The modern conception of Lohri centers on bonfires, Punjabi cuisine, traditional music, and dancing to current chart-topping hits. But do you know what a sacred campfire traditionally means? And why is Lohri celebrated? This harvest festival marks the start of the year's celebrations in North India, particularly in Punjab, and pays homage to the hardworking farmers. Let's dive deeper and see all about the Lohri celebrations in Punjab.
The Lohri Festival, mostly observed by Sikhs and Hindus in India, signals the end of the winter season. The day before Makar Sankranti is when the Lohri Festival is celebrated (January 13th according to the Gregorian calendar). Being a festival that originated in Punjab, it is observed with tremendous fervor in India's northern provinces of Punjab and Haryana. But that's not all, the harvest festival is celebrated in different ways throughout India. From Pongal in the south and Bihu in Assam to Sankranti in Maharashtra, the harvest time is known to be a time for celebrations in India.
It's a lesser-known fact that the word Lohri comes from the combination of two Hindi words - ‘Tilohri’ and ‘Rorhi’. The word ‘Tilohri’ is the Hindi translation for sesame and ‘Rorhi’ for jaggery. It is believed that both these foods help cleanse the body and provide newfound energy. And so, as part of the harvest rite on this day, food items made from these ingredients are offered to the bonfire. It’s a way of paying gratitude to nature and the earth.
Also Read: Visiting The Golden Temple In Amritsar
The harvest season is a time of joy and celebration, particularly among farmers. Farmers gather to pray to Surya (the Sun God) for the warmth and light that made the beautiful harvest possible. The harvest is the fruit of many months of arduous labor and it is something they celebrate with great enthusiasm. The festival of Lohri is celebrated as a symbol of respect and acknowledgment for the farmers, as it is a celebration of a rich and fruitful year.
Also Read: Experiencing The Wagah Border Ceremony
In Punjabi folk tales, there are a few origin stories about Lohri. One of the most popular ones is attributed to the Muslim bandit Dulla Bhatti. He lived during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar and was known as the Robinhood of that era. Dulla refused to accept the Mughal rule and led a rebellion against the Mughal king, Akbar. It is said that he saved several Hindu Punjabi girls, who were being sold as slaves. He would then help them marry Hindu men of their liking and also paid for their dowry. After his execution in Lahore, the women sang songs and danced around the bonfire in Dulla’s memory, and this is one of the most popular stories about the origin of Lohri.
Also Read: 9 Things To Do In And Around Chandigarh
Since Lohri is the first festival of the year, it’s celebrated with great excitement. You’ll see people prepping for the glorious bonfire, making sweets, children playing around, and not to forget the thunderous beat of the dhol to Punjabi folk numbers. But that's not all! There are a lot of pre-preparations, customs, and traditions that are followed during the celebration. Lohri is a grand affair in Punjab so let's see how it's celebrated in detail.
Even though Lohri is celebrated on a dedicated day, the preparations for it begin a few weeks prior. Children often visit every house in the neighborhood and perform songs or skits in groups to collect donations for the bonfire. Donating to the needy so that they too can experience the happiness and joy of the festival is commonly practiced among families.
Taking a dip in the holy waters of the Golden Temple or Kali Bein is another practice followed by the Sikhs. This is done a few days before Lohri to cleanse themselves of their sins. Even for the bonfire, people start collecting dry leaves, broken branches, twigs, old clothes, and other items in advance, to light up the bonfire. These weeks and days of preparation build up the excitement for the big day.
Family, friends, and neighbors gather around the bonfire after sunset, which is the most thrilling aspect of Lohri celebrations in Punjab. The fire provides comfort to everyone gathered around it on the chilly Lohri night. It's the first and foremost thing to do and is meant to be celebrated and enjoyed with your loved ones.
The bonfire represents Lord Agni, the God of Fire. It represents burning old beliefs, ideals, and thoughts; and accepting kind wishes and prayers for all your loved ones. Agni (fire) signifies the sustaining force of life and hence, people worship and respect it immensely. Food and sweets are offered to Lord Agni to remove all negativity from their life and bring prosperity.
