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Punjabi folk religion


Jathera
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
Punjabi people believe that members of a surname all hail from one common ancestor. A surname in Punjabi is called a gautor 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.
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.
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.
Attendance
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.
Veneration
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
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