Social Customs And Traditions In India
Social Customs And Traditions, Books On Customs And Traditions
Family Customs in India
Family is important in India, and is what their life is centered around. It is common
for several generations to live in the same house as an extended family.
When a woman marries, she leaves her birth family, many times without seeing them again,
and goes to her husband's village and becomes part of his family.
There is significant discrimination toward girls and women. While young girls are expected
to help with the women's work (which consists of fetching water, preparing meals,
cleaning, and caring for animals) as well as care for their younger siblings; boys have it
They may be required to herd goats and other animals to and from the fields, but in
general have it much easier than their female counterparts and this discrimination doesn't
end with adulthood.
A simple draped cloth is still the basic attire for many Indians. The women wear a sari,
which is worn with a blouse underneath. Men generally wear a dhoti, which can be worn full
length or as "pants" depending on the region. In northern India, western
clothing has replaced that of the traditional for men, while women still wear saris or
other Indian styles of dress. In rare cases women will wear slacks and blouses, but that
is generally among the elite.
Deepavali And Diwali
Jain Dipavali: When Lord Mahavir died at the age of 72 (527 B.C.), his
purified soul left the body and achieved complete liberation. He became a Siddha, a pure
consciousness, a liberated soul, living for ever in a state of complete bliss. On the
night of his salvation, people celebrated the Festival of Lights (Dipavali) in his honor.
Hindus celebrate Deepavali (as it is called in South India) or Diwali (as it
called in North India) for different reasons:
Deepavali commemorates the killing of Narakasura (demon king) by Krishna's wife
Sathyabhama. This happened in the Dwapara Yuga during the time of Krishna. There is
another version that the demon king was killed by Lord Krishna himself.
Before Narakasura's death, he requested a boon from his mother, Sathyabhama or possibly
Krishna, that everyone should celebrate his death with the lighting of deepas (lamps).
In the South, naraka chaturdashii is celebrated with firecrackers at the time of suryodaya
(dawn). The main festival is on Amavasya evening with Lakshmi Puja and the lighting of oil
According to the Skanda Purana, the goddess Shakti observed 21 days of austerity starting
from ashtami of shukla paksha (eighth day of the waxing period of moon) to get control of
half of Shiva's power. Deepavali is the completion day of this austerity. This is the day
Lord Shiva accepted Shakti into the left half of his form represented as Ardhanarishvara.
In the North, Diwali is celebrated to signify the return of Rama, King of Ayodhya, and his
wife Sita to Ayodhya after a war in which he killed the demon king Ravana. It is believed
that the people lit oil lamps along the way.
In the North India, the festival is held on the final day of the Vikram calendar. The
following day marks the beginning of the North Indian new year, and is called Annakut.
In Bramhavaivarta Purana, Deepavali is associated with the Daitya king Bali. Vishnu takes
Vamana avatar and destroys Bali by deceit. Bali is granted a boon to return to earth once
Holi, the festival of colors
In ancient scriptures and paintings holi has always been depicted as an occassion for
celebration with colors where men and women play pranks with each other. The original idea
might have been to offer an opportunity for men and women to mingle with abandon.
Holi in North India
Holi is an important festival of Braj, where men of Nandgaon and women of Barsana play
'latthmar Holi' in the remembrance of the playful throw of colors by Krishna on 'Gopis'
and their resistance. The romance of Holi is depicted in the love plays of Krishna and
Radha. In Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul and Barsana, Holi is a two-week long festival
featuring play of colors, folk songs called 'Hori', folk dances such as Raas-Lila, staging
the various aspects of Radha and Krishna's love.
The story behind the festival
When Krishna was a young boy, he asked the reason for his dark color while Radha was so
fair. His mother Yashoda playfully suggested that he should smear color on Radha's face
and change her complexion to any color he liked. Krishna followed the idea in a playful
way and the event is celebrated as Holi with colors.
Holi and the Holika story
Hirnakashyipu in order to kill his son asked the help of his sister Holika, who had a boon
that she could walk through the fire unharmed. The wicked aunt entered the fire with her
nephew Prahlad. But Holika could enter the fire unharmed only alone or else she would
perish. Blessed by Lord Vishnu, the child Prahlad remained unharmed but Holika got burnt
and died instantly. Holi is thus celebrated to commemorate the death of the evil aunt,
after whom the festival is named. To this day, cow dung is hurled into the fire and
obscenities are shouted at the Holi fire at some places to insult Holika.
