Lohri, one of North India’s most famous festivals, is just around the corner. The festival, celebrated mainly by Sikhs and Hindus, marks the end of the winter solstice and the rabi crop harvest. Every year the festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and passion on January 13th.
People like to wear colorful traditional clothes, to sing and dance around the bonfire, to welcome longer days of warmer temperatures.
Meaning Of Lohri
The word Lohri comes, according to some stories, from the term ‘loh,’ meaning a large iron grid or tava used for community feasts. According to another version, the word originates from ‘Loi,’ who was the wife of the reformer Kabir Das.
The origins of Lohri go back to the civilization of the Indus Valley. Since this civilization prospered in Northern India and Pakistan, the festival is held mostly in these regions in a similar way. It has numerous other names in other parts of India, such as Pongal, Makar Sankranti, Magha Bihu, and Tai Pongal.
The Lohri-related stories are numerous and are based on religious as well as socio-cultural traditions and events. The story of Dulla Bhatti is the most well-known and fascinating legend behind Lohri.
Dulla Bhatti was popular with the poor, like Robin Hood, at the time of King Akbar of Mughal. He used the wealthy society to be plundered and the loot dispersed among the poor and needy. This made him known to the people and admired him. The legend goes that he rescued the girl from kidnappers and then, as his own daughter, took care of her.
The night before the winter solstice, Lohri was originally celebrated. It was the coldest night of the year, followed by the shortest day and the longest night of the year. As the night is incredibly cold, people shielded themselves by lighting fire and keeping it all night and enjoying their time around the fire, propitiating the gods of the sun and fire, and then making festive by sharing the remains of the sacrifice, dancing, singing, and then taking heavy and tasty food together with their relatives.
The harvesting time of rabi crops, that is, the winter season crops is also marked by the festival. The people of Punjab are celebrating the harvest of cane during this festival, the most fertile belt in India. The key attractions of this festival are also the harvesting of sesame seeds, jaggery, radish, mustards, and spinach. People make sweets called revari and gajak, and staples such as Sarso ka Saag and Makki ki roti. Radish is one of the highlights of the feast and is also part of it.
Customs and Traditions Of Lohri
The Lohri Festival has different customs and rituals. The children and the girls of the house go from door to door two-three days earlier asking for things like candy, sugar, sesame, jaggery and cow-dung cakes. They go to every door and sing loud verses in Dulla Bhatti’s praise and other traditional songs. Please, owners will give them rewards and, often, money as well as part of the festivities. When the sun goes down in the evening, people gather in the open and put all the things on the bonfire, such as cow dung cakes, logs, cane wood and sugar, and light up the flame.
As this festival is a thanksgiving to the sun god, the mother earth, the fields and the flames, they give offerings to the fire in the name of the various demigods and sing their names and mantras. All the ‘loots’ which have been collected from people in the form of popcorn, maize seeds, jaggery, rewari, gajak, peanuts and sesame seeds shall be placed in the fire as an offering, and then the prasad or the remnants shall be distributed among all.
The mood persists and, at the end of the day, the feast is organised, which consists of delicious dishes.
Lohri, Science and Symbolism
Today, Lohri is celebrated on the day just before Makar Sankranti, and this year it will be celebrated on the 13th of January. Makar Sankranti falls in the Shishir Ritu season, the most extreme form of the winter season. In this season, because of the extreme and harsh cold, the body has an increased amount of vata (air) and kapha (ether).
In addition, at the start of Aadan Kaal or when the sun goes into the northern hemisphere that marks the introduction of roughness in the weather, people are advised to eat things made of sesame and jaggery in order to keep their bodies warmer and to hold the cold winter with a brace. Furthermore, this day’s fire is preparing the bodies for the next day’s harsh weather.
Lohri is a festival specifically related to the sun, the earth and the fire. Sun is the aspect of life, earth is our food and fire preserves our wellbeing. The highest personality of Godhead gives us all these elements at no expense and we shall not be liable to pay for them.
But because we need them, we should still be able to give them thanks and pray for their safety and prosperity because we serve them selflessly.
Hope the festival gives you prosperity and enjoyment. Happy 2021 Lohri