Lohri – The Bonfire festival of India
Lohri is the time when harvesting is celebrated. It is the Indian festival of bonfire, other being Holi.
Lohri is celebrated on winter solstice and it coincides with the festival of Makar Sankranti. This is an important festival of Punjabi’s.
According to the Hindu calendar, Lohri falls in mid-January (normally on January 13). The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year, Paush. This festival announces the start of the month of Magh and the auspicious period of Uttarayan.
It is a harvest festival and especially important for farmers, but it is celebrated with great fervour by everyone. On this day, a bonfire is lit people dance around it.
People throw rewaries, sugar-candy, popcorn, sesame seeds, gur, etc into the fire and sing and dance around it. People wear their colourful and brightest clothes and dance the Bhangra or Giddha to the beat of the Dhol. Lohri to farmers signifies the commencement of a new financial year.
According to the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna manifests himself in his full magnificence during this time. The Hindus ‘nullify’ their sins by bathing in the Ganges and other pious rivers.
The ritual of Bonfire
A bonfire is an important activity of this festival. In night, after sun settles down, bonfires are lit in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses. People assemble around the rising flames, pay respect by doing parikrama of the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other stuff into the fire, shouting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honor come and poverty vanish!), and sing popular folk songs.
This is a sort of prayer to Agni, the fire god, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity. After the parikrama, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad (offerings made to god). The prasad comprises five main items: til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Winter savories are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-di-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-da-saag (cooked mustard herbs).
First Lohri of a New Bride
The newly married women wear bangles, new clothes, wear a colourful bindi, apply mehendi on their hands and try to look their best. The husband also dresses up and wears new clothes and a colourful turban. The bride’s in-laws gift her with new clothes and beautiful jewellery.
A grand celebration is arranged for the newly wed couple where a lot of guests are invited. The bride is made to sit along with her husband and the parents-in-law gift her clothes and jewellery during this ceremony. Other guests like family, neighbours and friends also come and present clothes or cash to the newly wed. The couple also seeks blessings of the elders on this day.
First Lohri of a New Born Baby
The first Lohri of a new born baby is also considered to be an important occasion. The new mother sits decked up in heavy clothes, a lot of jewellery and with mehendi applied on her hands. She sits with the baby in her hands and the family and close ones gift her with clothes or cash. The baby’s maternal grandparents also send gifts of clothes, fruits, sweets, peanuts, etc.
The legend of Dulha Batti (our Robinhood)
Lohri is celebrated in remembrance and praise of Dulha Batti. Dulha Batti was a Muslim robber who lived during the era of King Akbar. He was a robber but a good person. He would steal from the rich and distribute the wealth among the poor. He rescued girls who were being forcibly taken away. He arranged marriages of young girls with Hindu Boys and paid the dowries. He was a hero among the local Punjabis there who loved and respected him. Most Lohri songs are sung in praise of Dulha Batti which expresses their gratitude to him.
This festival is immediately followed by another important festival – Makar Sankranti.