The prominent fairs celebrated in the district are described below
Ram Tirath Fair
Ram Tirath is located about 11 km to the west of Amritsar city on Amritsar Lopoke road. It is an ancient pilgrimage centre associated with the period of Ramayana. It is said that Sita spent her period of exile at this place in the cottage of Rishi Balmik.It was here that twins were born to Sita who were named as Lav and Kush. The great epic Ramayana is also said to have been composed here by Rishi Balmik. It is also believed that the fight between Lord Ram Chandra’s forces and Lav and Kush had also taken place at Ram Tirath.
A big fair is held here about a fortnight after Diwali, for a duration of five days.Great Importance is given to the tank which is believed to have been dug by Hanuman. The circumference of the tank is about 3km and there are temples on its sides. A majority of the pilgrims consider it auspicious to have a dip in the sacred tank in the early hours of the Puranmashi ( full moon) night .A thirty feet wide path of circumambulation (Parikarma) runs round the tank .After the holy dip, the pilgrims take a round of the tank while chanting mantars and exchanging salutations,’Ram Ram.
Floating of tullas is a special feature of the fair.On the puranmashi night, women light lamps made out of kneaded flour and fed with pure ghee or mustard oil, place them on leaf plates or boat shaped carriers made of sarkanda reeds, and release them to float in the tank, reciting devotional songs and hymns, This ceremony called tulla toarna (floating of tullas )is believed to wash off the sins and to please Rama.
The General belief among the pilgrims is that their visit to the sacred place would be incomplete if they fail to give something in charity to beggars, lepers and crippled persons.They give alms to such persons in the form of cash, clothes and eatables.
The entertainments include merry go rounds, feats by acrobats, magic shows, exhibition of wild animals, singing minstrels. During the fair, conferences are also organised by various religious and social bodies .
About one lakh pilgrims visit this place during the fair. A large number of jatadhari (long –haired ) sadhus also attend the fair and sit in meditation. A considerable number of Sikhs, mostly from rural areas,also participate and pay homage at the various shrines. Balmikis, from all over the state come to participate in the fair with great enthusiasm and take special interest in the celebrations arranged at the Balmiki temple. They also take out a procession on the concluding day of the fair. Women outnumber men because of the popular belief that issueless women beget children if they take a dip in the baoli known as ‘Mata sita di baoli’ on the full moon night .
The Punjab Roadways ply special buses between Amritsar and Ram Tirath during the days of the fair. A large number of stalls are established by confectioners, dealers in general merchandise, petty shopkeepers and hawkers.
Diwali at Golden Temple, Amritsar.:Diwali is celebrated at Golden Temple with great enthusiasm for three days.The celebrations start a day earlier than the general Diwali and come to a close 3 day after Diwali. This fair generally falls during the second half of october or in early November.
The legend goes that Guru Nanak visited the site of the temple in 1532 AD.Later, Guru Ram das, the fourth Guru acquired the place by a grant from Akbar.the Mughal emperor, and founded a village known as Guru-ka-chak.Gradually the village expanded and came to be known as Guru-ki-nagri (the town of the Guru).The pool from where Guru Nanak used to take water during his stay was converted into a tank by Guru Ram Das between 1581-1606.He named the tank, ‘the tank of Nectar’from which the city was taken its name.
Guru Arjan dev also built a temple (Hari Mandir) in the centre of the tank. Its foundation stone was laid by a renowned Muslim divine mian Mir, on I Magh Sambat 1645 (january 1589).The construction of the temple was completed in 1601 and Granth Sahib was installed therein on 1 Bhadon Sambat 1661 (August 1604).Baba Budha was appointed the first granthi (reader) of the holy scripture. This temple later came to be known as Golden Temple.
Guru Hargobind reached Amritsar on the eve of Diwali, after his release from Gwalior fort, during the reign of Jahangir.The People illuminated the Golden Temple and the city splendidly to celebrate the return of their Guru to the city. Thereafter, Diwali is being celebrated at Amritsar with great pump and show, and also with a lot of religious fervour.
