One of the most commonly celebrated festivals in India, Lohri, is a way to mark the end of the winter season. It is a way of spreading the joy of seeing the sparkling pearls of Rabi crops amidst traditional folk songs, dance, and food. The main event includes making a huge bonfire which is symbolic of the homage to the Sun God for bringing in warmth. Observed a night before Makar Sankranti, this occasion involves a Puja Parikrama – going around the fire several times – with prasad. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and show among farmers of the north Indian region. Here the farmers thank the Supreme Being for blessing them with an abundant crop. Thus the day is seen as the start of a New Financial Year by Punjabi farmers.
Following a Hindu calendar, the date of the festival more or less remains the same every year. This year, the celebrations will begin on Monday, January 13, 2020.
It has various other names in the other parts of India such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in Bengal, Magha Bihu in Assam and Tai Pongal in Kerala.
We will cover the following points here:
There are various stories related to Lohri that are based on religious as well as socio-cultural traditions and events. The most famous and interesting legend behind Lohri is the story associated with Dulla Bhatti, who is said to have lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Being quite the ‘Robin Hood’ back in the day, Dulla Bhatti used to supposedly steal from the rich, and distribute among the poor and needy. Also, he used to rescue poor Punjabi girls being taken forcibly to be sold in the then slave markets. Then he used to arrange their marriages to boys in the village and provided them with enough wedding material. The most popular among these girls were Sundri and Mundri, who have now come to be associated with Punjab’s folklore, “Sunder-Mundriye”. As a part of Lohri celebrations, children go around homes singing the traditional folk song, wherein one person sings and rest follows with a loud voice of “ho”. After the song ends, the adult of the home is expected to give snacks and money to the singing troupe of youngsters which makes them happy and contented.
The first festival of the year, Lohri, commemorates the passing of the winter solstice, thus it is celebrated on the last day of the month during which winter solstice takes place rather than on the day when it actually occurs. Apart from marking the harvest season, it is used to mark the coldest night of the year, which was followed by the longest night and shortest day of the year. Since the night is extremely chilly, people protected themselves by burning the fire and made merry by eating the remnants of the offering, dancing, singing and then taking heavy and delicious food, along with their relatives.
Sesame seeds, jaggery, radish, mustard, and spinach are also harvested, and they are the primary attractions of the festivity. People make sweets called revari and gajak, and staples such as Sarso ka Saag with Makki ki roti. Radish is one of the attractions of the feast and is also included in it.
As Lohri is celebrated a day just before Makar Sankranti during a time when winters are at a peak, which is called the season of Shishir Ritu – the fiercest form of the winter season. In this season, the amount of vata (air) and Kapha (ether) increases in the body due to severe and harsh cold. So people were recommended by the Ayurvedic Shastras to consume items made of sesame and jaggery to keep their body warmer and brace the cold winter. Also, the fire that is burnt on this day prepares the body for the upcoming harshness of the weather from the next day.
Various customs and traditions are associated with this festival. In villages even till date, children and the girls of the house go from door to door asking for Lohri items such as sweets, sesame seeds, jaggery. The custom is to start these two-three days before the actual festival day. They go to each door, singing verses in the praise of Dulla Bhatti and other traditional songs. The please owners give them rewards and, sometimes, money as well as make them a part of their festivities. In the evening, when the sun is about to set, the people assemble in an open space and put all the items of the bonfire, like the cow dung cakes, logs, wood, and sugar cane and light the bonfire.
Since this festival marks a thanksgiving to the sun god, the mother earth, the fields, and the fire, they offer oblations to the fire in the name of various demigods and chant their names and mantras. All the ‘loot’, which has been collected from the people in the form of popcorn, maize seeds, jaggery, Rewari, gajak, peanuts, and sesame seeds, are put in the fire as offerings and then the prasad, or the remnants, are distributed among everyone. Then, the people of the household assemble in groups of men and women and perform the traditional folk dances of Bhangra and Gidda, separately.
The whole mood continues and in the end, the feast is organized, which consists of delicious dishes. Nowadays in cities, this custom or tradition is not followed.
Lohri is a festival associated directly with the sun, earth, and fire. Sun represents the life element, earth represents our food and fire maintains our health. All these elements are granted to us free of cost by the supreme personality of the godhead and we are not liable to pay for them.
But, since we require them and are taking the selfless service from nature, it is always advised to say thanks to them in return and pray to them for our protection and prosperity.
The day following Lohri is Makar Sankranti, the day when the sun transits into the zodiac sign Capricorn. This transition has various effects on everyone. So, to prepare ourselves for the upcoming financial year and to render the farmer with lots of bounty from his field and prosperity in his life, the deities of the sun, earth, and fire are worshipped in Lohri Puja.
Being the first festival of the New year, the fervor and enthusiasm of the Punjabis are a treat to watch. In the houses that have recently had a marriage or childbirth, Lohri celebrations will reach a higher pitch of excitement. Punjabis usually have private Lohri celebrations, in their houses. Lohri rituals are performed, with the accompaniment of special Lohri songs. As a custom, Sarson da saag and Makki di roti is usually served as the main course at a Lohri dinner
The festivity has already gripped the streets of Amritsar which are lined up with stalls selling savories such as ‘gajak’, ‘rewari’, groundnut and jaggery. So much so that the Golden Temple is decorated extensively to mingle with this festival.
Though it is visited throughout the year, the most preferable time is between the month of November and March. This time of year marks the winter season in the city. During this season, the atmosphere is pleasant and cozy. So, it makes the best time to visit Sri Harmandir Sahib. Take Amritsar Golden Temple Tour and experience this warmth and enjoyment in the city.