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The festival of Lohri is extremely prominent amongst Punjabis. Its real essence and significance can be felt in North India, and more precisely in the regions of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu.
Basically a bonfire festival, Lohri commemorates for the harvesting of Rabi crops (winter crops). These are sown during the month of October and harvested during the months of March or April. In January, when farmers are preparing themselves for harvesting the crops, they celebrate this festival with extreme pleasure and fervor. Punjabis are known for their fervent and jovial nature, and that gets pretty reflected in the way they celebrate their festivals. Lohri is one occasion truly reflects on the same.
Besides this aspect of significance, there are few other factors which contribute to its essence. The time when it is celebrated is a mark of point of fading off of winters. The coldest month of Paush ends, the month of Magh initiates, and the auspicious period of Uttarayan gets started. As stated in Bhagawad Gita, it is at this time of the year when Lord Krishna manifests himself in his full magnificence. All this adds up to its significance.
Time of Celebration
It is celebrated during the days when the region is passing through the yearly phase of extreme cold weather. However, the extreme cold weather conditions certainly do not hold back anyone to be a part of its celebration, which is high on aspects of joy, enthusiasm, and energy. Traditionally, this festival was used to be celebrated on winter solstice. However, at present, it is instead celebrated on the last day of that month in which winter solstice takes place. According to Georgian calendar, it falls in the month of January.
Rituals and Celebrations
1. Preparations for Lohri celebrations start as soon as the day arrives.
2. Small children form groups and move out, visiting each and every household in their respective locality, asking for Lohri loot. People on their part present them with money, and eatables such as til (sesame seeds), jaggery (Gur), peanuts, and conventional sweets of the day (gajak, rewari, etc.). While moving around, small children sing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, who gained prominence out of his generous nature.
3. The highlight of the festival is the bonfire ritual which is performed in the evening. As soon as sun sets down, people along with their families come out of their houses to gather at one community place where the ritual has been decided to be performed. In villages, bonfire is set amidst the harvesting fields. As soon as enough paper gathers around, bonfire is lit.
4. People perform Parikrama (move around in a circle), while throwing popcorns, puffed rice, rewari, and peanuts into the fire. While doing so, people keep on singing “Aadar Aaye, Dilather Jaaye” in adoration to Lord Agni (fire) which means that ‘may honor come and poverty vanishes’.
5. After that, people offer greetings to everyone present around. Prasad (offerings made to God), which is comprised of til, gajak, rewary, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn, is distributed amongst everyone.
6. The strong beats and sounds of Dhol, along with the passionate folk songs representing the mood of celebration compel everyone to groove. Performing the conventional Bhangra and Gidda dance is a very intrinsic part of celebration. This goes on for as long as the energy survives.
7. In the end, everyone is served with traditional dinner, comprised of famous Punjabi foodstuff of ‘Makki di Roti’ and ‘Sarson Da Saag’.
The very first Lohri as celebrated after a marriage or birth of a newborn gets extremely important. The festival as well as the way it is celebrated becomes grander than ever.
Other RitualsBesides Punjabis, Hindus see it as one extremely auspicious opportunity when they can get rid of all their sins by taking a bath in the sacred Ganges. This is performed on the very next day, which is referred as ‘Maghi’, or the day marking the beginning of the month of Magh. Also, sweets dishes (usually Kheer) are prepared to mark the auspiciousness of the day.
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