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Our Indian culture is full of colourful festivals and vibrant traditions that bring friends and family together for stimulating chat, yummy treats, and hours of soulful music- all while dancing the night away. Amidst the chilly cold weather and the dense fog outside, everything seems motionless in North India. However, you will be stunned to find an intense wave of activity going on. People in the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, are busy making preparations for the long- awaited bonfire festival – Lohri. It is more than just a festival for the Punjabis. The people of Punjab are sturdy, jovial, fun-loving, energetic, and robust. Lohri is symbolic of their love for celebrations and exhibition of enthusiasm.

Origin of the Name

The word Lohri is derived from two words “til” and “rorhi” meaning sesame and jaggery respectively. These two words together created “tilohri” which gradually became “Lohri”. Both til and rorhi are said to cleanse the body from within and bring renewed energy thus getting you ready and revived for the new season.

Significance of Lohri Festival

In the state of Punjab, the breadbasket of India, the main winter crop wheat is sown in the month of October and harvested in March or April. The festival of Lohri is celebrated before cutting and gathering the crop. The celebration is an indication of the end of winter season and start of the spring. Everyone celebrate Lohri to get fertility and prosperity for whole life. Lohri almost overlaps with the festivals of Makar Sankranti, Pongal, and Uttarayan all of which communicate the same message of unity and celebrates the spirit of brotherhood.

The History

According to the lunar calendar, Lohri is the traditional harvest festival of Punjab that is celebrated each year in the month of January. It is one of the most joyful occasions for the Punjabis especially where has been a recent wedding or the birth of a son. Coming at the end of the winter season, it marks the last day of the Paush month and beginning of the Magha month. It is at this time that the fields shine with the primary North Indian crop –wheat. Lohri, one of the happiest occasion for every Punjabi is dedicated to the Sun God and Fire. Both are the largest source of energy and spiritual strength. People offer prasad in the form of popcorn, peanuts, gajak, revri, til-chidwa etc. The festival is celebrated by both Hindus and Sikhs.

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Lohri Celebrations

In the morning on Lohri Day, children go from door to door singing and asking for the Lohri loot which is basically in the form of money and traditional sweets.

The Bonfire Ceremony

In the evening, after the sunset, people gather with their family and friends to light huge bonfires as a symbolic depiction of the God of Fire, Agni. Gathering around the bonfire, people circle around it and throw puffed rice, rewri, popcorn, sesame seeds, gajak and other munchies. They sing famous folk songs and pray fire god to bless the land with prosperity and abundance. People meet friends and relatives after the parikrama, distribute Prasad and exchange gifts. The Prasad mainly consist of five main items including peanuts, til, gajak, popcorn and jaggery. People enjoy eating Winter savouries around the bonfire which includes Sarson ka saag and Makki ki roti.

lohri photoPhoto by sidhu.1313

Song & Dance

On this day everyone wears beautiful traditional clothes and dance on the beat of Dhol. Bhangra and Gidda dance by men and women begins once the offering to the bonfire is done. The festival of Lohri is of great importance for the new born babies and newly- wed couples for the first time in their home. On this day newly-wed bride gets lots of gifts including clothes and jewellery from her in- laws. Family from both sides get together in this grand celebration. Everyone give blessings to the couple for their better life and happy future. In the same manner, the first Lohri of a new born baby is also celebrated in a grand way. Both maternal and paternal grandparents give gifts and blessings to the baby.

Lohri, like most Indian festivals, is spirited with history, folk- tales, culture, traditions, dancing and, of course, Indian cuisine! Happy Celebrating!

Lohri – The Bonfire Festival

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