With the arrival of 2020, and Lohri right around the corner, it’s time to don in festive attires yet again. In case you belong to Punjab, Himachal Pradesh or Jammu, you would know all about the festival of Lohri. Remember the famous Lohri song from ‘Veer Zara’ starring Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan? This euphoric festival is celebrated every year on the 13th of January.
The History & Story Around The Lohri Fire!
While today the festival is mostly associated with crop harvesting and happiness, in ancient times, the reason for the inception of the festival was quite different. It began long ago when people prayed to the Sun with chants and Lohri songs to protect them from the intense cold. Gradually, people began singing hymns and prayers by circling a ring of fire. The festival was a tribute to the Sun in the hope that the world would get some heat and warmth.
Since Punjab is predominantly an agricultural state, the festival plays an integral part in the life of the people there. Though popular belief has it that Lohri is celebrated to mark the end of peak winter, this festival is traditionally associated with the harvest of the rabi crops. The traditional time to harvest sugarcane crops is January, therefore, Lohri is seen by some to be a harvest festival. And thus, Punjabi farmers see the day after Lohri (Maghi) as the financial New Year.
…. And The Folklore
If you’ve heard Punjabi women going around the fire singing “Sunder mundriye ho!”, you must know the folklore behind the song.
The folklore Sunder Mundriye, is actually the tale of a man called Dulla Bhatti, who is said to have lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Being quite the ‘Robin Hood’ back in the day, Dulla Bhatti used to supposedly steal from the rich, and rescue poor Punjabi girls being taken forcibly to be sold in slave markets. He then went on to arrange their marriages to boys of the village, and provided them with dowries (from the stolen money). Amongst these girls were Sundri and Mundri, who have now come to be associated with Punjab’s folklore, Sunder Mundriye.
Lo Aa Gayi Lohri Ve….
No festival in Punjab would be complete without the effervescent ‘Bhangra’. Traditionally performed by the men of the Sikh community, Bhangra is a sign of a truly happy Lohri! The women usually perform Gidda, which is another form of traditional Punjabi dance. All dance routines are set to the rhythm of dholaks, drums, and other musical instruments. Acrobatics, races, and numerous other games are also an essential part of the traditional celebrations.
The Binge Trail
As anyone who has ever celebrated the festival in full fervour around the bonfire would tell you, gur rewri, peanuts and popcorns are associated with this festival. Besides these, in Punjab’s villages, it is a tradition to eat gajjak, sarson da saag and makki roti on the day of Lohri. It is also traditional to eat ’til rice’–sweet rice made with jaggery (gur) and sesame seeds.
The logic behind consuming these food items is… the general time to sow sugarcane is January to March, and the harvesting period is between December and March. The other important food item of Lohri is radish, which can be harvested between October and January.
Lohri Across India
In Punjab, people celebrate the harvest festival in the name of Lohri, but across India, Lohri celebrations take place in different forms.
In Maharashtra, Lohri is celebrated as the Hadaga festival where people pray for ample rainfall and a bumper harvest. The people in Maharashtra pray to Lord Indra for a plentiful harvest since Indra is the Lord of Rain.
Further east, the Assamese celebrate Bihu or Bohaggiyo. Lohri and Bihu are similar community festivals, but Bihu is entirely non-religious. People of all religions come together to celebrate Bihu every single year.
Ganga Sagar Mela
Ganga Sagar Mela takes place during the same time as Lohri, and is said to be one of the largest fairs of India. Every January, millions of people gather from all around the country to gather in Ganga Sagar. The festival takes place in West Bengal.
Pongal is one of the most famous festivals in Southern India. It takes place around the same time as Lohri. The festival signifies peace and harmony among the people of the world. People from different communities and religions come together to celebrate fraternity and unity.
Lohri and Makar Sakranti fall a day apart. It usually celebrates the end of the winter solstice and takes place every year on January 14. It usually celebrates the journey of the Sun towards Uttarayan.
Uttarayan is celebrated in Gujarat every year on January 14 during the time of the festival to commemorate the Sun. The festival brings people from all communities together across the state.