Lohri

Lohri is a popular festival of North India and is mainly celebrated in the state of Punjab, jammu, Haryana, parts of Himachal Pradesh and Delhi where there is a significant Punjabi population.  The festival is celebrated on the 13th day in the month of January andmarks the end of the cold winter months.  Lohri is celebrated with extreme joy in Punjab.
People dance and make merry around the bonfires, which are lit for the festival.  Greater enthusiasm for Lohri celebrations can be seen families where there has been a marriage of a son or a son is born.  Lohri also signifies the harvest time of Rabi crops and farmers are extremely jubilant about the celebrations.  Lot of fun and frolic marks the festival,  Punjab’s very famous ‘makke di roti and sarson da saag’ is relished with a variety of other delicacies.

When did this festival start?

The history of Lohri, a seasonal festival of North India, is as old as that of story of Indus Valley civilisation itself. The Festival of Lohri marks the beginning of the end of winter and the coming of spring and the Hindu New Year.  The fires lit at night, the hand warming, the song and dance and the coming together, some of the features of this festival.
The Lohri of North India coincides with Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in Bengal, Magha Bihu in Assam, Tai Pongal in Kerala, all celebrated on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti.  There are some interesting socio-cultural and folk legends connected with Lohri. According to the cultural history of Punjab, Bhattim a Rajput tribe during the reign of Akbar, inhabited parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat (now in Pakistan). Dulla Bhatti, Raja of Pindi Bhattian, was put to death by the Mughal king for revolting against him.  The tribal mirasis (street signers) trace the history of the tribe and, interestingly, claim Maharaja Ranjit Singh as one of its scions.
Lohri is essentially a festival dedicate to fire and the Sun God.  It is the time when the Sun transits the zodiac sign Makar (Capricorn), and moves towards the north.  In astrological terms, this is referred to as the Sun becoming Uttarayan. The new configuration lessens the ferocity of winter, and brings warmth to earth.  It is to word off the bitter chill of the month of January that people light bonfires, dance around it in a mood of bonhomie and celebrate Lohri.
Fire is associated with concepts of life and health.  Fire, like water, is a symbol of transformation and regeneration.  It is the representative of the Sun, and is thus related on the one hand, with rays of light and, on the other, with gold.  It is capable of stimulating the growth of cornfields and the well being of man and animals.  It is the imitative magic purporting to assure the supply of light and heat.  It is also an image of energy and spiritual strength. That is why the Lohri fire gets sanctified and is venerated like a deity.
Groups of children moved from door to door, singing the Dulla Bhatti folk-song: “Dulla Bhatti ho! Dulle ne dhi viyahi ho! Ser Shankar pai ho!” (Dulla gave his daughter a kilo of sugar as a marriage gift).
On this occasion, people offer peanuts, popcorn and sweets made of til chirva, gajak and revri to propitiate fire as a symbol of the Sun god.

Significance of day of Lohri

The date of Lohri is considered extremely auspicious by Hindus as it marks the Sun’s journey in Uttarayan (northward) for a six-month period (from 14 January lasting till 14 July) as opposed to southward or Dakshinayan movement.  The festival also marks the last day of the month of Maargazhim the ninth month of the lunar calendr. The unique date of the festival is also referred to as maker Sankaranti signifying the Sun’s entry into Makara or Capricorn zodiac.  This very propitious day is celebrated as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and the Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Celebrations

Lohri is particularly a happy occasion for farmers.  For them it is the time to relam after days of toil of cutting and gathering grains and other food crops.  They are happy with the harvest of the Rabi (winter crop) and are in full mood to enjoy the festival to the hilt.  Best of Punjabi bhangra and gidda performance can be seen during the festival of Lohri.  For a bride her first Lohri holds a lot of significance.  The festivities are doubled as relatives and friends pour in to give their best wishes to the newly wed. The same is the case in the family where a child, especially a son, is born.  Essential part of the Lohri dinner is the world famous make di roti and sarson da saag.