Holi in South India
Festival of Kamadeva or Kamanna
When Lord Shiva came to know of the demise of his wife Sati, he was sad and furious. Shiva
went into meditation and trancerenouncing all work. The world shook and went topsy
Sati took rebirth as Goddess Parvati to try and win Lord Shiva's heart and wake him up
from his trance. When Sati failed, she asked the help of Kamadava.
Kamadava shot his love-arrow at Shiva's heart. Disturbed by this, Shiva opened his third
eye out of anger which, like the modern lazer, instantly incinerated Kamadeva.
Shiva realized his mistake, he granted Kamadeva immortality in invisible form.
After the burning ceremony, people offer mango blossoms which Kamadeva liked and also
sandalwood paste to Kamadeva as a balm for the burns.
To the foreign traveler, one of the powerful attractions in India is the colorful and
diversified attire of its people. The silk saris, brightly mirrored cholis, colorful
lehangas and the traditional salwar-kameez have fascinated many a traveler over the
Attire for Women
For a single length of material, the sari must be the most versatile garment in existence.
It is only one of the many traditional garments worn by women, yet it has somehow become
the national dress of Indian women. A sari is a rectangular piece of cloth which is five
to six yards in length. The style, color and texture of this cloth varies and it might be
made from cotton, silk or one of the several man-made materials. The sari has an ageless
charm since it is not cut or tailored for a particular size. This garment can fit any size
and if worn properly can accentuate or conceal. This supremely graceful attire can also be
worn in several ways and its manner of wearing as well as its color and texture are
indicative of the status, age, occupation, region and religion of a woman.
The tightly fitted, short blouse worn under a sari is a choli. The choli evolved as a form
of clothing in 10th century AD and the first cholis were only front covering; the back was
always bare. Bodices of this type are still common in the state of Rajasthan.
Apart from the choli, women in Rajasthan wear a form of pleated skirt known as the ghagra
or lehanga. This skirt is secured at the waist and leaves the back and midriff bare. The
heads are however covered by a length of fine cotton known as orhni or dupatta.
Another popular attire of women in India is the salwar-kameez. This dress evolved as a
comfortable and respectable garment for women in Kashmir and Punjab, but is now immensely
popular in all regions of India. Salwars are pajama-like trousers drawn tightly in at the
waist and the ankles. Over the salwars, women wear a long and loose tunic known as a
kameez. One might occasionally come across women wearing a churidar instead of a salwar. A
churidar is similar to the salwar but is tighter fitting at the hips, thighs and ankles.
Over this, one might wear a collarless or mandarin-collar tunic called a kurta.
Attire for Men
Though the majority of Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be
found in more conventional western clothing. Shirts and trousers are worn by men from all
regions in India. However, men in villages are still more comfortable in traditional
attire like kurtas, lungis, dhotis and pyjamas.
The traditional lungi originated in the south and today it is worn by men and women alike.
It is simply a short length of material worn around the thighs rather like a sarong. A
dhoti is a longer lungi but with an additional length of material pulled up between the
legs. Pyjama-like trousers worn by the villagers are known as the lenga.
Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both religious and regional and one
is likely to witness a plethora of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the
The great epic Ramayana was originally written by Valmiki.
In North India, the bowdlerized version of Ramayana, Tulsidas Ramayana, which is also
known as Ramcharitmanasa is widely recognised as authentic.
Parts of the first book, and all of the 7th Utthara book appear to have been added later.
Except in those sections, the Ramayana does not refer to Rama as an incarnation of the god
Vishnu, but as simply an extraordinary man.
Goswami Tulsidas rewrote the Valmiki version in Hindi in about 1574 in order to depict
Rama as an avatara or incarnation of Vishnu. In his version, Sita had a duplicate, who was
kidnapped while Sita remained safe.
In the state of Tamil Nadu in India, the Kamban Ramayana is popular. Kamban Ramayana
Ravana's greatness is emphasized and he is not portrayed as evil.
In Thailand, Ramayana is Ramakian with no religious significance. It is the story of
Rama's battle against the demon king Totsakan. It differs from the Valmiki version in plot
differences. For example, Sita gives birth to only one son, who is magically duplicated by
the magician and hermit known in India as Valmiki. According to some Theravada Buddhists,
Rama was Buddha in a former life.
