In India, Lohri is celebrated on the eve of Makar Sankranti which is the last day of the month of Paush. It follows the Bikrami calendar and falls on 13th January of the Gregorian calendar. The festival commemorates the passing of the Hindi month paush and welcomes Hindi month Magha. It is predominantly celebrated in the Northern states of India especially Punjab and Haryana where the farmers celebrate it with abundant joy and pompous.
Why it is celebrated:
- The significance of this festival mainly lies in harvesting of rabi crops. Mainly it is an agricultural festival and represents the end of rabi crop. The farmers sow more wheat seeds in the coming months to start afresh and pray for their wealthy crop.
- Another reason to celebrate Lohri is the passing of Winter Solstice. Paush is considered to be the chilliest month of the year when the sun is rarely visible or rises late. The passing of the month signifies an early sunrise giving way to summer.
- Lohri is also a significant festival for newly wed couples and newborns in the family. The first Lohri of new couple and the baby is a grand celebration and they are the centre of attraction. Family and friends are invited and they bestow their best wishes, prayers and gifts to the the couple and little one. The bride’s family visit her a day before and offer gifts and festival specific food and sweets to her family.
- Lohri celebrates the presence of God. Gods like Agni and Surya (God of fire) are commemorated by the bonfire. People sacrifice food into the bonfire to please the Gods and get their blessings. It is believed that the bigger the fire, the better the luck one will have.
How Lohri is celebrated:
No Indian festival is celebrated without any significant rituals. Lohri is also celebrated in a rich way and it unites together everyone. Some of the rituals of Lohri are:
- Bonfire is the main ritual of this festival. People of a locality gather at one place after sunset and set up bonfire using wood and hay. It is then lit and people circle around the bonfire with food plates in their hands and sacrifice food items in the fire like popcorns, peanuts, sweets, sugarcane sticks, revri (a sweet made of jaggery, sugar, sesame seeds) and later distribute the rest of the food left in their plates to each other and the less privileged ones. While performing this ritual they recite prayers and later sing folk songs. Milk and water are also poured around the bonfire which signifies the Hindu custom of praying to the God.
- Folk songs, music, bhangra (Indian folk dance) and drums (dhol) are the intrinsic part of the celebration, people dance around the bonfire and spread joy.
- As it is a festival of winters, people after performing the rituals sit near the bonfire and warm up their hands and body.
- Some people believe in the Lohri Goddess and prepare Her statue using cow dung. They light the fire upon her to celebrate the festival and gather her blessings.
- After performing the rituals, people drool themselves in various delicacies like sarso-da-saag (mustard leaves), makke-di-roti (maize flour bread) with jaggery, chikki and gajak (Indian sweets).
- The elders offer gifts to the younger members of the family and bless them. Especially the newly married couple and newborns.
- It is celebrated with open heart and lot of fun in schools and offices also.
- Next day, the poor children visit house to house singing folk songs and the house owners give them the same food which they sacrificed to the fire (popcorns, revri, sweets etc.) and money as prasad (offering of God). The families having newly weds or newborns are asked for bigger treats and turning away people empty handed is treated as inauspicious.
Lohri essentially is a festival of joy. The people of Punjab hold it perfectly, and the significance is great. Among hundreds of festivals, Lohri holds a very special place in India.
I hope my post was able to give you some insight about Lohri festival. Thanks for reading and Happy Lohri everyone!