During the fair, religious congregations are held at Manji Sahib, Akal Takhat and Baba Atal which continue for three days. A large number of poets and singers also participate. Recitation of Granth Sahib is done at Darbar Sahib, Akal Takhat and various gurudwaras in the vicinity of Golden Tample.
Early in the morning, pilgrims take a holy dip in the scared tank, while reciting Japji Sahib andthereafter, they go to the Golden Temple for paying their obeisance. They make offerings of various kinds both in cash and kind, such as flowers, candy-drops and parched-rice grains, but mostly the offerings are of karah parshad. which is prepared and sold to the pilgrims by the management. Circumambulation of the tank is considered sacred by the pilgrims.
Illuminations and pyrotechnic display are the unique features of the Diwali celebrations. A mammoth gathering in the parikarma and on the adjoining buildings witness to their great delight the multicolored lights thrown up in the sky and their reflections in the water of the tank. Chain of the electric lights hang along the causeway and on the Darshani Deorhi. Small earthen lamps lighted and fed with sarson oil are arranged in lines all around the tank. All buildings in the compound are bedecked with coloured lights. Candles and small earthen lamps fed with pure ghee are floated in the tank.
This fair is attended by people in the large numbers who come from far and near. A large number of visitors take shelter in the verandahs of the various buildings in the premises. All local inns, rest houses and other common places are packed to capacity. The free mess, called Guru Ram Dass Langar, remains open for all. The whole function is organised by Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee. During the fair, qualified doctors render free medical service to the pilgrims.
Amritsar has a brisk sale during Diwali days in woolen cloth and cattle, in sweetmeats and brass utensils, and in candles and crackers. A big cattle fair is also held outside the city which lasts for 12 days . The Municipal Corporation, Amritsar earns a big amount every year fro the sale fee on animals.
Basant Panchami at Chheharta Sahib
Basant Panchami is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Gurudwara Chheharta Sahib on fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magh (end of January or beginning of February). People start pouring in a day earlier than the Basant Panchami and participate in the celebrations, which starts the same evening, continue throughout the night, and last till late in the afternoon the next day when the congregation breaks up. Flying of kites is a peculiar feature of the Basant. It is very interesting to watch when two players entangle their kites in the fair with a view to cutting the twines. With a cleaver loosening and jerky pull on the twine, one of the kites gets cut off and there is an uproar of delight and taunts from the winning party. The player whose kite gets cut off, tries to recover as much of the twine as he can without any loss of time. Among the sight-seers, there are some persons who carry poles to catch the falling kites and the twine. It is very exciting and amusing to watch the kites fighting high up in the air.
This fair has also commercial aspect. A large number of big and small shops are set up at the site of the fair. The is visited by a very large number of people , both Hindus and Sikhs. During the festivals days, special buses ply from Amritsar and other important stations to Chheharta from the convince of the visiting pubic.
The fair is organised by the local Gurudwara management with the corporation of the various social service organisations. Free community kitchen(Langar) is arranged by the management on this occasion. Arrangements are also need for medical and first aid services.
Fairs and festivals celebrated here are a wonderful prism of social, moral, religious and patriotic values .Since the days of freedom struggle, there has been a tradition among Hindus and Muslim in Amritsar to drink water from the same vessel on the eve of Ram Navami. Amritsaris jointly celebrate all the Gurpurbs. Diwali, Baisakhi, Holi, Karva Chauth, Teej, Ram Tirath Mela, Basant Panchmi at Chheharta, Langoor Mela at Durgiana and Maghi are celebrated with great gusto and fervour.
Shopping in Amritsar is a memorable experience. The market places the lanes, the bazaars, the squares, the plazas-hum with activity. The main shopping areas are the Hall Bazar, Katra Jaimal Singh and Lawrence Road. The city offers traditional souvenirs along with modern brandwear at all locations. The main attraction however is the woolens, carpets and blankets, besides juttis and embroidered stuff. The bazaars of Amritsar offer a colourful range of traditional and modern wares from carpets, durries, kites, fireworks, bangles, shawls to cut-glass and woolen textiles. At Guru bazaar, near the Golden Temple, each lane sells a different commodity.