Indians’ religious nature makes this country a land of festivals. Earlier, they used to celebrate various moments like the ploughing day, the harvesting day, change in season, incidents related to religion etc. In fact, there was something to celebrate every single day and thus people across various regions were busy celebrating something or the other every single day. Now with lives getting busier, we manage to celebrate a few of the major festivals.
There are few festivals that have religious origins and are celebrated throughout the country. Diwali, Holi, Eid, Christmas etc. fall in this category. Then there are few festivals that are primarily popular in a particular region and entwine the cultural and religious significance of that region specifically. Lohri is one such festival that is linked to seasonal change and harvest and is basically a Punjabi folk festival.
This is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm by the Sikhs and Hindus of the Punjab region in the Indian subcontinent. It is related to both the onset of the harvest season in the region and also marks the end of the winter solstice.
The festival marks the harvest of Rabi crops, which were sown during the winter months. Now with the crop ready, the farmers offer grains from the first harvest to Agni or the God of Fire and offer their prayers and thanks. It can also be referred to as the thanksgiving for farmers.
Another belief that commemorates with Lohri is that according to the lunar calendar, it is the longest night of the year. People welcome the sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere, which results in longer days.
Bonfire is an integral part of the celebration in this festival. The bonfire symbolizes the God of Fire, Agni. People gather around it at night dressed up beautifully, singing and dancing around it. They also offer rewri, sesame seeds, gajak, chikki, jaggery, peanuts, puffed rice etc. to Agni to convey their thanks to the God of Fire. After the bonfire ritual, they enjoy dinner.
All foods that represent winter are eaten like Sarson ka saag (mustard leaves), til (sesame) and rorhi (jaggery). It is perhaps the words til and rorhi that together were called ’tilorhi’ in the root of the word Lohri. Over time, tilorhi got rechristened as Lohri.
Lohri is observed a night before Makar Sankranti. ‘Makar Sankranti’, which is celebrated on the very next day, marks the beginning of bright and sunny days ahead. If the folklore is to be believed, then the flames of the fire that arise from the bonfire carry the messages of those living in cold conditions on the earth to the sun to come back to the northern hemisphere. It is because of that the sun moves to the northern hemisphere and the days start getting warm and sunny and the gloomy winter days come to an end.