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Punjabi Culture

 
The Punjabi Personality

 

The typical Punjabi is an extrovert, a sociable fellow who likes to eat well, dress well. Even if hes in a tight spot he would like to twirl his moustache and say "Chardi kala" ("on the up and up") to those who ask how hes getting on. He learns quickly and assimilates new cultures without difficulty; family honour is sacrosanct to him, but in other matters he tends to be liberal minded. It is a matter of pride to be "up to date". His enterprise and capacity to work hard are legendary and his deepest ambition is to "be his own boss": many an migr Punjabi have started life in a strange land driving a cab or working in a caf and gone on to buy out the owner within a couple of years.


Traditional Dress

www.sikhismnet.comA generation ago, the turban was the "crowning glory" of all Punjabis whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. Muslims and Hindus have given up their turbans, but it remains, literally, an article of faith for Sikh men whose religion forbids them to cut their hair. The kurta, a long straight-cut, loose shirt teamed with pyjamas, the loose baggy salwar, or a kind of sarong called a loongi or tehmat makes up the traditional dress for men. Winter sees the rustic Punjabi in colourful sweaters that wives and mothers are so skilled in making. A blanket finishes his ensemble. When the urban, educated Punjabi steps out to work he will be in shirt and pant or a suitsartorially indistinguishable from his counterparts in Tokyo or Toronto. Back home in the evening, he is likely to be found in more traditional dress. The traditional Punjabi shoes, called juttis retain their popularity with both rural and urban men; they are both elegant and comfortable. Patiala and Muktsar are famous for juttis.

It is impossible to tell by dress whether a Punjabi woman is a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian they all dress in salwar topped by a kameez (a garment that can be fitted like a dress loose like the kurta) and accented by a rectangular scarf about 2.5 metres long called the chunni or duppatta . Shes fond of her sweaters, but she is passionately proud of her collection of woollen shawls. These can be breathtaking. The women of Punjab are responsible for the states most famous item of handicraft the phulkari. This is a shawl completely covered in dense silk embroidery, folk motifs in jewel-tones on an ochre background. Gold is her weakness brides are loaded with it. The jewellers of Punjab stock an enormous range of designs in bangles, necklaces, rings and earrings, nose-pins, ornaments to pin in the hair, anklets and toe-rings. A particular kind of bangle is the tip-off in recognising Sikh men and women. Its called a kada and is made of steel.

 

Marriages in Punjab

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As in every society, Punjabi society has its traditions to mark every stage of life from birth to death. Perhaps no other life-event is more surrounded by tradition than marriage.

Throughout India, most marriages are arranged by the couples families and a generation ago it was not uncommon for bride and bridegroom to meet for the first time at the marriage ceremony itself. Nowadays, the personal preferences of the young people are given greater importance and families accept the childrens wish to get to know the potential spouse before making a commitment. Given the fact that marriage in India represents a very strong, lifetime commitment and society accepts divorce only in the most extreme circumstances, this is a very understandable wish.


After the young people have made up their mind to marry, the first step is a simple ceremony called rokai or thaka. The girls father, accompanied by some friends and relatives, visits the young mans house and presents sweets and a small gift of money. The engagement ceremony, or mangani, takes place when the boys family returns the visit and in the presence of friends and relatives the intended marriage is announced. Prayers are said at this time, and the couple exchange gifts.

The wedding itself is a grand affair stretching over several days and attended by all the relatives and innumerable friends. For nights before the ceremony, women gather to sing and dance. The bridegrooms entourage, the barat, has its own customs to observe more singing and dancing, decking up the bridegroom, tying a sort of ornamental veil, the sehra, over his face, leading him in procession, often on horseback, to the marriage venue to the accompaniment of a brass band. Milani is the ceremonial welcome of the barat at the gate of the marriage venue more gifts change hands with the bridegrooms family on the receiving end. Feasting is on a lavish scale.

The Hindu bride and bridegroom along with their parents will sit around the sacred fire while pandits chant the marriage mantras. They are deemed to be married after they have walked around the sacred fire lawan phere. The Sikh couple will sit before the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, while prayers are said and the granthi instructs them on the duties of marriage; finally they will walk around the Guru Granth Sahib. Prasad, a buttery, wheat-flour based sweet, is distributed to all present and signals the completion of the ceremony.

After this, both Sikh and Hindu weddings are marked by more feasting. The concluding item is doli, literally "palanquin", when the bride is given an emotional send off to her new home and family. More ceremonies await the bride at her husbands home but the main extravaganza is over. Another point of difference between Hindu and Sikh marriages is that Hindu marriages are usually performed at night, while Sikh marriages are performed in the morning.

