means the Festival of Lights. The Sikhs celebrate Diwali because Guru Hargobind reached Amritsar on Diwali day after his release from Gwalior jail. He had also got 52 princes freed from prison. That is why this festival is very important for the residents of Amritsar. The Golden Tempe complex is illuminated and wonderful displays of fireworks are held. Priceless historic treasures and weapons used by the Gurus are put on display


An annual festival of thousands held at Anandpur Sahib. It was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the Indian festival of Holi. The mock battles were followed by music and poetry competitions. The Nihang Singh's carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding. There are also a number of durbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. The festival culminates in a large parade headed by the Nishan Sahibs of the gurdwaras in the region.

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