Indian festivals are all about big gatherings which exhibit the joy of togetherness. The Punjabi festival of Lohri is no different. Bonfires form a quintessential aspect of the festival and a healthy sport unites the gathering as everyone competes to light up the biggest bonfire in the neighbourhood. Puffed rice and peanuts are thrown into the fire as an offering to the fire god and songs and dance add to the revelry.
Legend of Lohri:
There are various stories that describe the origin of this festival. The most relevant of them being the Dullah Bhatti. The day marks the end of the lifeless and appallingly cold month of Pos and is followed by Makar Sankranti that marks the commencement of the brighter and sunny month of Magh . The auspicious day is of great importance to the newlyweds and the new born babies.
Lohri is also considered as a “Thanksgiving Day” to thank the Sun God for giving people relief from the extreme cold weather and to rejuvenate life on earth. It is believed that girls form a group and visit houses in the villages to ask for cow-dung cakes. Legend has it that the forefathers had devised a sacred mantra which had the power to protect people from bone-chilling cold. The mantra devoted to the Sun God was chanted round the fire on the day.
Lohri, by tradition is linked with the harvest season. It is a day where in people pray to the Almighty to grant them with a good harvest.
The festival embodies the spirit of togetherness, brotherhood, gratitude and reminds humans of being in unison. The celebrations are symbolic in nature as every custom has relevance to our daily routine.
Lohri brings the whole community together. Sweets made of Til (Sesame seeds) and Gud (Jaggery) are prepared. The bonfire is an important feature of the celebrations. It is considered to be sacred and new born babies are taken around it. According to the legend, Lohri sets the tone for the entire year. So people make most of the occasion to ensure the year passes smoothly and ushers in peace and prosperity. It is also believed that Holika (Bonfire before Holi) and Lohri (Bonfire on the day of Lohri) were sisters. While Holika was burnt into ashes when set on fire, Lohri survived and is still alive.
Makke Di Roti and Sarson Da Saag (the traditional Indian bread and curry made of mustard leaves) for the event are prepared on this day. The Lohri Prasad consists of five food items which include the Til (Sesame), the Gajak (a sweet preparation), Gud (Jaggery), Moongphali (Peanuts) and Phuliya (Popcorn). These are offered to the fire God to seek his blessings.
The bright and cheerful festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm and fanfare. It is indeed a social gathering and people from all walks of life, irrespective of caste colour and creed take part in it. Men shake a leg to Bhangra while the women dance the Gidda. The colourful attire of the dancers, the gusto, the mesmerizing music make the celebrations vivacious.
Fairs and exhibitions on Lohri look picturesque. Delicious and mouth watering food preparations and handicrafts like toys, bangles and other accessories are put up on stalls.
‘Lohri Melas’ are attended by people in large numbers who participate in the event. They take part in wrestling, acrobatics, group dancing and other group activities. The gathering looks colourful and zestful.
The awe inspiring festival which is celebrated with much exuberance and fanfare symbolizes the spirit of oneness. The festival is one that bridges social gaps and imparts the message of being in unison.
Here’s wishing everyone a very happy and a prosperous Lohri and may God bless the farmers with abundance of harvest and grant them the power to feed millions.