by Dr. Venugopal Menon


The 'Land of Five Rivers', Punjab is in northern India. It is bordered by a province of Pakistan, again named Punjab, to the west. The main ethnic group is the Punjabis, Sikhs, and Hindus being the dominant religions. The name Punjab is derived from the five tributary rivers of the Indus River, Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Chenab, and Jhelum. The Indus Valley Civilization flourished in this region in antiquity, before recorded history until their decline around 1900 BCE, and was enriched during the height of the Vedic period. The region formed the frontier of initial empires during antiquity including Alexander's regime and Maurya empires.

About 75% of Sikhs live in Punjab. They are industrious people, engaged in agriculture, sports, and armed forces, being 15% of the Indian army, including some of the most elite divisions, are comprised of Sikhs. They have an exclusive, cultural tradition with Bhangra music, poetry, cuisine, wedding rituals, folklore, and festivals.



Bhangra dance began as a folk dance conducted by Punjabi farmers to celebrate the coming of the harvest season. The specific moves of Bhangra reflect how villagers farmed their land. This hybrid dance became Bhangra. The folk dance has been popularized in the western world by Punjabis in England, Canada, and the USA where competitions are held. It is seen in the West as an expression of South Asian culture as a whole. Today, Bhangra dance survives in different forms and styles all over the globe – including pop music, film soundtracks, collegiate competitions, and cultural shows.




Celebrated in January, by Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims, Lohri is the arrival of longer days after the winter solstice. The significance and legends about the Lohri festival are many and these link the festival to the Punjab region. It is observed the night before Makar Sankranti, also known as Maghi, and according to the solar part of the lunisolar Vikrami calendar, and typically falls about the same date every year (January 13). Lohri is an official holiday in Punjab, the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh. The festival is celebrated in Delhi and Haryana but is not a gazetted holiday.

The festival is celebrated by lighting bonfires, eating festive food, dancing and collecting gifts, singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their brightest clothes and this festival provides the opportunity to interact with family and friends.