India is a colorful country. It offers unique experiences to its visitors. Irrespective of the country you hail from, you can never fail to marvel over the cultural heritage of India that comprises the festivals, culture, cuisines, music, handicrafts and a variety of languages spoken here.
Here, we describe a day in the life of Anne, British tourist who was in New Delhi, the capital of India during the harvest festival of Lohri. Destiny couldn’t have chosen a better home for her to stay than the warm and hospitable Mr Singh and Mrs Singh. Mr Singh and his wife, both are natives of Amritsar city of Punjab and had settled in Delhi when Mr Singh was transferred to Delhi during his government job. Being in a government job that required public dealing and a constant buzz, retirement meant the couple was on their own and with their kids settled abroad, they had felt a vacuum in their lives.
Soon they got to know about the Incredible India Bed and Breakfast scheme and decided to register themselves as a Bed and Breakfast after following the process of submitting the registration fee and getting verified by a committee comprising of Delhi Tourism, Police, Municipality and IATO. They had setup their home beautifully and soon after getting registered as registered BnB they had been hosting hordes of foreign travelers. This time, Anne was visiting them during the festive season of Lohri.
Mrs Singh, a true Punjabi-at-heart, commanded a lot of respect in the society, was the President of Resident’s welfare association. She had informed Anne a night before, about the significance of Lohri as a north Indian harvest festival. She told Anne that it is a big festival in Punjab and other north Indian states and that it was all inclusive festival and every person could participate in the singing and dancing. An excited and inquisitive Anne decided not to make any travel plans for 13th January in order to enjoy the festival.
Mrs Singh had ensured elaborate arrangements for Lohri and after sunset, she along with her husband took Anne to the place where a huge bonfire was lit by Residents of the colony. Soon, Anne was invited to join the ‘parikrama’ around the bonfire and was given jiggery, sugarcane sticks, puffed rice, popcorn and other heat generating food articles and asked to throw into the bonfire. She did so without questioning as she was concentrating more on the folk song ‘Aadar aaye dilaather jaaye’ and ‘Sunder Mundriye ho’. She was trying to discover the meanings of the songs while doing the parikrama. Mrs Singh sensed Anne’s inquisitiveness and took her aside from the noise to describe her the meaning of both the songs. While Aadar aaye dilaahter jaaye meant ‘may honour come and poverty vanish’, ‘sunder mundriye’ had a unique meaning attached to it.
The story behind ‘Sunder Mundriye’ goes back to the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. It is the tale of a Punjabi man called Dulla Bhatti and was a Robin hood of sorts as he used to steal from the rich. He used to rescue poor Punjabi girls from being sold in slave markets. From the stolen money, Dulla Bhatti would arrange the rescued girls’ marriages to respectable village boys, and also provide them dowries. Two girls named Sundri and Mundri who were rescued by Dulla Bhatti are now associated with Punjab’s folklore, Sunder Mundriye.
By the time, Mrs Singh and Anne returned to the parikrama, a group of men took the lead and started performing Bhangra on various famous Punjabi songs. Anne, just stood back and watched in awe the rhythm of dancing, the moves and gaiety with which each male danced. She had always heard Punjabi music but the real bhangra was here to be seen. It was a treat to her eyes. Each dancer was dancing with a smile and none of them missed a beat! Soon, Mrs Singh took the lead and organized all the females and performed a ‘gidda’ for those present. It was received with a thunderous applause.
Later the entire community sat down to have Makke-ki-roti and Sarson ka saag. Mrs Singh introduced Anne as her ‘Beti’ (meaning daughter) to Mrs. Arora, Mrs. Juneja and half a dozen other families. It was a overwhelming moment for Anne as she was greeted by everyone as ‘beti’ and offered sweets with warmth and love. This left Anne teary eyed as she had not expected to get so much love and affection!
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