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Indians are known as a bunch of people who celebrate some or the other festival throughout the year. The year begins with the Lohri and Makar Sankranti celebrations all over the country. Lohri is celebrated with great fervour in the Punjab region.
Lohri is traditionally a bonfire festival. It is a popular winter harvest festival which is celebrated mainly in Punjab. Lohri is generally celebrated on 13th of January every year but the dates differ sometimes according to the various calendars.
It is amazing to see people celebrating this festival with so much enthusiasm in the freezing cold weather, when life in North India comes to a standstill. People light a bonfire, sing folk songs, dance around the bonfire, cook delicious food items and spend the night by staying up. Lohri is more than just a festival, especially for the people of Punjab. Punjabis are a fun-loving, sturdy, robust, energetic, enthusiastic and jovial race, and Lohri is symbolic of their love for celebrations and light-hearted flirtations and exhibition of exuberance.
Here are the reasons why Lohri is celebrated with such enthusiasm. Take a look.
According to the folklores, the day of Lohri is supposed to be the longest night of the year. Therefore people light bonfires to keep off the cold as they stay up all night and spend the longest night of the year, celebrating. However, scientifically the shortest day of the year is around 21-22 December after which the days begin to get longer. Accordingly, winter solstice begins on 21 December or 22 December and Lohri ought to be celebrated on the day of winter solstice which is followed by Makar Sankranti.
Photo Courtesy: Lakshman Anand
On the morning of Lohri, children go from door to door singing and asking for wood for the bonfire. It is the Indian version of 'trick-or-treat' which is knwon as the 'Lohri loot' in which they demand money or eatables like til, gur, peanuts etc. They sing in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich to help the poor, and once helped a miserable village girl out of her misery by getting her married off like his own sister.
The bonfire lit of the night of Lohri is the most imporatnt part of the rituals. After the sun sets, huge bonfires are erected and lit in the front yards of the houses. People gather around the bonfire and circle around it, throwing puffed rice and other munchies into the fire. They shout "Aadar aye dilather jaye" (May honor come and poverty vanish!), and sing popular folk songs. This is a sort of prayer to Agni, the fire god, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity. 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.
Photo Courtesy: Amrit Pal Singh
Songs & Dance
People of Punjab are the most fun loving folks. They perform their famous Bhangra dance and sing folk songs on Lohri. Dancing continues till late night with new groups joining in amid the beat of drums. Traditionally, women do not join Bhangra. They hold a separate bonfire in their courtyard circling it with the graceful gidda dance.
The Indian Thanksgiving
Lohri can be rightly called as the Indian version of Thanksgiving. It offers a chance to people so that they can take a break from their busy schedules and share each others company. It is a time to be thankful to the Almighty for the all the abundance and properity He has bestowed upon us.
Photo Courtesy: @southasianartuk
Significance Of Lohri
Punjab is the bread basket of India. Wheat is the main winter crop in this region which is sown somewhere around October. In January, these crops become ripe and promise a golden harvest. People celebrate Lohri at this time to thank God before gathering or cutting the crops. 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, and announcing the start of the month of Magh and the auspicious period of Uttarayan.