Lohri is a well known festival that is celebrated on 13th January every year through India as well as by Indians all over the world. Widely popular in Punjab, people of Hindu and Sikh community believe Lohri to be the festival of warmth, kindness and togetherness. Although there are many different reasons that describe the significance of this festival, people usually mark this festival as the beginning of sunny climate and welcome it with traditional song, dance, and other rituals. People enjoy eating delicious ‘mungafalis (peanuts) and ‘revaris‘ on the auspicious day of Lohri. They also
Lohri is observed the night before Makar Sankranti which also called Maghi. Lohri falls in the month of Paush and is set by the solar part of the Punjabi calendar. It is widely believed that the word Lohri is derived from “Loi” or the wife of Saint Kabir. Some believe that Lohri comes from the word “Loh” which means light and warmth of the fire. As per another popular legend, Holika & Lohri were sisters. Holika perished in the Holy fire while both Prahlad and Lohri survived.
Lohri is followed by the festival of Makar Sankranti on the very next day of 14th January. Makar Sakranti marks the beginning of often week long kite flying celebrations and competitions between friends and families. Delicious savories are cooked on this occasion especially chrurma, kheer, pheeni, and halwa that also become the part of ‘prasad‘ of the Pujas.
There are many tales associated with this festival. One of them is the tale of Dulla Bhati, a village bandit, who saved two orphaned girls, Sundri and Mundri. These girls were tortured and were forcefully being gifted to the king to satisfy his needs. Dulla saved the girls from cruelty and got them married to suitable grooms in a forest nearby. He acted as a father figure to them, took them in and cared for them. His kindness set an example for the people. The story of Dulla Bhati was told for many years and is still told to the people in the form of songs, to remind people to be kind. The songs of Dulla Bhati and Sundri_Mundri have become an important part of Lohri celebrations.
Another tale is that Lohri is celebrated as a prayer to the Sun God, asking him for warmth and light to help grow the crops. This might also be one of the reasons why a bonfire is lit on Lohri. It is believed that the bonfire helps to send the prayers and offerings to the Sun God Surya Dev. The bonfire is also of significance as people believe that it is a vessel to Lord Agni, the God of Fire.
People worship it and hope that Lord Agni blesses them with good luck and health. While these are the more imaginative reasons associated with Lohri, the practical reason for celebrating Lohri is that it marks the end of winter solstice and the harvesting of Rabi crops. This is a major milestone festival for farmers who have taken care pf their fields and crops throughout the year and now are eager to reap the benefits of yearlong hard work. They celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm and joy.
Lohri is celebrated generally in the evening. Relatives and friends are invited to join the family in the celebrations. As the day progresses towards evening, the family gathers around in an open space, say, a park or verandah, and together makes a large bonfire with wooden logs. Once the sun sets, the bonfire is lit. The celebrations start with the family dancing and singing traditional Lohri songs as they move around the bonfire. Friends and family enjoy the festivities, dancing and singing together.
There also a traditional Prasad of sweets, popcorns and peanuts that is put into the bonfire while praying and the rest distributed among the people gathered. The celebration continues through the night, mostly till the bonfire lasts. This festival is a great day to dance, sing, enjoy and cozy up around the sacred fire with loved ones. It also holds a great importance to new born babies and newlywed couples. It is believed that the bonfire gives good blessings on the baby and newlywed couple. The couple and the newborns also receive gifts on their first Lohri.
Due to the increasing pollution and worries of global warming, the celebrations of many festivals have changed. There are fewer people now who light bonfires, as these bonfires add a lot of smoke to the atmosphere, thereby contributing to air pollution. Due to this, a more modern way of celebrating Lohri was invented. People gather with friends and family in the evening , exchange gifts, sweets, gajaks etc. They dance to music or have sing songs that glorify the stories of Lohri. Even though the bonfire is absent, people have the light of new hopes and beginnings in their hearts and it is with this light that they celebrate this festival.
Be it in the health sector or in the personal matters, the Corona Virus has affected us in many ways. The festivities, that gathered the people of all castes and creeds, have also been greatly altered in terms of their celebrations. Lohri is no exception. The festival that brought together, family and friends, has been now reduced to the limited family members that reside together. But this restriction has not dulled the spirit of Lohri. It is still in the hearts of the people and is still the festival of unity and hopes.
Lohri is one of the many festivals that give India its identity of being a Colorful Soulful Country enriched with cultural diversity and humble traditions. It surely symbolizes harmony among people and the kindness that should be always present in their hearts. It teaches us to be humble, benevolent and honest towards others and always be in touch with our loved ones.
Lohri is the festival of warmth and light, the festival of togetherness and one should always have the spirit of Lohri in our hearts throughout the year.