In Indonesia, Ramayana is Rahwana with plot differences from the Valmiki version: Rama's
mother is paralyzed, there is no third brother Shatrugna there is a subplot about the
family of Ravana and the monkey tribe was originally human which was transformed by a
magic lake, though the events are identical.
Ramayana in other countries
In Myanmar it is called "Rama Thagyam", in Thailand it is
"Ramakien", Thailand's national epic, in Laos "Phra Lak Phra Lam" from
the Lao names for Lakshmana and Rama. There are several versions of this story and like
the Malaysia Hikayad Seri Rama they often give more prominence to Lakshmana than was done
in the original, in Cambodia as "Ramaker", and in Indonesia as "Rama
Kakavin". In Indonesia the Rama story is not based on Valmiki Ramayana but on the
Ravanavada Mahakavya or alternate Kavya called Bhattaka.
Ravan was one and only king who decided his fate. His fore grandfather was Bhramha (God
of Ultimate Knowledge). He had advanced knowledge of mathematics, science and Ayurveda. He
was obsessed of his powers and was egoistic.
Tired Ravana approached Lord Shiva to request moksha, that is, release from the bondage
of endless rebirth. Shiva explained that he had granted Ravana the boon of
indestructibility, and that Ravana must seek moksha from Lord Vishnu. Ravana's story, his
battle with Rama can be interpreted as a pretext to attain death.
A compelling and complex personality, Ravana is for many Hindus a legendary hero, a
scholar of immense intelligence and the devoted husband of one of India's traditional five
perfect women, Mandodari. Ravana's passionate attraction to Rama's wife Sita was as pure
as a love of mother and child. Through out the haran of mata sita, ravan uses salutation
of Mata (Mother).
Lord Rama killed Sambuka
Sambuka was a Shudra. Sambuka was killed because he was performing tapasya or
ascetic exercises which Brahmins alone are allowed to perform.
Lord Rama comes across a sage who is well versed in the Vedas. Lord Rama asks the sage his
name and his caste. The sage tells Lord Rama that his name is Sambuka and he is a sudra.
Upon hearing this, Lord Rama chops off the head of Sambuka and promptly Shiva, Indra, and
other Gods according to many versions of Ramayana shower him with flowers. Sambuka was
killed, in accordance with what Manu Smriti, for being well versed in Vedas despite being
Mahavir and Jain Religion
Jainism is a non-theistic religion founded in India in the 6th century BC by Vardhamana
Mahavira as a reaction against the
teachings of orthodox Brahmanism. Non-injury to living creatures is its central doctrine.
Salvation is attained by perfection of the soul through successive lives..
Mahavir was born in 599 B.C. as a prince in Bihar, India. At the age of 30, he left his
family and royal household, gave up his worldly possessions, including clothing and become
He spent thirty years travelling on bare feet and preaching to the people the eternal
truth he realized. He attracted people from all walks of life. He organized his followers,
into a four fold order: monk (Sadhu), nun (Sadhvi), layman (Shravak), and laywoman
(Shravika). They later came to be known as Jains.
Mahavir gave equal status to humans, animals, birds, and plants. Probably the only
religious philosopher to recognise and give plants equal status. He went without food for
long periods. He carefully avoided harming or annoying other living beings including
animals, birds, and plants.
In the matters of spiritual advancement, as envisioned by Mahavir, both men and women are
on an equal footing. The lure of renunciation and liberation attracted women as well. Many
women followed Mahavir's path and renounced the world in search of ultimate happiness.
Mahavir denounced the worship of gods and goddesses as a means of salvation and was
successful in eradicating the concept of God as creator, protector, and destroyer. He
taught the idea of supremacy of human life and stressed the importance of the positive
attitude of life. He taught how one can attain the total freedom from the cycle of birth,
life, pain, misery, and death.
Mahavir was the twenty-fourth and the last Tirthankara of the Jain religion. According to
Jain philosophy, all Tirthankaras were born as human beings but they have attained a state
of perfection or enlightenment through meditation and self realization. They are the Gods
of Jains. Tirthankaras are also known as Arihants or Jinas.
He explained that from eternity, every living being (soul) is in bondage of karmic atoms,
that are accumulated by its own good or bad deeds. Karma causes of violent thoughts and
deeds, anger, hatred ang greed which result in accumulating more bad karma.
