One of the best ways to deal with the freezing cold weather is lit up a bonfire and dance around it with possibly, the family, the relatives and friends. The heat of the bonfire intermingling with the warmth of the loved ones, is a sure shot way to fight the chilling winters!! Practically speaking, this seems to be the most convincing reason for the Punjabis to celebrate Lohri - an extremely popular winter agricultural festival. However, there’s much more to it…. Read on!
Significance of Lohri
Lohri, basically, denotes the end of winter season. According to the Hindu Bikrami, calendar, Lohri falls on the 13th of January, (more than 90% of the time). This is usually the last day of Sun in the Dhanur rashi (Sagittarius zodiac sign). The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year, Paush. The next day after Lohri is thus, Makar Sankranti, or Maghi, when Sun enters Makar-the next zodiac sign after dhanur. Sometimes, sun enters Makar a day earlier or later than usual; during that time, Lohri is celebrated on 12th or the 14th of January as well. Lohri is traditionally also, associated with the harvest of the rabi crops.
One thing that's very interesting about Lohri is that unlike most of the Indian festivals, Lohri is not a religion-specific festival. Irrespective of their religions, Punjabis celebrate Lohri to spread the message of oneness and love.
How is Lohri celebrated?
- The day begins with children going from door to door, singing lohri songs and asking for peanuts, revdi (a sweet dish made with jaggery and seasame seeds) and gachak and money, in return. They sing in the praise of Dulha Bhatti, a dacoit who, according to a folklore, robbed the rich to help the poor, and saved girls from becoming the victims of slave trade.
- The Bonfire Ritual :
- As the sun sets, people circle around a huge bonfire, that's usually lit in the harvested fields or the front yards of houses. A parikrama (moving in a circle) is done to salute Agni (the Fire God) and puffed rice, popcorn, revdi, gachak etc are offered to the fire. Usually the shouts like, "Aadar aaye, dilader jaaye' are made (May honor come and poverty vanish!) and several lohri songs are also sung. After the parikrama, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad (offerings made to god). The prasad comprises five main items: til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn.
- Dance: People wearing their vibrant attires, come to dance the traditional bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. Popular punjabi songs are sung and everybody rejoices. In the families that have recently had a marriage or the birth of a child, the celebrations are filled with even more excitement!
- Food: Sweet dishes like reorhi/rorhi/revdi/rewdi made from jaggery and til (Seasame seeds), gachaks made from peanuts and jaggery, are prepared as well as til laddus and pinnis. Apart from that, in the main-course meal, traditionally, sarson-da-saag and Makki ki roti is served.