Popcorn, gur rewri, gajjak bonfire and warmth- everything brings back memories of Lohri! People all across North India look forward to Lohri , an important harvest festival which is very popular in the region.
Celebrated primarily by people of the Hindu and Sikh communities, Lohri holds a lot of significance and importance for the two communities.
This year, the festival will be celebrated on January 13, 2020, which is a Monday. The harvest festival, which falls on January 13 this year is celebrated during the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti in a grand manner in the Northern part of the country. Lohri is one festival which brings neighbours and relatives together. Since it falls in the second or third week of the New Year, it is considered the first major Hindu festival of the year.
If you are going to celebrate the festival for the first time, or just curious about the history and significance of the harvest festival, here is an explainer:
While Lohri is one festival that marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of the new harvest season, the name of the festival itself has a lot of historic significance. Cultural stories dictate that Lohri originates from the word, 'Loh'- which means a big griddle or a tava, used in community feasts. Another tale says the word pays homage to 'Loi', who was the wife of Hindu saint Kabir Das.
It is said that Lohri can be traced back to the heroic tales of Dulla Bhatti, who is popularly known for his exemplary valour and courage as someone who led a rebellion against emperor Akbar. With his brave display, he instantly became a hero for the people. Almost every song and poem sang on Lohri has words expressing gratitude to him.
As you delve deeper into history, you will find a lot many customs and traditions related to the festival. The most popular one remains for the little ones, who go around houses asking for Lohri gifts and items. They go to each door, singing verses in the praise of Dulla Bhatti and other traditional songs and say 'Sundari Mundari oye'. Items like sweets, sesame seeds, jaggery, and cow dung cakes are customary for a Lohri puja and celebration.
In the evening, when the sun is about to set, the people assemble in an open space and put all the items of the bonfire and light it.
Since this festival marks a thanksgiving celebration to the Earth and the Sun, people offer sacrificial offerings to the fire in the and chant holy prayers and mantras. Thereafter, the prashad and offerings from the Lohri are distributed amongst everyone.
People also circle the fire, as a mark to pay their respect, seek prayers and blessings for their near and dear ones. Folkdances and songs particular to the festival are cheered on.
Lohri holds great significance because it is a harvest festival. Held a day before Makar Sankranti, agricultural communities and farmers pray to God for a good harvest season. The festival holds even more important if there has been a happy event in the family such as the birth of a child or a marriage in the past year, signifying fertility and prosperity.
The fire lit with the Lohri pyre is also significant of the end of evil, negative energies, spirits, welcoming in positivity and praying for a good life.
Wish you all a happy Lohri !