Lohri Festival – Lohri, is a festival known for its feisty celebrations among the Punjabi community. It is, in essence, a deep veneration of nature gods for a bountiful harvest. Most popular in the agricultural belt of India namely, the Punjab, it has spread its wings to neighboring regions such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Delhi. Lohri festival in India celebrates the harvesting of rabi crops with a major ceremonial ritual of bonfire. Falling in mid-January, the auspicious occasion of Lohri coincides with the onset of ‘Magh’ month, which commences just a day after Lohri. This is also the time when people take a dip in the holy waters or water springs to welcome the month of ‘Magh’, hoping for an auspicious start. Besides, Lohri festival also marks the end of harsh winter, when the sun commences its movement in the favourable northern direction. Coincidentally, it is at the same time that regional harvest festivals such as Pongal, Makar Sankranti and Bhogali Bihu are held in different parts of the country with equal fervour.
Lohri celebration in India
Lohri is not about reaping the fruits of labour, it also acknowledges the elemental forces, mainly fire. The fire is supposed to douse sadness and renew happiness in one’s life. Thus, it is a favourable time to take a breather from farming work and enjoy the rich crop of harvest.
During Lohri festival, the Punjabi community participates with full zeal and enjoys this occasion with full rustic fanfare. As exuberant as its people are, it very much reflects in their worship rituals. The entire activity is centered around a huge bonfire that is lit up amidst robust drum beats and a constant streaming of people. The sight of brightly attired and turbaned men and children breaking into the energetic ‘Bhangra’ and ‘Jhoomer’ dance forms, and decked up women doing ‘Gidda’ dance around the bonfire is mesmerizing. While zealous participation and energetic atmosphere marks the evening, Lohri starts on a festive note even as excited groups of children scramble in familiar neighborhoods collecting sweets like gajak, rewri and jaggery and generous amounts of charity money in the morning.
In Himachal Pradesh, Lohri or Maghi Fair is held during this time which breaks the monotony of mundane life and allows people to step into the new season after the crippling cold winter.
In the evening, the front open space or even the courtyard of houses is prepared for bonfire. Family and friends do a ‘parikrama’ or circling around the bonfire as they make offerings of jaggery, sesame/til, peanuts, puffed rice and popcorn. The lighting of fire after sunset and song and dance ritual around it reinforces the importance of fire in farming. The echoes of “Aadar aye dilather jaye” reverberate throughout this Lohri ritual, as people pray for honor and abundance to reflect in their economic and family life. The legend of Dullah Batti is recounted on this occasion, whose deeds of chivalry are crystallized in the form of folk songs. People pay homage to his magnanimity and consideration for the poor, as the legend goes that in the 16th-century during the reign of Akbar, Dullah Bhatti stole from the wealthy only to help the poor and arranged marriages for girls boycotted by society.
After this, they greet each other, and offer ‘prasad’ of til, jaggery, peanuts and popcorn in a simplistic ritual that brings people of the community together. Their most savoured dish comprising ‘Makki-di-roti’ and ‘sarson-da-saag’ is offered as main course to guests. During Lohri, a new bride or a new born baby is showered with blessings as well as gifts. The new mothers receive new clothes and jewellery.
The message and essence of Lohri
The convivial atmosphere during Lohri festival sets the mood for blending in with close relations and friends. The festival and the jovial Lohri celebration give everybody a chance to widen their horizon and social circle. The sense of camaraderie among men and women folk is seen throughout the festival preparation and participation. On the whole, Lohri fosters a sense of fellowship, celebrates oneness and encourages people to rise above personal differences.