He preached that right faith (samyak-darshana), right knowledge (samyak-jnana), and right
conduct (samyak-charitra) together will help attain the liberation of one's self.
Jains do not ask for any favors or material benefits from their Gods, the Tirthankaras or
from monks and nuns. They do not pray to a specific Tirthankara or monk by name.
Mahavir died at the age of 72 in 527 B.C. He became a Siddha, a pure consciousness, a
liberated soul, living for ever in a state of complete bliss. On the night of his
salvation, people celebrated the Festival of Lights (Dipavali) in his honor.
He made religion simple and natural, free from elaborate ritual complexities. His
teachings reflected the popular impulse towards internal beauty and harmony of the soul.
His preached nonviolence (Ahimsa), truth (Satya), non-stealing (Achaurya), celibacy
(Brahma-charya), and non-possession (Aparigraha). "A living body is not merely an
integration of limbs and flesh but it is the abode of the soul which potentially has
perfect perception (Anant-darshana), perfect knowledge (Anant-jnana), perfect power
(Anant-virya), and perfect bliss (Anant-sukha)."
Mahavir also preached the gospel of universal love, emphasizing that all living beings,
irrespective of their size, shape, and form however spiritually developed or
under-developed, are equal and we should love and respect them.
Jainism existed before Mahavir, and his teachings were based on those of his predecessors.
Thus, unlike Buddha, Mahavir was more of a reformer and propagator of an existing
religious order than the founder of a new faith. He followed the well established creed of
his predecessor Tirthankara Parshvanath. However, Mahavir did reorganize the philosophical
tenets of Jainism to correspond to his times.
In a few centuries after Mahavir's nirvana, Jain religious order (Sangha) grew more and
more complex. There were schisms on some minor points although they did not affect the
original doctrines as preached by the Tirthankars. Later generations saw the introduction
of ritualistic complexities which almost placed Mahavir and other Tirthankars on the
throne of Hindu deities.
The idols of twenty-four Tirthankaras in the temple are the same because they represent
the quality and virtues of Tirthankaras not the physical body. However, at the bottom of
each idol a unique symbol is placed to differentiate them. Mahavir's idol is recognized by
the symbol of a lion.
Sri Krishna in Hinduism is one of the most popular gods, the eighth and most important
avatar or incarnation of Vishnu. His exploits, especially with his favourite, Radha, have
produced both romantic and religious literature. Sri Krishna as the divine charioteer
preaches to Arjuna on the battlefield in the Bhagavadgita,
which probably is the earliest treatise on existentialism.
When the great warrior Arjuna loses courage as he finds his teacher and his most
beloved people in the opposite camp Sri Krishna tells him "do your duty (on the
battle field), the rest is not yours". Even Bob Dylan's album "The Times They Are a-Changin" reminds one of
The most famous religious text of Hinduism, an independent poem that was incorporated
into the Mahabharata. Composed between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD. The
poem, presented as a dialogue between the Kshatriya prince Arjuna and his divine
charioteer Krishna, stresses the importance of doing one's duty.
Excerpted from Oxford Talking Dictionary. Copyright © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc. All
"The Times They Are a-Changin"
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.
The Sikhs in the Punjab
The origins of the Sikhs, a religious group initially formed as a sect within the larger
Hindu community, lie in the Punjab in the fifteenth century. The Sikh founder, Guru Nanak
(1469-1539), was roughly a contemporary of the founder of Mughal fortunes in India, Babur,
and belonged to the Khatri community of scribes and traders. From an early career as a
scribe for an important noble of the Lodi dynasty, Nanak became a wandering preacher
before settling down at Kartarpur in the Punjab at about the time of Babur's invasion. By
the time of his death, he had numerous followers, albeit within a limited region, and,
like many other religious leaders of the time, founded a fictive lineage (one not related
by blood) of Gurus who succeeded him. His immediate successor was Guru Angad, chosen by
Nanak before his death. He, too, was a Khatri, as indeed were all the remaining Gurus,
though of various subcastes.
The Sikh chiefdoms continued many of the administrative practices initiated by the
Mughals. The main subordinates of the chiefs were given jagir assignments, and the
Persianized culture of the Mughal bureaucracy continued to hold sway. Unlike the Gurus
themselves, who, as has been noted, were exclusively drawn from Khatri stock, the bulk of
the Sikh chieftains tended to be of Jat origin, a fact that drew disparaging remarks from
at least some contemporary writers.
