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|Observed by||Punjabis, and other North Indians|
|Celebrations||Bonfire, song and dance|
Lohri (Punjabi: ਲੋਹੜੀ (Gurmukhi), लोहड़ी (Devanagari), لوہڑی (Shahmukhi)) (sometimes spelled Lodi) is an extremely popular harvest festival in India, especially North India. Lohri is usually celebrated in the outdoors by friends and family who get together and have a bonfire in the evening. It may be considered the Indian equivalent of Christmas. Lohri signifies onset of intense winter in Punjab and surrounding areas. Cold weather is good for wheat hence farmers celebrate Lohri so that their crops lead to a good harvest.
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.
According to the Hindu Solar Calendar, Lohri falls in the month of Paush i.e. around 13 January, as per the Gregorian calendar. The earth, is closest to the sun at this point in time (despite a common misconception that the Earth's distance from the sun correlates with the seasons of the northern hemisphere).
It is, actually, celebrated a day before Makara Sankranthi, as it marks the end of the winter season. The sun usually enters the Nirayana Makara rashi (Capricorn) on January 14 (99% of the time). However, there are times when the sun could enter the zodiac a day before or a day after January 14. Regardless, Lohri is still celebrated a day before Makar Sankranti. Makara sankranti marks beginning of the solar magha masa, and Lohri must be celebrated on the last day of the solar Paush masa, which also marks the exit of the sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius).
History and Significance
Lohri is Punjabs celebration of the winter solstice. Instead of celebrating Lohri on the day of the winter solstice, Punjabi's celebrate it on the last day of the month during which winter solstice takes place, Paush. People believe the Lohri night is meant to be the longest night of the year and on the day after Lohri, day light is meant to increase. Punjabi farmers also see the day after Lohri as the financial new year.
Over time, people have associated Lohri 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 inauspicious.
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 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 Bhatti.
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 around the clock by use of cow-dung cakes.
While Lohri is essentially a Punjabi festival, it is celebrated in some other states of North India as well. In cities like Delhi, which have a predominant Punjabi population, Lohri is celebrated to denote the last of the coldest days of winter. Apart from Punjab, people from other northern Indian states of Haryana, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh, become busy making preparations for Lohri.
In houses that have recently had a marriage or childbirth, Lohri celebrations will reach a higher pitch of excitement. Punjabis usually have private Lohri celebrations, in their houses. Lohri rituals are performed, with the accompaniment of special Lohri songs. A bonfire is made and a prayer is performed to Agni, the god of Fire, and Prasad is distributed. The prasad comprises five main foods - til, gachchak, gur, moongphali (peanuts) and phuliya or popcorn. Milk and water are also poured around the bonfire by Hindus. This ritual is performed for thanking the Sun God and seeking his continued protection.
Singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their brightest clothes and come to dance the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. Punjabi songs are sung, and everybody rejoices. Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti is usually served as the main course at a Lohri dinner. Lohri is a great occasion that does not hold importance for farmers alone but also to those people residing in the urban area, as this festival provide the opportunity to interact with family and friends.
By the end of the first week of January, small groups of boys go ringing doorbells and chanting some kind of doggerel with each line ending in “ho”. Lohri songs are rhymed nonsense, at times very funny.For example:
Saalee paireen juttee
Jeevey Sahib dee kuttee
Kuttee no nikalya phoraa
Jeevey sahib da ghora
Ghorey uttay kaathee
Jeevey sahib da haathee
Haathee maarya padd
Dey maaee daanya da chajj
(My sister-in-law has slippers on her feet/ Long may live the Sahib’s bitch./ The bitch developed a sore/ Long live the Sahib’s horse./ The horse has a saddle/ Long live the Sahib’s elephant/ The elephant let out a loud fart/ It gave the old woman a start.)
Also every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti(The 'ho's are in chorus):
Sunder mundriye ho!
Tera kaun vicaharaa ho!
Dullah bhatti walla ho!
Dullhe di dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho!
Kudi da laal pathaka ho!
Kudi da saalu paatta ho!
Salu kaun samete!
Chache choori kutti! zamidara lutti!
bade bhole aaye!
Ek bhola reh gaya!
Sipahee far ke lai gaya!
Sipahee ne mari eet!
Sanoo de de lohri te teri jeeve jodi!(Cry or howl!)
Bhaanvey ro te bhaanvey pit!
Who will think about you
He is dulla bhatti Dulla's daughter got married
He gave 1 kg sugar!
The girl is wearing a red suit!
But her shawl is torn!
Who will stitch her shawl?!
The uncle made choori!
The landlords looted it!
Landlords are beaten up!
Lots of innocent boys came
One innocent boy got left behind
The police arrested him!
The policeman hit him with a brick!
Cry or howl!
Give us lohri ..long live your couple!
Whether you cry, or bang your head later!
- ↑ "Origin of Lohri". http://www.lohrifestival.org.
- ↑ Singh, Khushwant (January 24, 2004). "A letter from Pakistan". The Telegraph. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1040124/asp/opinion/story_2816036.asp. Retrieved December 2009.
- ↑ "Dhulla Bhatti Song". http://www.lohrifestival.org/lohri-boys-songs.html.