The main celebrations begin with kite flying competitions which are immensely popular among the youth. The competition is cut-throat with people challenging each other to cut kites. It is believed that the kite flying tradition is a way to show gratitude to the morning sun and nature with the year’s harvest.
The bonfire is the focal point of all of the Lohri celebrations, from the dances to plays to folk songs, and all are performed in front of the bonfire. People wear bright and colorful, traditional clothes and begin with the festivities for the evening. Both men and women perform traditional folk dances like Bhangra and Giddha. The dances are known for their immense energy and are performed in anticipation of a good harvest for the season.
Groups also play folk music. The loud thumping of the dhol accompanied by the unique sounds of the chimta, sarangi, sapp, khartal, and ektara make for some splendid folk numbers that one must experience during Lohri. Men, women, and children all participate and make these festivities fun and entertaining.
How can you not talk about the food prepared and served during this beautiful festive season? Sarson ka saag (mustard greens), makke ki roti (millet bread rolled flat and roasted on a pan), and makhane ki kheer (sugarcane pudding) are the traditional items on the menu. While Phully (popcorn), gunna (sugar cane), moongphali (peanuts), and gajak (a sweet dish made of sesame seeds or peanuts and jaggery) are some traditional snacks that are served to guests and enjoyed during the celebration.
Also Read: Experiencing The Food In Amritsar
The first Lohri after marriage is a special one for the newlywed couple. The in-laws invite the bride to their home to celebrate the festival in a grand manner. All members of the family are invited and a feast is prepared to celebrate the new journey that the couple has embarked upon.
The newlywed women wear their traditional wedding attire and adorn themselves with flowers, jewelry, bindi, and dress up like a bride. Applying mehandi and wearing sandalwood perfume is another tradition that they follow. Friends and relatives come bearing wishes and gifts for the couple and the in-laws also present them with new clothes and jewelry.
The birth of a child is considered a blessing and is an auspicious time to celebrate with loved ones. And when combined with the joy of Lohri, it's even better. So if there’s a newborn in the family, then you know that the Lohri fest is going to be grand! The family celebrates by throwing a lavish feast and invites every possible relative they can get a hold of. The newborn is the center of attraction and receives blessings and presents from both the paternal and maternal grandparents.
As you can see, Lohri is a beautiful way to start the new year since it is filled with social gatherings, festivities, and joy. This is a welcome tradition and a wonderful chance to strengthen your relationships with your family, friends, and neighbors on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. Complete with folk dances, traditional dresses, folk songs, and scrumptious food, one must experience Lohri celebrations when visiting Punjab.
How Is Lohri Celebrated In Punjab?
While Lohri rituals are carried out, celebrations are marked by singing and dancing. Special Lohri songs are played while dancing the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol in their brightest attire.
Who Started Lohri?
The origin of the festival is attributed to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. He was known as the Robinhood of Akbar’s era and is known to have saved slaves and girls from the clutches of Akbar.
Why Do Punjabis Celebrate Lohri?
Lohri is the time for farmers to pray and show gratitude for their crops before harvesting begins. They also pray to Lord Agni to bless their land with abundance.
What Is Eaten On Lohri?
Sarson ka saag, makki ki roti, makhane ki kheer, phully, gunna (sugar cane), moongphali, and gajak are some of the traditional food items eaten in Lohri.
What Is The Message Of Lohri?
The message behind Lohri is to brighten your life as bright as the fire, and that Lord Agni bless the crops, lands, and hard work of the farmers.
What Is Another Name For Lohri?
Lohri is known as Pongal in the south, Makar Sankranti in West and Central India, while Uttarayan, Maghi, and Khichdi are some of the other names of the festival.
Which God Is Prayed To During Lohri?
Lohri is dedicated to the Sun God (Surya) and the God of Fire (Agni). On this day, it is believed that the winters are coming to an end and the summers are approaching.
What Food Is Prepared For Lohri?
Foods like sarson ka saag, makke ki roti, makhane ki kheer, phully (popcorn), gunna (sugar cane), moongphali (peanuts), and gajak are prepared for Lohri.