The Upanishads are each of a series of Hindu sacred treatises based on the Vedas,
written in Sanskrit c.800-200 BC. The
Upanishads mark the transition from ritual sacrifice to a mystical concern with the nature
of reality; polytheism is superseded by a pantheistic monism derived from the basic
concepts of atman and Brahman.
Excerpted from Oxford Talking Dictionary
Copyright © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Vedas are sacred knowledge of Hinduism handed down in four (orig. three)
collections, of which the oldest and principal is the Rig-veda. Also, any of the
collections of which the Veda is composed.
Excerpted from Oxford Talking Dictionary
Copyright © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Indian history of conquest told in modern genes
Research from the University of Utah and Andhra Pradesh University in India
Robert Cooke, Newsday - San Francisco Chronicle, 26 May, 1999
Today's genetic patterns, the researchers explained, vividly reflect a historic event, or
events, that occurred 3,000 or 4,000 years ago. The gene patterns "are consistent
with a historical scenario in which invading Caucasoids, primarily males,established the
caste system and occupied the highest positions, placing the indigenous population, who
were more similar to Asians, in lower caste positions."
"there was a group of males with European affinities who were largely responsible for
this invasion 3,000 or 4,000 years ago", said geneticist Lynn Jorde of the University
of Utah. Along with Jorde, the research team included Michael Bamshad, W.S. Watkins and
M.E. Dixon from Utah and B.B. Rao, B.V.R. Prasad and J.M. Naidu, from Andhra Pradesh
According to geneticist Douglas Wallace of Emory University in Atlanta, the work reported
by Jorde and his colleagues "is very interesting, and is certainly worth further
Like an indelible signature enduring through a hundred generations, genes that entered
India when conquering hordes swooped down from the north thousands of years ago are still
there, and remain entrenched at the top of the caste system, scientists report. Analyses
of the male Y chromosome, plus genes hidden in small cellular bodies called mitochondria,
show that today's genetic patterns agree with accounts of ancient Indo-European warriors'
conquering the Indian subcontinent.
The invaders apparently shoved the local men aside, took their women and set up the rigid
caste system that exists today. Their descendants are still the elite within Hindu
Researchers used two sets of genes in their analyses.
One set, from the mitochondria, are only passed maternally and can be used to track female
inheritance. The other, on the male-determining Y chromosome, can only be passed along
paternally and thus track male inheritance.
If women had accompanied the invaders, he said, the evidence should be seen in the
mitochondrial genes, but it is not evident.
Women can be upwardly mobile
By studying both sets of genetic markers, the research team found clear evidence echoing
what is still seen socially, that women can be upwardly mobile, in terms of caste, if they
marry higher-caste men. In contrast, men generally do not move higher, because women
rarely marry men from lower castes, the researchers said.
"Our expectations in this natural experiment are borne out when we look at the
genes," said Jorde. "It's one of the few cases where we know the mating
situation in a population for 150 generations. So it's kind of a test for how well the
genes reflect a population's history."
The ancient story holds that invaders known as Indo-Europeans, or true Aryans, came from
Eastern Europe or western Asia and conquered the Indian subcontinent. The people they
subdued descended from the original inhabitants who had arrived far earlier from Africa
and from other parts of Asia.
During the genetic studies, in 1996 and 1997, researchers took blood samples from hundreds
of people in southern India. The analyses compared the genes from 316 caste members and
330 members of tribal populations, looking for signs of Asian, European and African
In the mitochondrial genes passed along by females, Jorde said, they could see the clear
background of Asian genes. "All of the caste groups were similar to Asians, the
underlying population" that had originally been subdued.
But, he added, "when we look at the Y chromosome DNA, we see a very different
pattern. The lower castes are most similar to Asians, and the upper castes are more
European than Asian."
Further, "when we look at the different components within the upper caste, the group
with the greatest European similarity of all is the warrior class, the Kshatriya, who are
still at the top of the Hindu castes, with the Brahmins," Jorde said.
"But the Brahmins, in terms of their Y chromosomes, are a little bit more
So the genetic results are "consistent with historical accounts that women sometimes
marry into higher caste, resulting in female gene flow between adjacent castes. In
contrast, males seldom change castes, so Y chromosome'" variation occurs only as a
result of natural mutations, Jorde said.
