Punjabi folk religion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Punjabi folk religion refers to the beliefs and practices strictly indigenous to the Punjabi people, including ancestral worship, worship of indigenous gods, and local festivals.

Punjabi folk cosmology[edit]

Punjabis, irrespective of their organised religion, continue to practice Punjabi folk religion which at times runs independently of organised religion or derives beliefs from institutionalised religions which then form part of Punjabi folk religion.

In Punjabi folk cosmology, the universe is divided into three realms:[1]

English Punjabi Inhabitants
Sky Akash Dev Lok (Angels)
Earth Dharti Matlok (Humans)
Underworld Nagas Naglok (Serpents)

Devlok is the realm of the gods, saints and ancestors, existing in akash, the sky. Ancestors can become gods or saints.

Punjabi ancestral worship[edit]

Jathera—ancestral shrines[edit]

A jathera is a shrine constructed to commemorate and show respect to the founding common ancestor of a surname and all subsequent common clan ancestors.

Whenever a founder of a village dies, a shrine is raised to him on the outskirts of the village and a jandi tree is planted there. A village may have many such shrines.

The jathera can be named after the founder of the surname or the village. However, many villages have unnamed jathera. In some families, the founder of the jathera is also a saint. In such instances, the founder has a dual role of being the head of a jathera (who is venerated by his descendants) and also of being a saint (such as Baba Jogi Pir; who can be worshiped by any one).

Punjabi surname lineage[edit]

Punjabi people believe that members of a surname all hail from one common ancestor. A surname in Punjabi is called a gaut or gotra.

Members of a surname are then subdivided into smaller clans comprising related members who can trace their family tree. Typically, a clan represents people related within at least seven generations but can be more.[2]

In ancient times, it was normal for a village to comprise members of one surname. When people moved to form a new village, they continued to pay homage to the founding jathera. This is still the case for many Brahmins, the Chahal's and Sandhu's who may have new jathera in their villages but still pay homage to the founding ancestor of the entire surname.

Over time, Punjabi villages changed their composition whereby families from different surnames came to live together. A village therefore can have one jathera which can be communally used by members of different surnames but has the founder of the village as the named ancestor or many jathera can be built to represent the common ancestors of specific surnames.[3]

When members of a clan form a new village, they continue to visit the jathera in the ancestral village. If this is not possible, a link is brought from the old jathera to construct a new jathera in the new village.


People visit the jathera when getting married, the 15th of the Indian month and sometimes on the first Sunday of an Indian month. The descendants of the elder go to a pond and dig earth and put it on the mound of their jathera and offer ghee and flowers to the Jathera. In some villages it is customary to offer flour.


Jathera veneration is not strictly a part of organised religion and forms part of Punjabi folk religion. Jathera veneration in Punjab does not take the same form as in organised religion and is seen as showing respect to elders.

Popular legends associated with jathera origins include those of the Chahal Jats, Atwal's and the Cheema's.& Tuli's

List of jathera[edit]

Jathera Surname
Pir Baba Kala Mehar Sandhu
Baba Jogi Pir Chahal
Baba Kaallu Nath Romana
Baba Sidh Kalinjhar Bhullar
Lakhan Pir Cheema
Pir Baddon Ke Cheema
Sidhsan Randhawa
Tilkara Sidhu
Sidh Surat Ram, Gill
Tulla Bassi
Phalla Dhillon clan of Maharampur
Kapila Samrai(Samrama)
Korpal Hakim pur
Adi Garcha
Jathera in village Takhni, Hoshiarpur Guggi
Baba Mana Ji Shergill
Baba Kartar Singh Ji,Jamalpur ASR Aulakh


The following are some fairs celebrated in Punjab.

Baba Kaallu Nath Mela[edit]

A large Mela is organized at village Nathana (near Bhucho Mandi) in district Bathinda in the month of February–March in honor of Baba Kaallu Nath of the Romana surname. The Mela lasts for four days. The first day is especially for Romana's and three days for all people to attend.

Baba Kala Mehar Mela[edit]

A Mela is held in honor of Baba Kala Mehar by the Sandhu's every year in Amritsar district.

The fair takes place in and around April each year with Sandhus and people from other clans and tribes attending from around Punjab and Rajasthan.

According to Sandhu legend, Baba Kala Mehar used to tend to his cattle and one day while doing so, he happened to meet Baba Gorakh Nath (Gorakshanath). Baba Gorakh Nath asked Pir Baba Kala Mehar if he can give him some milk from his buffaloes. A miracle happened that while the cattle being tended at that time were all bulls, Baba Ji is said to have miraculously taken milk out of bulls on striking them with his stick.

Baba Jogi Pir Mela[edit]

The village of Bhopal falls in the Mansa tehsil of Bathinda district.

The village is known for the fair of Baba Jogi Pir[4] who is said to be the guru (preceptor) of Chahal jats. It is said that during the times of Mughal rule, Baba Jogi Pir fought with the forces of the Mughal rulers.

During the battle, his head was chopped off, but his headless body kept on fighting until it fell down dead in this village. The people were deeply touched by the sacrifice of Jogi Pir, constructed a shrine, and began to hold a fair.[4]

Another legend narrates that once a few people stayed under a grove of trees in the premises of the shrine. They felt pangs of thirst at night, but there was no source of water where from they could quench their thirst . A heavenly voice which was believed to be that of Jogi Pir was heard: “why do you die of thirst? Pick out a brick from the pond and take water”. They did likewise, found water from underneath the brick they picked up and thus they quenched their thirst.[4]

A fair is held twice annually for three days on Bhadon 28 (August–September)and Chet 16 (March- April) at the shine of Jogi Pir. It is attended by both Hindus and Sikhs, Chahal Jats in particular attend in large number. The people pay their obeisance at the shrine, especially after the birth of a child or the solemnization of marriage. Earth is also scooped one of the tank by the people for invoking the blessings of Jogi Pir.[4]

Shaheed Shrine[edit]

A Shaheed Shrine is a building constructed to commemorate and show respect to a saint.[5]


Sanjhi is a festival dedicated to the Mother Goddess.

Gugga Pir[edit]

Gugga Pir is venerated for protection against snakes. The fair known as Chhapar Mela is organised annually.

Sakhi Sarwar[edit]

Many villages in Punjab, India and Pakistan, have shrines of Sakhi Sarwar who is more popularly referred to as Lakha Data Pir. There is a shrine of pir sakhi sarwar in district Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab provence of Pakistan. There is great fair held in March every year at the shrian of Lakh data pir. Village name is also sakhi sarwar. It is 34 km far away from Deara Ghazi Khan. A 9 day fair is organised every year in Mukandpur, Punjab, India.

Seasonal Festivals[edit]

Punjab is a state involved in agriculture. For this reason Punjabis continue to show respect to the seasonal festivals of Lohri, Basant Panchami Festival, Baisakhi and Teeyan. Over time some seasonal festivals have come to coincide with religious festivals but the original meaning of the festivals has not been lost.


  1. ^ Centre for Sikh Studies, University of California. Journal of Punjab Studies Fall 2004 Vol 11, No.2 H.S.Bhatti and D.M. Michon: Folk Practice in Punjab
  2. ^ This is not definitive
  3. ^ A Glossary of the tribes & castes of Punjab by H. A Rose
  4. ^ a b c d Gazetteer of Bathinda 1992 Edition
  5. ^ Sandip Singh Chohan, Thesis for the University of Wolverhampton: The Phenomenon of possession and exorcism in North India and amongst the Punjabi Diaspora in Wolverhampton [1]