In India, the beginning of a new year is followed with one of the most popular and celebrated festivals known as Lohri. The festival has a deep-rooted connection with ancient cultures and traditions of India. There are numerous tales from the past that can be put together for the origin of this festival. On the eve of this festival, people gather around a bonfire and celebrate while dancing and singing traditional songs. The festival is generally celebrated on January 13th. Here are some interesting facts about Lohri:
The Punjabi Lohri
The festival of Lohri is best celebrated in the state of Punjab. According to Punjabi traditions, the festival marks the beginning of the harvesting season at the end of winters. On the night of the festival family members, relatives and neighbours come together and perform bhangra and giddas (a traditional dance form) around a bonfire. Dinner comprises of traditional preparations, ending the meal with several sweets. People exchange sweets and young lads go door-to-door dancing on the beats of bhangra asking for Lohri gifts.
New Bride Lohri
In North India, the first Lohri a bride celebrates with her husband’s family is considered very special. Her presence makes the occasion more majestic with bridal dressing as she accompanies her husband who is dressed in a colorful turban (of course if he’s a Sardar). The newlywed couple is the centre of attraction and is gifted with clothes and jewellery from their in-laws. Receiving the blessing from elders, the new bride is expected to bring success and prosperity to her new family through her own good fortune. As a new member of the family, the new bride performs gidda (a traditional female dance of Punjab) with her in-laws around the bonfire.
Origin of the word Lohri
There are various stories that direct us to the origin of the word ‘Lohri’. Some believe that the festival got its title from the wife of Saint Kabir, who was called Loi. Whereas, some stories state that the name of this festival was developed from til and rohri (Lohri, thus, is a portmanteau) which are considered as an important part of the sweet dishes on this day. According to the Hindu mythology, Lohri was the sister of Holika who survived with Parladh. The word Lohri is also believed to have an origin from the word regional word ‘loh’ that means warmth and light of the fire.
Dulla Bhatti and Lohri
The festival of Lohri is often related to the legend of Dulla Bhatti who was a heroic character during the Mughal Empire. As the Robin Hood of Punjab province, Dulla once rescued a young girl from kidnappers and adopted her as a daughter and made all possible formalities for her marriage. Similar to this, there are other tales that describe the heroism of Dulla Bhatti. In the present times, the festival of Lohri is celebrated in honour of Dulla Bhatti with folk songs describing his brave saga.
Lohri and Farmers
The festival of Lohri has a real meaning to the farmers of Punjab, for the state is the wheat bowl of India. They regard the festive day as the end of winter and beginning of spring. On this day, bon fires are lit at almost every place signifying the end of winters. Farmers relate the festival with the harvesting of crops like Rabi and by gifting sweets or money to the poor folks; they pray that the upcoming season will bring prosperity to their lives.
Lohri and the Sun God
A festival essentially dedicated to the fire and the sun God, Lohri is associated with the concept of life and health in the Hindu religion. During this time the sun transits from the zodiac sign Capricorn and moves north. This new configuration lessens the impact of winter, ushering in the summer. The bonfire is also lit to ward off the cold winds and welcome the warmth of spring. This is the reason why the bonfire is worshipped and venerated as a deity. People propitiate the fire by offering peanuts, popcorn, and sweets.