"the tribal populations are more similar to the lower castes than to anyone else,
similar to the original residents of India,'' he said.
He added that even though India's ancient caste system was abolished legally in the 1960s,
it is still entrenched socially.
"People are very well aware of their caste membership," he said, noting that in
some cities the housing is still arranged along caste lines. So "one might argue,
unfortunately so, that it (the caste system) does exist in people's minds."
In terms of who marries whom, the researchers described the Hindu caste system as
"governing the mating practices of nearly one-sixth of the world's population."
Lohri and Harvest Festivals
Lohri, is celebrated every year on 13th of January to worship fire. Prayers are offered to
fire for prosperity. People gather around the bonfire and throw til, puffed rice &
popcorns into the flames of the bonfire, dancing and singing traditional folk songs.
At this time Earth starts moving towards the sun marking the auspicious period of
Uttarayan. Lohri is auspicious for the newly wed and the new born babies as it marks
fertility. According to the Hindu calendar, Lohri falls in mid-January (13th January). The
earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun,
thus ending the coldest month of the year and announcing the start of the summer season.
Lohri festival is also an annual thanksgiving day and an extremely popular harvest
festival in Northern India. Farmers celebrate Lohri before the cutting and gathering of
Lohri is essentially a Punjab festival. Apart from Punjab, people from other northern
Indian states of Haryana, Delhi and parts of Himachal Pradesh celebrate the harvesting of
the Rabi (winter) crops and enjoy the traditional folk songs and dances.
The prasad comprises of five main things - til, gazak, gur, moongphali (peanuts) and
phuliya or popcorn. Milk and water are also poured around the bonfire. This ritual is
performed for thanking the Sun God and seeking his continued protection.
Singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their
brightest clothes and come to dance the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. Punjabi
songs are sung, and everybody rejoices. Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti is usually served
as the main course at a Lohri dinner. In Himachal it is kichdi (pulao) which is enjoyed
Lohri is celebrated throughout the country in different forms, as a harvest festival. It
is called Pongal in the South, Bhugali Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and
Sankranti in the central part of the country. Though modes of celebrating Lohri in India
are different, but the message conveyed by the festival, that of setting aside differences
and rejoicing by celebrating the end of the harvest season and winter.
Origin of Lohri
The origin of the Lohri can be traced back to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. By the end of the
first week of January, small groups of boys ring the doorbell of houses and start chanting
the Lohri songs related to Dulla Bhatti. In turn, the people give them popcorn, peanuts,
crystal sugar, sesame seeds (til) or gur as well as money. Turning them back empty-handed
is regarded inauspicious.
The origin of Lohri is related to the central character of most Lohri songs is Dulla
Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar.
Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls being forcibly taken to be sold in slave
market of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals
and provided them with dowries. Understandably, though a bandit, he became a hero of all
Punjabis. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.
Some believe that Lohri has derived its name from Loi, the wife of Sant Kabir, for in
rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi. Others believe that Lohri comes from the word
'loh', a thick iron sheet tawa used for baking chapattis for community feasts. Another
legend says that Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi
fire, the latter survived. Eating of til (sesame seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is considered
to be essential on this day. Perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi,
which eventually got shortened to Lohri.
Ceremonies that go with the festival of Lohri usually comprises of making a small image of
the Lohri goddess with gobar (cattle dung), decorating it, kindling a fire beneath it and
chanting its praises. The final ceremony is to light a large bonfire at sunset, toss
sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries in it, sit round it, sing, dance till the fire
dies out. People take dying embers of the fire to their homes.
There are some interesting socio-cultural and folk-legends connected with Lohri. According
to the cultural history of Punjab, Bhatti, a Rajput tribe during the reign of Akbar,
inhabited parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat (now in Pakistan). Dulla Bhatti, Raja of
Pindi Bhattian, was put to death by the Mughal king for revolting against him. The tribal
mirasis (street singers) trace the history of the tribe and interestingly, claim Maharaja
Ranjit Singh as one of its scions.
