National Hindu Students Forum (UK)

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Lohri 2011

By Sanjay Parekh
NHSF Learning Team

13th January 2011 (Paush Sud 13 - Hindu calendar)

Lohri is a two day harvest festival, celebrated in North India, predominantly by people living in Punjab and Haryana. As the sun enters the northern hemisphere or Makar Rashi (Capricorn star sign), Lohri marks the end of the winter and the start of spring. This transition is also celebrated as Makar Sankranti (see Makar Sankranti article) by Hindus in other regions of India.

As a harvest festival, Lohri promotes gratitude towards God for his creation and provisions, and hence celebrating the joys of life. For farmers who depend on a fruitful harvest, Lohri is not a festival, but a celebration of life.

Celebrations & Rituals

Following the harvest, farmers are able to rest and join in the celebrations, which are plentiful.

  • Children go from door to door singing songs and collecting Lohri, in the form of sweets, money etc
  • The bonfire is the focal point of Lohri. People gather around them to meet their family and friends, and sing and dance to folk songs 
    • Circling the bonfire and by throwing puffed rice, popcorn, sesame seeds and Lohri into the fire, people pay homage to Agni, the fire god
    • They ask for their land to be blessed with abundance and prosperity and for them to have sons
  • People exchange gifts and share prashad (offerings to God). The prashad comprises of 5 main items: 
    • Til (sesame seeds)
    • Gajak (sesame snap-like sweet)
    • Gur (jaggery)
    • Moonghphali (peanuts)
    • Phuliya (popcorn)
  • The traditional meal served on this day is Makki-ki-Roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and Sarson-ka-Saag (cooked mustard herbs)
  • Traditional folk dancing, Gidda, and Bhangra are accompanied by the Dhol to mark the celebrations
  • In the homes of a new-born son or a newlywed man, Lohri assumes greater significance:
    • Sweets made of molasses and sesame seed are sent to relatives and friends
  • The day after Lohri is known as Maghi, signifying the beginning of the month of Magh, where celebrations are once again in full force:
    • The traditional dish of the day is Kheer cooked in sugar cane juice
    • Fun fairs are held
    • People go for a holy dip in sacred rivers
    • People give generously to charity

Origins: The Legend of Dulha Bhatti

Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi version of Robin Hood, is the heroic icon that is associated with Lohri; he robbed the rich to help the poor.

The tale of Dulha Bhatti tells of a man who rescued an innocent girl from her cruel abductors. He adopted her and even arranged her marriage as if she were his own daughter, restoring her pride. He lit a scared bonfire and as there was no priest to chant holy mantras, he broke into spontaneous song.

Today, especially at Lohri, traditional folk songs are sung in honour of Dulha Bhatti’s gallant deeds.

Lohri Factfile

Date: 13th January 2011 (Paush 13 - Hindu Calendar)
Popular in: North India (predominantly Punjab and Haryana)
Origins: Harvest, marking the end of winter and start of spring
(The tale of Dulha Bhatti)