Lohri is celebrated on 13th January.
Lohri is celebrated by the Punjabis.
Festivals in India are epidemic. No matter where they originate and become a tradition, they soon spread their fragrances to other regions of the country. The Lohri festival is one fine example in the regard. Its birthplace is Punjab. However, the exact date of its origin if not sure. Nevertheless, the spirit and essence of this festival have gripped states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Bengal, Orissa and Jammu.
Lohri is celebrated in the mid of January every year. The significance of this festival is the worship of fire. All the Punjabi families in India and abroad enjoy it with great fervour. This occasion is special for the newly married couple and the families who are blessed with a baby boy. Though the entire day is full of happiness, the bash takes momentum during the evening time. As the Punjabis are of the opinion that date of celebration is the longest night of the year, which is not, they live up the whole night and enjoy with their family and friends.
The south Indian people also celebrate it, but with another name. They call it Pongal and have a different way to mark this day. There, the inclination and the importance of this day is more towards thanking the God for good harvest. The name of this festival in West is Ganga Sagara. The Hindus take a bath in the holy river, as they believe the holy water purifies their sins.
Punjabis observe this day to remember the heroic deeds of Dulla Bhatti. The tale of his deeds is narrated on this day. He was the hero of Punjab during the reign of Akbar. During those times, when Hindus girls were abducted and sold to the Middle East, he rescued them with his bravery. He used to get those girls married to Hindus boys bearing all the expenses on his own. He was the Indian version of Robin Hood who used to rob rich and distribute the booty among poor.
Significance of Lohri
This festival is the time when people of Punjab get to see their efforts shaping up in what is going to be a good harvest. The sweat they so diligently shed in the fields for planting the seeds of wheat in the month of October has grown up and is shaping up for cutting in March or April. Hence, they celebrate Lohri in the mid of January (13th January) to enjoy the respite period before the harvest.
Hindus take out time to do some atonement. The distance between the earth and the Sun starts lessening from this period indicating the end of winter. From here, the Hindu calendar marks the beginning of the month of Magh and Uttaryan, which means the journey of the earth towards the Sun. On this day, Lord Krishna appeared in various forms on earth. Hindus have the opinion that braving the cold weather and having a bath in the icy water of the holy river Ganges removes all their sins.
Celebration of Lohri
This festival is more like a community celebration. Children in villages start collecting contribution from the neighbourhood. The festive spirit among people are so high that nobody denies and donate money, wood, and ingredients such as sesame seeds, peanuts, rewri, jaggery, sweets and anything to their capacities.
In the evening, people gather at a large central location to burn a huge bonfire. In a group, they circle around the fire and perform the Parikrama. This ritual is practiced to honour the God of Fire in a hope to assimilate the bright and shiny flames of the fire in their life and to destroy all the poverty with its heat. Once the eatables are offered to the Fire and it is consecrated, it is distributed to all as prasad which is made from sesame seeds, jaggery, peanuts, gajak and popcorn.
Then, the celebration starts with Bhangra dance, a traditional dance form of Punjab recognized world over for its rhythmic steps and the drum beats. Both women and men join in this dance. Women also perform the gidda dance that is yet another famous dance form originated in Punjab and specially done by females. They greet each other and wish for the good harvest. Gifts and sweets are exchanged with all. At the end, people enjoy the traditional dish the Punjabis are known for - makki-di-roti and sarson-da-saag. The rolled bread is made from corn flour and the saag from green vegetables.
This festival also marks the entry of the Sun into the Makar Rashi. This day is extremely sacred according to the Hindu calendar and hence celebrated in the whole country with different names. For other states of India, it is the harvest festival and the start of the New Year.
Lohri brings joy and the beginning of good crops. The happiness and celebration touch the sky, especially if the family is welcoming a baby boy or arranging a marriage ceremony. The merry-making and the feast held during this time is beyond imagination.