LOHRI – a winter Punjabi folk festival

Lohri is a winter Punjabi folk festival primarily by Hindus and Sikhs from the region of Punjab, India. This festival takes place on the thirteenth of January every year. According to the Bikrami calendar, it has celebrated the day before the festival of Makar Sankranti and hence mostly falls on the same day.  Lohri marks the end of winter and is a celebration to welcome the longer days. Lohri is a festival that is of great importance to farmers but has also celebrated by people in urban areas.

LOHRI
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Origins and Significance of LOHRI

The significance of the festival is both as a winter crop season celebration as well as the remembrance of the sun deity. Many Lohri songs mention the Indian sun god – Surya, asking for heat and thanking him for his return. The festival is also important for celebrating the passing of the Winter solstice.

There have many folklores associated with the festival, the most prominent of them being, the tale of Dulla Bhatti. It has said that Dulla Bhatti lived in Punjab during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. He has regarded as a hero for rescuing Hindu girls from being forcibly to sell in slave markets in the Middle east. Many of the folk songs sung at this festival include him as their central theme.

Festivities of LOHRI

During the day, children go from house to house singing folk songs and have given sweets and savories and even money. Turning them back empty-hand has considered being inauspicious. These items have collected by the children are popular as Lohri. It mainly consists of til, gachak, Gur, peanuts, and popcorn. This Lohri has then distributed at night. Til, peanuts, and popcorn along with other food items have then thrown into the bonfire.

Singing and dancing forms an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People are seen wearing bright clothes and dancing the folk forms like bhangra or gidda to the beat of the dhol.

Bonfire

Arguably the most integral part of the celebrations is the lighting of the bonfire. In some parts, this bonfire kindled under a decorated image of the folk Lohri goddess while in some parts the fire consists of cow dung and wood with no reference to the goddess. The bonfire is lit at sunset and people often toss sesame seeds, Gur, sugar candies into the bonfire while either sitting around it or even singing or dancing around it till the fire dies out. This is done to show respect to the natural element of fire.

Festive Food

Being a harvest festival, food plays an important role in the celebrations. The festival is marked by eating sheaves of roasted corn from the new harvest along with the celebration of the harvest of Sugarcane. Products such as Guru and Gachak which have sugarcane as the primary ingredient are central to the celebrations.  Along with these items such as radishes and mustard greens (which are suitable to the agro-climatic conditions) are also harvested. Some of the traditional dishes made are Gajak, Sarson da sag, and Makki di roti.

Also read, ONAM

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