Regarded as the harvesting fiesta of blessings and thanksgiving, Lohri is celebrated with full zeal and joy in the North-Indian states of Punjab and Chandigarh on 13th January. Marking the end of winter, it is observed a day prior to the festival of kites, Makar Sankranti to commemorate the transition of the sun nearest to the Earth from Sagittarius to Capricorn.
Although the festival falls in the second week of January, the celebration starts in the late first week when the kids begin to chant the folk songs as a tribute to the hero, Dulha Bhatti who used to rob for helping the poor and needy. As they sing, they continue to knock at each house door and in return, receive sweets, jaggery, crystal sugar, peanuts, popcorn, sesame seeds, and even money. This is actually a tradition that is considered auspicious. These collected things are termed together as Lohri that is exchanged at the night of Lohri.
In the festive day’s evening, families, relatives, and friends gather outdoors to make a bonfire that is the American equivalent of Thanksgiving. Considered as the sacred fire, a few Lohri is thrown in it along with puffed rice and other foodstuffs. Further, people chant mantra by circumventing around it to thank the fire who already gave enough heat in winter and also to ask the sun to shower enough warmth in upcoming summer days. This is a way to pay homage to God of Fire. In fact, Lohri is celebrated to revere the sun god as well as the fire god besides thanksgiving. For the farmers, Lohri is the last day of their farming year. Overall, it is believed that the Lohri night is the longest in the year.
Lohri is the day of bidding a farewell to the freezing winter. To safeguard the people from the harmful effects of the cold, the ancestors used a sacred mantra to ask the Sun God to give adequate heat for reversing the ill effects of the chilled breezes of winter. They believed that the flames would send their message to the sun. And surprisingly, the next day is marked by the sun’s rays warming the chilled effect.
The bonfire stands for protection and a symbol of Sun God. The fire itself is an emblem of rejuvenation as well as revolution, protector of man, and a source of energy. So, people pray for a healthy life. Especially, the married couples make a wish for children, while the parents pray for the marriage of their virgin daughters.
The festival is also dedicated to Dullah Bhatti, a character who robbed the wealthy to fulfill the needs of the poor. Living during the Akbar’s reign, he also saved the Hindu young girls who were sold in the Middle East market. Not only he saved, but he took care of those girls as father and arranged for their marriages as per the Hindu tradition.
The folks begin to accumulate branches, twigs, thin logs, and cow dung well in advance prior to the auspicious day.
People clean their homes and porticos using the brooms and water. In the evening, people wear novel attires, lit the bonfire, and gather around it.
This is done in the harvested fields and around which the people move circularly, fling Lohri, sing folk songs, and chant “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (We wish honor arrives and poverty vanishes!). The moment the flames rise, the young girls throw sesame seed and sway. The elderly offer sugarcane sticks for generating a burning fragrance. Crackers and sparklers are also burnt.
After the offering is done, people give greetings as well as the Lohri offerings such as sesame seeds, peanuts, jaggery, and popcorn. After this, a traditional dinner is served: multi-millet chapatti, a vegetable of mustard herbs, sweets of molasses as well as sesame seeds, revri, and patti. Besides, pudding of spinach, lentils, and mustard leaves in sugarcane juice is made for good health, which cleanses the blood.
This is exchanged and also blessings are given on this auspicious day. More significantly, the newly married daughters are given gifts and blessings. Even the newborn babies are blessed, if any.