Dulla Bhatti, like Robin Hood, robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The people of the
area loved and respected him. He once rescued a girl from kidnappers and adopted her as
his daughter. His people would remember their hero every year on Lohri. Groups of children
moved from door to door, singing the Dulla Bhatti folk-song: "Dulla Bhatti ho! Dulle
ne dhi viyahi ho! Ser shakar pai ho!" (Dulla gave his daughter a kilo of sugar as a
Traditional Stories of Dulha Bhatti
Legendary stories are associated with the brave Dulha Bhatti. He used to rob rich
to help the poor and needy. It is believed that Dullah had restored the prestige of an
innocent girl whose modesty was outraged by a wealthy Zamindar. There are various versions
of the actual story. Some traditions say that Dullah had adopted this girl as his daughter
and arranged her marriage in the Jungles of Saandal Bar. As there was no
priest nearby to chant the Vedic Hymns and solemnize the marriage Dullah had lit a bonfire
and composed an impromtu song,
Sunder Mundriye Tera Kaun Vichara ! Dullah Bhatti Wala Ho!
Dullaeh Di Teeh Viahi Ho! Ser Shakar Payi !
The bride and the groom were asked to take pheras of the bonfire as Dullah sang this
Chhath Puja is an important festival of Bihar, Jharkhand and the adjacent parts of eastern
Uttar Pradesh and the terai regions of Nepal. Chhath Puja is a festival dedicated to the
Sun god. It is a festival of nature worship. The Rigveda has hymns for the Sun god and a
similar ritual is also mentioned in the epic Mahabharata in which Draupadi is depicted as
observing similar rites.
The festival is celebrated twice every year, in summer during the Hindu month of Chaitra
and then in winters during Kartik. The Kartik Chhath is more popular. The word Chhath
denotes the number six, and accordingly, the festival begins on the sixth day of Chaitra
Chhath is more of a ritual practice. The main worshipper, called parvaitin, is
required to follow a period of abstinence and segregation for four days. A devotee cannot
become a parvaitin unless the mantle is passed on to her by an elderly devotee
who is observing Chhath for the family. Once started, the worshipper has to continue
without any break till the time she is physically not capable of undergoing the strenuous
The festival of Sun god is perhaps the only festival in the world where devotees offer
prayers to the setting as well as the rising sun.
The four-day festival begins with the cleaning of the house and its surroundings on Chhath
eve. On the first day, which is called Naha-Kha (literally meaning bathe and
eat), the worshipper is allowed to have two meals in the day spiced with in rock salt and
pure ghee, without any use of garlic and onions. The second day is called
Kharna and on this day the worshipper has to fast without taking water from
daybreak to sundown. The fast ends after sunset, when the worshipper offers prayers and
prasad to the Sun god and eats the meal, which is typically kheer and
chapatti. Friends are invited to the homes to share the prasad of the ritual. The third
day is spent in making prasad, which is typically Thakua (a Bihari fried
cookie-like food) and Kasara (laddu of rice powder). The setting Sun is
worshipped and the devotee returns home after sunset.
Vaisakhi (Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, Vasakhi) is an harvest, religious
and new year festival celebrated across world by all Punjabi people.
Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into Makara Rashi
(Capricorn) on its celestial path. Traditionally Sankranti marks one of the harvest days
Sankranti festival takes place 21 days after the winter solstice (between December 20 and
23), starting of 'northward migration of the sun' or Uttarayana, meaning northward journey
Winter solstice marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day.
The shortest day of the year is around December 2122 after which the days begin to
get longer, hence actual Winter Solstice begins on December 21 or December 22 when the
tropical sun enters Makara Rashi. Hence actual Uttarayana is December 21. Because of the
Earth's tilt of 23.45 degrees and sliding of equinoxes, Ayanamsa occurs. This has caused
Makara Sankranti to slide further over the ages. A thousand years ago, Makar Sankranti was
on December 31 and is now on January 14. Five thousand years later, Makar Sankranti shall
be by the end of February, while in 9,000 years Makar Sankranti shall come in June.
Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations.
In India the Sankranti day is celebrated as:
Makar Sankranti or Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya
Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
Uttarayan in Gujarat and Rajasthan
Maghi in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab
Pongal in Tamil Nadu
Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in Assam Valley
Shishur Saenkraat in Kashmir Valley
Makara Vilakku Festival in Kerala
Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh
In other countries where there has been hindu influence, the day is celebrated as:
Maghi, Maghe Sankranti or Maghe Sakrati in Nepal.
Songkran in Thailand.
Pi Ma Lao in Laos.
Thingyan in Myanmar.
Moha Sangkran in Cambodia.