Lohri 2018: History, Importance and Why it is Celebrated
Lohri is one of the most commonly celebrated festivals in India and it is a way to spread the joy of seeing the sparkling pearls of Rabi crops amidst traditional folk songs, dance and food.
Lohri is one of most popular and revered festivals of Punjab celebrated in India with great fervour. In its origins, Lohri is an ancient mid winter Hindu festival, in regions near the Himalayan mountain where winter is colder than the rest of the subcontinent. The festival marks the end of sowing season and the beginning of the farming season, which is why it is also known as the ‘harvest festival,’ the festivities being a way to solemnize harvesting of the Rabi crops through folk songs, dances and delectable food. The festival also celebrates the ancient tradition of lighting of a holy fire that signifies the fire god or Agni. Devotees circle around the bonfire and sing in praise of Surya.
The festival is primarily celebrated in the north of India, especially Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Initially, Lohri was celebrated on the shortest day and longest night of the year but over time the celebration was shifted to the end of the chilly winters, commemorating the passing of the winter solstice.
However according to folklore Lohrihas to do with the tale of Dulla Bhatti (whose real name was Abdullah Bhatti and lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar) and was regarded as a hero in Punjab, for rescuing girls of Punjab from being forcibly sold in slave markets of Middle East. Two girls Sundri and Mundri, were two of his most famous beneficiaries and gradually became a part of Punjab’ folklore. Thus duringLohri celebrations, when children go around homes singing the traditional folk songs of Lohri, the name of “Dulla Bhatti” is included.
The festival celebrations coincide with the festival of Bhogali Bihu of Assam and Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
When Is Lohri Celebrated?
According to the Indian calendar, Lohri falls in the month of Pausha. But the Gregorian calendar mentions the date as 13th of January. The festival is observed a day before Makar Sankranti, also known as Maghi that welcomes the onset of summer. According to the solar part of the luni solar Bikrami calendar, the festival is typically celebrated on the same date every year. During the leap years, Lohri is celebrated on either 12 or 14 of January.
How Is the Festival Celebrated?
The festival of Lohri is celebrated as a community festival with family, friends, and relatives. Lohri involves a Puja Parikrama around the bonfire and distribution of Prasad. This symbolizes a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundance in crops and prosperity. The first Lohri of a new born child and a newly wed bride is considered very auspicious. People gather around bonfires that are lit in front of homes or in harvested fields and toss corn, sesame seeds, rice and jaggery into the bonfires as offering to Agni. People also sing and dance to traditional folk songs in praise of Surya, symbolized by the bonfire.
When Children recite songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti as stated above, they cajole elders for money. People worship the bonfire lit in front of homes and fields, praying for abundant crops by saying ‘Adar aayedilatherjaaye’. Many people wish for prosperity as they Offer food to fire. Bhangra and gidda are performed on the occasion.
What Is the Traditional Feast of Lohri?
The traditional feast on the festival includes peanuts, ladoos, phulle, gajak, and jaggery. The food items are fed into the bonfire for auspicious reasons. According to legends, praying to Agni brings peace, prosperity and positivity to people’s lives and marks the end of evil. The traditional dinner served after the prayers, includes Punjabi delectables like Sarson ka Saag and Maaaki Da Roti.