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Punjabi Culture - Traditions and Heritage of Punjab

Unique, colourful and extravagant, these are the attributes of the heartland of India, Punjab. Popular and distinguished across the globe, the culture of Punjab is indeed overwhelming. The delicious Punjabi food appeases your taste buds like never before. Colourful fancy clothes and Bhangra attract you like nothing else. When you visit Punjab, you can experience hospitable and heartwarming vibes. Punjabis are known to be very helpful, welcoming and proud people. They welcome everyone with open hearts (and of course a glass of Lassi and typical Punjabi food). They celebrate their festivals with great zeal and zest, with great food, music, dances and revelry. The beauty of Punjab is as magical as it becomes.

People of Punjab

Punjabi Culture, Culture of Punjab
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Punjabis are mainly divided into two communities: Khatris and Jats. They've been involved in agriculture for a long time now. But now, trade and commerce have also opened up in the state. A large population still follows the joint family system which has now turned out to be unique. The feeling of togetherness can be easily felt here as they promise to be with each other in moments of sadness and happiness.

Punjabis are very particular about their traditions and relations. Every festival or ceremony have predefined rituals which are strictly followed. May it be birth or wedding, hair cutting or a funeral, the adherence to rituals is a must which according to them strengthens a relation and displays a proper social cordiality.

Food in Punjabi Culture

One of the favourite cuisines of Indians and other communities outside, Punjabi food is rich in flavours and spices. With overflowing ghee on the chapattis, the food here is considered for the strong-hearted! Lassi is the refreshing drink here and is also known as the welcome drink. It's a very heavy dose of milk, especially for those are not from Northern India.

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Makke di Roti (maize bread) and Sarson da Saag (mustard leaf curry) is another traditional dish of Punjab. There are many other foods like Chole Bhathure, Rajma Chawal and Paneer Naan, but one of the humongous favourites is Tandoori Chicken!  

Dresses in Punjabi Culture

The traditional dresses of Punjab are very colourful, unique and vibrant. Women wear Salwar kameez (Salwar is the bottom wear and kameez upper). These clothes are intricately designed and beautifully embroidered at homes in multi colours. Men wear a Turban with great pride. Initially, Hindus and Muslims also used to wear turbans, but now Sikhs can be only seen wearing them. Kurta is worn on the upper body, and Tehmat which are the baggy and balloon-ish Pyjamas are worn on the lower portion. Footwear preferred is Jooti which has been the traditional footwear worn by men and women for many years.

Folk Dance and Festivals of Punjab

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There are many folk music and dances which are hugely popular in Punjab and the rest of the country. One of them is Bhangra which has also become immensely popular in the west. This dance form began many years ago when Punjabi farmers used to perform to welcome the harvest season. Giddha and Sammi, Luddhi and Dhamal are some other popular dances in the region. Punjabi music has become popular in Bollywood too. Punjabis are known for their revelry and music forms an essential part of it.

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These dance forms are mainly performed in Baisakhi Festival. The performances, especially involving men, are given on the beats of drum and music. People wear Kurta and Tehmat (garments made of silk and cotton) with Turban on their head and a handkerchief in hand during the performances.

Language and Religions

The official language of the state is Punjabi, which is also the local language used for communication. Although there is only one local language, there are many dialects used diverse region to region. Some of the local dialects are Doabi, Ghebi, Malwai, Pahari, Shahpuri, Rachnavi, Hindko, etc.

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There are many religions which exist in Punjab. But the major population comprises of Hindus and Sikhs. In Hindus, Khatris are the most prominent, while Brahmin, Rajput and Baniya may also be found. The Sikh population is particularly high in the state owing to the origin of Sikhism. There are many Sikh religious centres in Punjab, not to forget the most famous Golden Temple in Amritsar which witnesses huge footfall from around the world.

Wedding Customs in Punjab

The prewedding rituals start with the Roka, which is an unofficial engagement signifying the acceptance of the relationship by the two families. Then comes Chunni Chadhai followed by Mangni/Sagai which is the official engagement with the couple exchanging the engagement rings. A couple of days before the wedding, Mehendi artists are called in on the occasion of Mehendi to create intricate designs on the hands of the bride joined by all the female friends and family members. Usually on the same evening is the musical night known as Sangeet which is pretty much the same as a bachelorette party. After the merry and joyful evening of Sangeet, some traditional rituals are set in motion starting with Kangna Bandhna, Followed by Choodha Chadhana and Kalide which take place in the Bride’s house. Haldi and Ghara Ghardoli are two rituals that take place for both, Bride and Groom when they are covered with a thick paste of turmeric and sandalwood mixed with rosewater and mustard oil. Bride and groom visit their nearest temple and are bathed with holy water and start getting ready for the main part of the wedding. Sehrabandi and Ghodi Chadna conclude the pre-wedding rituals.

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The main wedding function starts with the Agwani and Milni which is a ritual to welcome the groom and his party to the venue of the wedding. Followed by the welcome is the Varmala or the exchange of the garlands between the bride and the groom. The Groom is then offered a bowl of water and a bowl of a sweet drink called Madhuperk. The ritual of Kanyadaan is fulfilled by the father of the Bride and asks the Groom to take good care of her. After the Heart touching ritual of Kanyadaan is Mangal Phere where the couple circle the sacred fire four times and the couple is declared Married. The wedding day concludes with a sacrificial ritual offering rice flakes to the sacred fire thrice called Lajhom followed by Sindhoor Daan which is the ritual of the groom to anoint the bride's forehead and the hair partition with Sindhoor.

Post wedding games are the fun part of every wedding where the families and friend from both sides take part actively. After the celebrations and games are the most heart touching moments for the festivities when the bride has to say bye to her parents and tears rolling down the cheeks is a normal scenario in these moments. The bride is welcomed to the groom's house and a final ritual called the Muh Dikhai marks an end to the ceremonies and the start of a happy life together.

Literature and Philosophy

Punjabi Literature mostly comprises the writings from Sikh Gurus and some poetry too. The writings of Guru Nanak also known as The Janamsakhis are one of the oldest literature books found. Some spiritual philosophies of yogis like Gorakshanath and Charpatnah are also available. But the major literature began with the initiation of poetry and Sufi music and ghazals. Some famous stories include Heer Ranjha by Waris Shah, Mirza Sahiba by Hafiz Barkhudar and Sohni Mahiwal by Fazal Shah.

Punjabis are high spirited and liberal people. Residing in the heart of India, they are soft natured people who celebrate every event and festival with utmost zest. They are lively and vibrant with a vibrant history and culture. They enjoy liquor and revelry as much as they enjoy Lassi and folk music. Punjabis can now be found in many parts of the world especially the USA and Canada. But suffice it to say, they have shifted the land, but their culture is imbibed in them even today. They celebrate their festivals across the globe and welcome others to be a part of their culture. And to less surprise, Punjabis are loved all over the world.

This post was published by Vishwas Jain