History of Lohri Festival
Lohri is a winter folk festival majorly celebrated in the Punjab region of India. It marks the end of the winter season and the beginning of the longer days when the sun moves to the northern hemisphere. It is celebrated on the night before Makar Sankranti which is another important Hindu festival. It is an official holiday on Lohri in the states of Punjab and Haryana as the folks celebrate this day with a lot of excitement. In the Sindhi community, it is known as Lal Loi and they also enjoy themselves by following the age-old traditions. Unlike other festivals, this festival has a fixed date and is observed on the 13th of January every year.
HISTORY OF LOHRI
There are different stories related to the origin of Lohri and the history dates back to the tales of Dulla Bhatti. A lot of Lohri songs are about Dulla Bhatti and his bravery. He lived in the Punjab region and was a roadside robber who robbed people on the highway. Besides this, he also rescued Hindu girls who were sold for slavery and got them married to Hindu boys. Due to these acts of kindness, he became a hero in the Punjabi community.
Another story tells that the word “Loh” means a big iron griddle used for making Rotis during the community feasts while some say that it originated from the word “Loi”, the name of Sant Kabir’s wife. Traditionally, eating sesame seeds (til) and jaggery on this festival is important which forms the word “Tilohri”, further shortened to Lohri.
The cultural history of Lohri talks about the Rajput tribe “Bhatti” that inhabited parts of Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat during the ruling power of Emperor Akbar. Dulla Bhatti, Raja of Pindi Bhattian was sentenced to death for revolting against the Mughal emperor and thus, he is considered an iconic hero among Punjabis.
Lohri has great importance in the Sikh and Hindu community. Since it marks the ending of the winter solstice and harvesting of rabi crops, it is a significant festival for the farmers. It is also considered very auspicious for new brides and children as it marks fertility. Lohri is known and celebrated with different names and rituals in different regions of India. It is Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magha Bihu in Assam, and Tai Pongal in Kerala.
This festival is about expressing gratitude to the Sun God and many folk songs mention Dulla Bhatti, a legendary hero in the Punjabi community. People also express their gratefulness to him through these traditional songs.
HOW DO WE CELEBRATE LOHRI?
People dress up in traditional clothes, sing Punjabi songs, and dance their hearts out. A bonfire is lit according to the ancient tradition and people eat sheaves of roasted corn from the new harvest. Crops like sugarcane, mustard greens, and groundnuts that are harvested during January are consumed during this celebration. Hence, Sarso da saag, Makke di roti, and Gajak are the festive food items that are a part of Lohri dinner. It is a way of thanking God for a good harvest.
Dance forms like Chhajja dance and Hiran dance are popular and performed during the Lohri celebration in the Jammu area. Groups of young boys visit houses in the neighborhood and collect wooden logs, food items like grains, jaggery, etc. They sing Lohri songs while collecting these Lohri items and it is a wonderful tradition that brings the community together. The children are also given sweets and savories or even money as turning them back empty-handed is considered inauspicious. All the Lohri items collected by the kids are then distributed in the evening and thrown into the Lohri bonfire. It implies that the old year is burnt in the fire and the new year has begun. In urban areas, people come together, celebrate this festival, dance to the beats of dhol, and do the Bhangra and Gidda donned in bright ethnic clothes to feel the festive vibe.
Agni devta is worshipped for blessings and abundance by farmers as they move around the bonfire while chanting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” which means “May honor come and poverty vanish”.
This is one of the Indian festivals known for taking away negativity and filling our lives with positivity and joy.