Almost every culture in the world has festivals related to harvest, where the people pray to the fertility goddess, making an offering of food or valuable items. In India similarly, the onset of the harvest season (the arrival of New Year) is celebrated with Lohri. Celebrated in several Indian states, Lohri is known to be one of the biggest harvest festivals in India. While this festival is primarily celebrated with much flourish in the northern belt of the country in Tamil Nadu, it is called as Pongal and in Assam, it’s called Bihu.
The vibrant festival of Lohri is generally celebrated on the second week of January, to give thanks to the rain (or sun) Gods for the harvests of the year and the festival marks the beginning of the New Year i.e. the beginning of the new farming season.
This year, Lohri falls on January 13, Monday and the preparations for the festivities are on in full swing. It is observed a day before another Hindu festival Makar Sankranti.
Celebrated on the eve of the winter solstice, Lohri marks the bearing of wheat crops, the main rabi (winter) crop. The festival celebrates a good yield and with the festivities, the gods are thanked for the same. This auspicious day signals the end of the long winter months and the beginning of spring full of joy and hope. As Lohri is a day of thanksgiving, it is celebrated with love, ardour, enthusiasm and vigour.
How is Lohri celebrated?
While the festival is said to be mostly celebrated by the Punjabi and Sikh community but Sikh or no Sikh, the beauty of this lively carnival unites people from other religion and communities. The event has huge dashes of delicious foods, loads of family fun, and a large community bonfire. While the bonfire ceremony differs depending on the location in Punjab, the central point of all the action is the BIG BONFIRE- the bigger the better. After the sunset, the bonfire is lit with people singing and dancing to Lohri songs. Food items such as gur rewri(a sweet made of sesame and jaggery), peanuts and popcorn (phulia) are eaten and offered to the Lohri bonfire. As it is a harvest festival, the attendees along with their families pray for abundant crop production in the coming year. Besides these, it’s also traditional to eat gajjak (a sweet made of sesame and sugar), Sarson da saag and Makki di roti on the day of Lohri. If there’s a new marriage or birth in the family, Lohri becomes an even more important festival with members seeking blessings for the new life or the new partnership.
When we mentioned, that people sing and dance, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Singing and dancing forms an intricate part of the celebrations. The excitement around the Lohri bonfire reaches fever pitch with men dancing bhangra (traditional Punjabi folk dance) and women performing the gidda to the beats of a dhol (drum) and local folk songs.
Even as most of north India comes alive during Lohri, some cities celebrate it with even more enthusiasm than the others. So, for those of you who wish to ‘ooh aagyi Lohri ve’ just like Shahrukh Khan in Veer Zara, you can visit Amritsar, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Jalandar and Delhi to go all out for the celebrations. Visit these cities to experience the uniqueness of Lohri and let us know about your experiences in the comments below. “Sunder mundriye ho!”