A sect of the Sikhs, the Namdharis, as an article of faith, marry very simply and often in ceremonies where many couples are married at the same time. The parents of the boy and the girl settle the marriage but the approval of the head of the Namdhari sect is essential. Unlike Hindu and conventional Sikh marriages, dowry is not a part of the Namdhari marriage and the couples are dressed in simple white clothes. The scarves worn by the girl and boy and knotted together, and hymns from the Granth Sahib are sung.

A trend seen in recent times is to go through the procedures of the Indian Civil Marriage Act. 1956, after the traditional marriage has taken place. This is usually done because the couple plan to migrate to a foreign country and the civil marriage is useful in the matter of getting passports. The civil marriage is also frequently preferred by couples who belong to different castes or religions, or sometimes when they simply want to avoid a very costly and ostentatious ceremony.

 

Rural Sports in Punjab

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In villages which formed the first habitation of civilised man rural sports grew out of sheer necessity. The need for cultivating individual strength for labour on the fields, the interdependence within the community and need of defence, joint defence against onslaughts of a common foe and dangerous animals must have given birth to sports like wrestling, running, jumping, weightlifting and such performing arts as of measuring strength by holding wrists, twisting hands. Kabaddi which is another expression of the same spirit has become the mother of games in Punjab.

In order to toughen the frames and steel the minds of his followers Guru Hargobindji had started the tradition of holding wrestling bouts within the precincts of Akal Takht Sahib and it is mostly because of the fillip that he gave and the seal of ethics that he put on them that sports become a proud facet of life in Punjab. On the common grounds of villages, in the fairs, during the festivals, at the hermitages of pirs, graves of preceptors, wrestling became a part of high recreation. Villages adopt and feed wrestlers and also give prizes to them as a matter of honour in Punjab today.

During the Hola Mohalla celebrations at Anandpur Sahib tent pegging competitions, archery, fencing and riding competitions, gymnastic and acrobatic displays which the Nihangs put up and the tournaments held at Diwali have a hoary history. To the Punjabis goes the distinction of organising rural games into tournaments.

Almost sixty years ago when the Grewal Sports Association had begun to hold competitions in rural sports at Village Quilla Raipur little would have anyone thought that this tournament will become a movement in Punjab.

Today in almost 7000 villages in Punjab in one decade or the other rural sports competitions are being held. Rural folk organise them. It is they who extend all hospitality to the competitors also. In fact these village sports have opened the floodgates of village development.

Before Independence in 1947 major importance was given only to Kabaddi and wrestling, after Independence the circle of rural sports also got widened. The rustic "Khido Khoondi" (literally a ball made out of cuttings of cloth and a stick twisted at the end like a flat hockey blade) was replaced by proper hockey and players from villages, having no facilities beyond uneven grounds to play began to dominate in the game. Twelve of our country's greatest hockey players have come out of a single village called SANSARPUR in Jalandhar District.Now sports meets are held almost in every significant village in Punjab.

Following the Kila Raipur Rural Sports meet the Kalgidhar Tournament of Kamalpur has also completed half-a-century. Dhudike's Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Sports Fair has completed three decades. Gujarwal, Mullanpur, Sahnewal, Ghungali Rajputtana Hambla., Dhamto are flourishing. The -small sports meets of Lalto Kalan, Dhurkot, Rauni, Dyalpur, Rurka Kalan, Bhinder Kalan, Duare-ana are gaining stature day by day.

Three types of competitions are held during rural meets, Purely rural games : Kabaddi, Wrestling, Weight-lifting etc. Modern sports like athletics, hockey, football, volleyball, cycling, handball etc. Performing sports like acrobatics, twisting an iron-rod by placing it on Adam's apple, passing tractor over the rib-ease, cracking a big stone by placing it on the chest etc. Now another colour is also being added to these sports fairs. They have got intermixed with folk singing when sun sets after the days sports competitions the notes of music begin to emanate and singing continues, sometimes, late in the night. Music contest that was held between Karamjit Dhuri and Jagmohan Kaur at Kila Raipur is still fondly remembered. At the Gujarwal Meet the singing of Parminder Sandhu, Hans Raj Hans and Surinder Chhinda and at fairs of Majha region the notes o Toombi (one-stringed instrument) of Amarjit remain fixed in the minds of the people.

Villagers are not just fond of their own competitions they also like to size-up the skill and power of their animals like bulls, horses, dogs on the sports ground. Bullockcart racing has become a passion in Punjab. Because of a ban on hunting, hound-races are held in Punjab by dangling a bait of fake hare before them. At places cock-fights are also held and pigeon fights are contested. In some parts of Punjab people indulge in fighting a bull by barehands.

Rural Sports are a personification of the virility of Punjab.

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