Happy Lohri – A Harvest Festival Celebrated with Joy and Enthusiasm
Lohri is celebrated every year on 13 January marking the end of winter solstice and the beginning of the spring harvest. It is one of the popular winter harvest festivals of North India. Lohri signifies the approach of longer days and shorter nights as the winter season comes to an end.
History and Origin of Lohri Festival
The origins and history of Lohri date back centuries. According to Indian mythology, Lohri festival commemorates the story of Dulla Bhatti. Dulla Bhatti was an outlaw who used to rob rich people and distribute the wealth among the poor. During the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Dulla Bhatti saved Hindu girls from the clutches of Prime Minister Raja Sikhandar Lodhi, who wanted to capture and marry the girls by force. Dulla Bhatti rescued the girls by hiding them in the fields at night. To fend off the cold in winter nights, bonfires were lit and the girls used to sing and dance around the bonfires. That is believed to be the origin of Lohri.
Over the centuries, Lohri has come to symbolize prosperity, joy and hope. It is celebrated to commemorate the end of winter, arrival of spring as sun journeys towards northern solstice. Agricultural traditions were an integral part of Lohri celebrations in rural India. Lohri also marks the start of the Rabi sowing season.
Significance of Lohri Bonfire
The most important part of the Lohri festival is the Lohri bonfire. People gather around the bonfire in evenings, singing and dancing. According to customs, people toss sesame, popcorn, peanuts, rewaris into the fire while praying for the well-being of family members. Jawar or Bajra crop stalks are also added to the bonfire. The flames are believed to destroy the previous year’s troubles and misfortunes and bring prosperity and good luck for the New Year.
Symbolic offerings are also made to the bonfire seeking blessings. It is considered auspicious to circulate around the bonfire in a clockwise manner and offer prayers seeking health, wealth, happiness and protection. Siblings also take blessings from elders. The bonfire is believed to please the sun gods and to ensure a good harvest.
Traditions and Rituals Associated with Lohri
– Singing folk songs – Traditional Lohri folk songs highlighting the significance of harvest are sung around the bonfire.
– Eating popcorn and rewaris – Popcorn, peanuts and rewaris made from jaggery are shared among family and community members while cirulating the bonfire.
– Wearing new clothes – People wear new colorful clothes to celebrate Lohri and welcome the new harvest season.
– Applying tilak – Sesame and rice tilaks are applied to each other’s forehead for prosperity and wellbeing.
– Dancing to folk tunes – Folk dances like bhangra and gidda are performed around the bonfire to folk music and songs.
– Jumping across the bonfire – It is believed that jumping across the bonfire seven times will bless individuals with health, wealth and fulfillment of wishes in coming year.
– Taking blessings – Elders’ blessings are sought for good fortune and bright future. Money, sweets and gifts are exchanged.
– Wishing each other – “Happy Lohri” greetings are exchanged among family, friends, relatives and community members.
Preparations for Lohri
Families and villagers alike prepare for Lohri festival with lot of enthusiasm and joy. Preparations begin days in advance and involves –
– Collecting firewood and fuels for bonfire – Dry branches, straw, jute are collected.
– Preparing sesame seeds, popcorn, peanuts – Sesame seeds are roasted and popcorn and peanuts are prepared in bulk quantities.
– Making rewaris and til puddings – Traditional sweets like rewaris made from jaggery and sesame seeds or til pudding are prepared.
– Decorating houses and bonfire venue – Houses and the designated bonfire venue are decorated with lights, flowers and rangolis.
– Preparing for performances – People rehearse folk songs and dances that will be presented around the bonfire.
– Shopping for new clothes – Family members buy new colorful clothes and accessories to don on Lohri.
– Inviting relatives and friends – Preparations are completed to invite near and dear ones to enjoy the harvest festival together.
Celebrating Lohri Across India
The way Lohri is celebrated may vary across different parts of India depending on regional culture and traditions but the spirit remains the same –
– Punjab – Lohri is majorly celebrated in Punjab as one of their most important festivals. Folk dances bhangra and gidda are enjoyed in their full zeal.
– Haryana – People celebrate Lohri by singing folk songs and circling the holy bonfire called loh-aati. Food items prepared are popcorn, rewaris and til rice.
– Himachal Pradesh – Bonfires are lit in apple orchards. People thank nature gods for their bountiful harvest by singing folk songs and dancing.
– Uttar Pradesh – Sikh communities light bonfires and distribute popcorn, peanuts and sweets to celebrate happiness of harvest.
– Delhi – Lohri celebrations are vibrant in Punjabi neighborhoods with bonfires, folk dances and traditional food.
– Rajasthan – Shepherds and villagers celebrate Lohri and Makar Sankranti together marking end of winter and start of cropping season.
So in essence, wherever there are Sikh or Punjabi communities found, the harvest festival of Lohri is celebrated with the same zeal and fervor across India and overseas. People partake in the culinary delights and cultural programs wholeheartedly.
Significance of Lohri in Modern Times
While agricultural traditions were an integral part of Lohri celebrations in older times, the festival has taken a more socio-cultural outlook in current metropolitan scenario. Some of the notable points highlighting the contemporary significane of Lohri include:
– Community bonding – Lohri promotes unity, brotherhood and togetherness within families and neighborhoods.
– Cultural practices – Folk art forms like songs, dance and traditional attire keep the rich cultural heritage alive.
– Religious beliefs – Rituals like circling the bonfire and praying uphold spiritual and religious values.
– Environmental awareness – The bonfire symbolizes burning pollutants and moving towards cleaner and greener planet.
– Sustainable lifestyle – Simpler agricultural based traditions inspire leading an organic and environment-friendly life.
– Wellbeing and prosperity – Wishes for health, wealth, knowledge and overall wellbeing and affluence are associated.
So in a nutshell, modern day Lohri underlines preserving cultural ethos, bringing people together through fellowship and reconnecting with roots while remaining eco-conscious.
How is Lohri Celebrated World Over
The harvest festival spirit of Lohri is equally celebrated with fervor in international Punjabi communities across the world –
– United Kingdom – Lohri functions are organized by Gurdwaras in London, Birmingham and other major cities of UK.
– Canada – Annual Lohri Melas in Brampton, Surrey and Vancouver attract huge crowds of Punjabi diaspora.
– United States – Large scale Lohri celebrations occur in Delhi towns of New Jersey, Los Angeles and Chicago.
– Australia – Lohri festivities are a major event in Melbourne and Sydney where Punjabis have set up homes.
– New Zealand – Cultural programs and community events mark the harvest festival in Auckland attended by locals too.
– Middle East – Lohri adds splash of cheer to Gulf countries home to many Indian and Punjabi expat workers.
So the spirit of togetherness, dances, music and culinary heritage of motherland flows unhindered beyond borders on the joyous occasion of Lohri worldwide. Video calling and social media further helps diaspora stay connected to their roots even while being overseas.
In conclusion, Lohri is a harvest festival that continues to retain its deep agricultural and folk heritage despite passage of time. While older traditions remain, it has also evolved to take on new socio-cultural significance, especially in present urban scenario. At its heart however, Lohri celebrates abundance, fellowship and gratitude towards Mother Nature for bountiful harvest. It is a festival that brings communities and families closer in true festive spirit of sharing, caring and fun. May the warmth of bonfire and happiness of Lohri light our lives throughout the year!