Lohri is the Indian
version of an annual thanksgiving day and an extremely popular harvest
festival in India, especially Northern India. Come January, and the fields
of Punjab are filled with the golden harvest of wheat and farmers celebrate
Lohri during this rest period before the harvesting and gathering of crops.
Lohri is usually celebrated in the outdoors by friends and family who get
together and have a bonfire in the evening.
During the day, children go from door to door
singing folk songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a thief in folklore who helps
the poor and fights for their rights. These children are given sweets and
savories, and occasionally, money. These collections are known as Lohri, and
they are distributed at night during the festival. Some may be offered to
the sacred fire. Peanuts, popcorn and other food items are also thrown into
the fire as an offering to the God of Fire, Agni.
The origin of the Lohri can be traced back to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. By
the end of the first week of January, small groups of boys ring the doorbell
of houses and start chanting the Lohri songs related to Dulla Bhatti. In
turn, the people give them popcorn, peanuts, crystal sugar, sesame seeds (til)
or gur as well as money. Turning them back empty-handed is regarded
Lohri marks the end of winter on the last day of Paush, and beginning of
Magha (around January 12 and 13), when the sun changes its course. It is
associated with the worship of the sun and fire and is observed by all
communities with different names, as Lohri is an exclusively Punjabi
festival. The questions like When it began and why is lost in the mists of
The origin of Lohri is related to the central character of most Lohri songs
is Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during the
reign of Emperor Akbar. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls
being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East. He
arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them
with dowries. Understandably, though a bandit, he became a hero of all
Punjabis. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla
Some believe that Lohri has derived its name from Loi, the wife of Sant
Kabir, for in rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi. Others believe that
Lohri comes from the word 'loh', a thick iron sheet tawa used for baking
chapattis for community feasts. Another legend says that Holika and Lohri
were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi fire, the latter
survived. Eating of til (sesame seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is considered to
be essential on this day. Perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become
tilorhi, which eventually got shortened to Lohri.
Ceremonies that go with the festival of Lohri usually consists of making a
small image of the Lohri goddess with gobar (cattle dung), decorating it,
kindling a fire beneath it and chanting its praises. The final ceremony is
to light a large bonfire at sunset, toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and
rewaries in it, sit round it, sing, dance till the fire dies out. People
take dying embers of the fire to their homes. In Punjabi village homes, fire
is kept going round the clock by use of cow-dung cakes.
Time of Lohri
According to the Hindu calendar, Lohri falls in mid-January (13th January).
The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey
towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year and announcing
the start of the summer season.
Lohri Celebrations in other Parts
Lohri is celebrated throughout the country in different forms, as a harvest
Pongal in the South, Bhugali Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh,
Sankranti in Karnataka and the central part of the country.
Though modes of celebrating Lohri in India are different, but the message
conveyed by the festival, that of setting aside differences and rejoicing by
celebrating the end of the harvest season and the chilly winter is the same