Lohri is a popular Punjabi winter folk festival, mainly held in the Punjab region. There are many meanings and legends about the Lohri festival, and these relate the festival to the Punjab region. Many claims that the festival commemorates the passage of the winter solstice.
Lohri signals the end of the winter and is the customary welcoming of long days and the movement of the sun to the northern hemisphere by the Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. It is observed the night before Makar Sankranti, also known as Maghi, and according to the solar portion of the lunar Bikrami calendar, and usually occurs about the same date every year (January 13).
Where Lohri is celebrated?
Lohri is celebrated to commemorate the last of the coldest days of winter. Besides Punjab, Lohri is also celebrated in Delhi. It’s Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Lohri has been celebrated in Jammu since the time of Mughal. The festival is being observed as Lal Loi in the Sindhi culture.
There’s a lot of folklore about Lohri. Lohri is a celebration of the arrival of days longer after the winter solstice. According to legend, in ancient times, Lohri was celebrated at the end of the common month of the winter solstice. It celebrates the days that are getting longer as the sun continues on its journey to the north. The day after Lohri, it’s celebrated as Maghi Sangrand.
Lohri is an ancient mid-winter festival that originates in regions near the Himalayan mountains where the winter is colder than the rest of the subcontinent. Traditionally, Hindus lit bonfires in their yards after weeks of rabi harvesting, socialized around the flames, sang, and danced together as they celebrated the end of winter and the beginning of longer days.
The ancient meaning of the festival is both the celebration of the winter crop season and the memory of the Sun God (Surya). Lohri’s songs reference the god of the Indian Sun calling for heat and praising him for his return. Other legends explain the festival as the folk worship of fire (Agni) or the goddess of Lohri.
Another folklore links Lohri to the story of Dulla Bhatti. The central theme of many of Lohri’s songs is the legend of Dulla Bhatti who lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was seen as a hero in Punjab for saving Hindu girls from being forcefully sent to the Middle East slave market.
Celebrations: Bonfire and festive foods
In Punjab, the Lohri harvest festival is characterized by the eating of roasted corn sheaves from the new harvest. The harvest of the sugar cane in January is celebrated at the Lohri festival. Sugarcane products, such as gurh and gachak, are essential to Lohri celebrations, as are nuts harvested in January.
The other essential food item in Lohri is radish, which can be harvested between October and January. Mustard greens are grown primarily during the winter months because they are ideal for agro-climatic conditions. As a consequence, mustard greens are also winter items. It’s common to eat Gajak, Sarson da saag with Makki di roti, radish, groundnuts, and jaggery.
Chajja dance and Hiran dance
Lohri in Jammu is unique because of the different additional rituals associated with it, such as the Chajja making and dancing, the Hiran Dance, the preparation of the Lohri garlands. Young children are preparing a replica of a peacock known as Chajja. They’re bringing this Chajja, and then they’re going from one house to another house celebrating Lohri. Unique Hiran Dance is done in and around Jammu.
Collecting Lohri items and trick or treating
In different parts of Punjab, about 10 to 15 days before Lohri, groups of young and adolescent boys and girls are going around the neighborhood gathering logs for the Lohri bonfire. In certain areas, they also gather commodities, such as grain and jaggery, which are sold, and the proceeds of the sale are split among the classes.
Lohri and the financial year
Historically, during the 19th century, revenues for winter crops were obtained from either Lohri or Maghi.
In the houses that have recently had a marriage or childbirth, the festivities of Lohri will hit a higher degree of enthusiasm. Punjabis typically have private Lohri celebrations in their homes. The Lohri rituals are performed, followed by unique Lohri songs.