During the time of spine chilling cold winters and dense fogs, when the temperature lurks near the freezing point for many days, people in Northern India come out of their homes on one night. They light bonfires, sing and dance to folk songs, and celebrate a festival of goodwill and joyful time. This festival is known by the name of Lohri.
Lohri is the traditional harvest festival of North India especially Punjab and Haryana. It is celebrated in mid January when the Sun is farthest from the Earth. It also signifies the start of the Indian month of Magh which represents the time before the start of wheat harvest period. It is also the beginning of the Uttarayan period in Hinduism and taking a bath in the river Ganges is considered as very beneficial during this time.
Lohri is also called as lohi in rural Punjab. Also, as people eat reorhi and til on the eve of Lohri. Hence, the words til and reohri merged to become tilohri, which eventually got shortened to Lohri.
2. The Lohri morning events
On the Lohri day, in the morning small kids would visit houses in and around their locality. They would sing songs and dance while demanding “Lohri” viz. some money or sweets (Revdi, Gacchak, Jaggery and groundnuts). Another famous tradition in Punjab is, Kite flying on the Lohri day. Youngsters and adults would come up on their house terraces and engage in a very vibrant and noisy kite flying competition. The whole environment gets very colorful with the beautiful kites adorning the sky.
In the evening, after the sun sets, people lit big bonfires in their agricultural farms or in the front yards of their homes, all the family members and invited friends sit around the bonfire.
There is a tradition of throwing sesame seeds, revdi, groundnuts and puffed rice into the flames. Many a times a Dholwala (Dhol player) is called to play folk tunes and the gathered people sing and dance to the music of Dhol. Sweets, gifts and other items are distributed to the guests and gathered people. The whole environment gets very lively even during the harsh winters. Traditional cuisine consisting of Saag and Makki di Roti constitute the dinner.
Other than that the Sindhis celebrate the festival of Lal Loi which coincides on the same day with Lohri. In this festival, Kids gather wood sticks from their grandparents and fire them during the night. People gather around the fire and enjoy while dancing and singing.
4. Song & Dance
In Punjab, men perform Bhangra dance on the night of Lohri. They began after the bonfire ceremony and with the beats of Dhol, dance celebrations begin. Usually men sing and dance together till late in the night. Punjabi women dance on their own, their dance form is known as Gidda. It’s a very graceful dance of the women, with traditional songs known as Boliyan sung along.
5. Festival of Prolificacy
The festival of Lohri signifies fertility and happiness in life. Whenever there is a birth of a child or a new marriage in a family, all the family members celebrate those events on the night of Lohri. The celebrating family would arrange a social gathering of friends and relatives. They would also host a dinner for all the guests. People light bonfires and bless the new born or the bride in case of a marriage. After that there is a dance ceremony. Men prefer to drink liquor and dance afterwards. A late night dinner ceremony concludes the event.
6. Lohri songs and tales
The major folk tale associated with Lohri is that of “Dulla Bhatti”. Dulla was a Rajput warrior of Sandal Bar, Punjab (Now in Pakistan) who was touted as a Robin Hood by the people. Dulla used to loot the corrupt and wealthy people mainly Mughal Generals and tyrants, which inflicted agonies on the common people. After looting them, he would distribute the loot among the needy and poor. These deeds made him immensely popular and lovable among the people of Punjab. There is a famous story associated with Lohri and Dulla Bhatti. As, Dulla used to rescue poor girls from Mughals who abducted them and sold them off in the slave markets. After fighting with the Mughals, he would not only rescue the girls but also conducted their marriage ceremonies to sober boys.
Once on a Lohri day, Dulla Bhatti rescued two girls named Sundri and Mundri and married them to boys from proper families. Since that they, songs and folklores have been sung in the praise of the great Dulla Bhatti.
One of the most popular songs sung on the eve of Lohri is –
Sundar mundariye Ho,
Tera kaun vicharaa Ho,
Dulla Bhatti walla Ho,
Dulle di dhii viahi Ho,
Ser shakkar payi Ho,
Kurhi da laal pataaka Ho,
Kurhi da salu paata Ho.
The next day of Lohri is the Maghi which depicts the beginning of the Indian month of Magh. During this period Hindus consider it very sacred to have a bath in the river Ganges and do charity work. They distribute clothes, sweets and items among the poor on the day of “Maghi”. Delicious Rice Kheer is also prepared on the day of Maghi and distributed among family and friends.
8. Lohri the restorer of Enthusiasm
Lohri holds a very high cultural importance in the parts of North India. It is a symbol of finding joy, happiness and goodwill even in the harsh winter cold. It also signifies that we must get up and perform hard work irrespective of the weather conditions. The bonfire of Lohri depicts burning of laziness, idleness and depression caused due to inactivity in the winters.
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