Lohri: Origin, significance and celebrations
This festival is celebrated by both communities- the Hindu and the Sikh. Since it is a festival to worship fire, a holy bonfire is lit which also signifies passing of the winter solstice.
Lohri, one of the most auspicious festivals in the north is celebrated every year on 13th of January. It is a festival that worships fire. In north India, Lohri is as old as that of the story of Indus Valley civilization itself.
The festival of Lohri is celebrated to mark the start of the harvest season calling for a celebration in many parts of northern India, especially in Punjab. This festival is celebrated by both communities- the Hindu and the Sikh. Since it is a festival to worship fire, a holy bonfire is lit which also signifies passing of the winter solstice. Lohri as a festival officially marks the end of the chilly winter and welcomes the warmth of summer. Lohri coincides with many other festivals like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magha Bihu in Assam, Tai Pongal in Kerala, all celebrated on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti.
Lohri is derived from the main character called Dulla Bhatti from most Lohri songs. He was a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Besides robbing the rich, he was known to rescue many Hindu girls being abducted to be sold in the slave market of the Middle East. He rescued the girls and got them married to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowries. Though being a bandit, he was a hero for all Punjabis and highly respected, so most of the Lohri songs have words thanking gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.
Some also believe that Lohri has been derived from the word Loi, the wife of Sant Kabir, for in rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi. While others believe that Lohri gets its name from the word 'loh', which in Punjabi means a thick iron sheet tawa used for baking chapattis for community feasts. Another myth derived from Ramayana, states that Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former sister perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived.
Lohri marks the end of the long bitterly winter (mid-Dec to mid-Jan) followed by Makar Sankranti the next day, welcomes the bright summer. Lohri is particularly a very important and happy occasion for the newlywed couples and also the newborn members of the family.
Traditions of Lohri:
The festival Lohri signifies the harvesting of the Rabi crops. In Punjab and Haryana, harvested fields and front yards are set up on flames as bonfires, around which people gather to meet friends and relatives and sing folk songs. For Punjabis, this is more than just a festival; Lohri celebrates fertility and the joy of family and life. In the morning, children go from door to door singing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti and are usually offered money and sweets. In the evening, people gather around bonfires, throw sweets, puffed rice, and popcorn into the flames, sing popular folk songs and exchange greetings.
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