Fairs and Festivals are as old as mankind, arising from the innate desire to congregate and divert from the humdrum routine of life. They provide as index “to ‘the cultural, social and domestic life of the people. Many among them are based on legends and aim at propitiating deities and persons believed to be blessed with supernatural powers, and invoking them for the grant of desires and for warding off troubles and curing aliments. With the spread of knowledge and gradual control of man over elements of nature and disease, the faith in old legends is waning, and consequently’ there are signs of some of the fairs and festivals fast losing in importance. It is valuable to record these legends and fairs and festivals before they completely fade away, since they portray the flight of human imagination whom it was not ‘polluted’ by rationalism
Festivals of socio-religious nature provide an atmosphere of devotion and enjoyment. Some festivals mark the seasonal changes and some are local in character and are associated with some place, saint or pir. The fairs and festivals attracting large gatherings are taken advantage of by Government, religious and social organisations, and business firms, for doing publicity.
As in the adjoining districts, the religious festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm in the district. Gurpurbs are the largest religious festivals of the Sikhs which are celebrated with great devotion and love for the Gurus. A large number of Hindus also participate in these celebrations. Big diwans are held on the birthdays of Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh and on the martrydom days of Guru Arjan DEV and Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Gurpurb of Guru Ravi Dass is also celebrated in February, with great enthusiasm. People also show great enthusiasm in celebrating the religious festivals of Shivratri, Holi, Janam Ashtami,akhi, Dussehra, Diwali, Tikka, Ram Naumi, Nirjala -Ekadashi, Guga Naumi, etc. The seasonal stivals of Lohri, Maghi, Basant and Baisakhi are also celebrated with a good deal of fanfare.
Janam Ashtmi of Sangrur deserves special mention. Virtually, the whole population of Sangrur, belonging to different religions and castes, participates in its celebrations. The fair Guga Naumi is held at many places in the district. Dussehra is celebrated almost in all towns of the district with great pump and show.
In Sangrur District, and especially in Malerkotla, there is a good number of Mohammedans. Actually, Sangrur is the only district in the Punjab where Mohammedans are in significant number. They celebrate their festivals with a good deal of emotions. Their important festivals are Moharram, Shab-i-Brat, Ramzan, Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Zuha.
Among the Jains, Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated by taking out a procession of pictures of Lord Mahavir. The Jains observe fasts on that day. The Jyanti falls in the month of Chaitra, (March-April) and is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Moonak.
The national festivals are the Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and birthday of Mahatma Gandhi (2 October). In fact, besides people, Government machinery is actively involved in the celebration of national festivals.
Besides the above fairs and festivals, there are certain local fairs which are celebrated by the people in the district.
To commemorate martyrdom of sixty-six Namdharis in connection with anti-cow slaughter movement, ‘Kukas’ Martyrdom Day’ or ‘Kuka Fair’ is held at Malerkotla on January 17 and 18 every year (68 Namdharis were gunned down by British Government on 17 and 18 January 1872) Basant Panchami fair is held at Malerkotla at the Smadh of Baba Roda. Another local religious fair ‘Mela Hazrat Sheikh Sadr-ud-Din’ is also hold at Malerkotla in the memory of Sheikh Sadr-un-Din who founded Malerkotla State during the time of Bahlol Lodhi. The festival of Nirjla Ikadashi is also celebrated with much enthusiasm. It is celebrated at the smadh of Bawa Atma Ram where devotees take a sacred bath and make offerings of flowers and patashas at the smadh.
In Sangrur Tehsil, at Nankiana Sahib, a big ‘Baisakhi’ fair is held.
The ‘Gugga Mari’ fair at Gharachoo (Tehsil Sangrur) attracts a large number of people. It is held in the month of August-September for a period of four days. Another fair known as ‘Mela Kuti’ is also held at Gharachon for a period of three days in the month of February-March. It is celebrated both by the Hindus and the Sikhs, especially Ghuman Jats, The devotees make offerings at the smadh of Baba Faqiria who lived here 400—500 years ago. On this occasion singing and gidha parties show their performance ; wrestling matches held on this occasion attract a large number of spectators.
A big fair known as ‘Mela Gurudwara Bhai Mani Singh’ is held at Longowal in the month of November-December for a period of three days to commemorate the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh. Wrestling, kabaddi and other games are the characteristic features of this fair. ‘Mela Kali Devi’ and ‘Janam Ashtami’ are also important fairs of Sangrur proper. In Sunam proper, ‘Mela Smadh’ fair is held in September-October for one day at the smadh of a Saint named Baba Mansa Ram. Another fair known as ‘Mela Pir Banoi’ is held in the month of March-April for a period of three days in the memory of Pir Khawaja Mahmood Banoi whose tomb exists there. However, with fee migration of Mohammedan population to Pakistan, the importance of this local fair has considerably decreased. To commemorate the martyrdom of Udham Singh who shot dead Sir Michael O’ Dwyer, the man behind the Jallian-Wala-Bagh tragedy of 1919, Udham Singh Memorial Tournament is held for a period of four days, from 23 January to 26 January at Sunam.
A big fair called “Mahavir Jayanti’ is held at Moonak to celebrate birh anniversary of Lord Mahavir, the founder of Jainism. In Barnala Tahsil, a national fair known as ‘Shaheedi Dihara Sardar Sewa Singh’ is celebrated at village Thikriwala in January-February for three days. The recital of Guru Granth Sahib, poetic symposium, lectures on the life of Sardar Sewa Singh and competitions in kabaddi, wrestling, horse riding, and singing are the special features of this fair. This fair is held to commemorate the martyrdom of Sardar Sewa Singh who formed Praja Mandal in the then Patiala State and pressed the political and other demands of the public before the then ruler Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. He was put behind the bars where he went on hunger strike and died. A fair known as ‘Beebrian Da Mela’ is held at Sehna in memory of young women who burnt themselves alive in the fire at this place and in whose honour a temple exists there. The fair of ‘Chet Chaudash’ is held at Tapa in March-April in memory of Baba Sukha Nand. People of Tapa have great faith in him and do not take false oaths if the name of Baba Sukha Nand is invoked.
A very big fair called ‘Jor Mela Mastuana Sahib’ is held in the month of February in the memory of Sant Baba Attar Singh who did a tremendous task in the field of education in this backward region. This fair continues for three days and people come in large number from distant places. Poetic symposiums are held on this occasion. This fair is managed by students and teachers of Akal Degree College Mastuana. In the predominantly agricultural district of Sangrur, cattle shows and fairs are not uncommon. Big cattle fairs are held at Sangrur, Dhanaula, Lehragaga, Sunam, Bhawanigarh, Malerkotla, Bhadaur, Barnala and Dhuri