India is the land of festivities. Lohri is the foremost and one of the exuberant festivals of India which is celebrated every year on 13 January. Lohri is celebrated with great pomp and fervour mainly in Punjab. Some other Northern states of India also observe this festival, including Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Lohri is essentially a festival dedicated to fire and the sun god. It is the time when the sun transits the zodiac sign Makar (Capricorn) and moves towards the north. In astrological terms, this is referred to as the sun becoming Uttarayan. Lohri is a harvesting festival which is associated with the harvest of the rabi crops, crops which are cultivated in winters.
Lohri has various other names in the other parts of India such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in Bengal, Magha Bihu in Assam and Tai Pongal in Kerala. The people of Sindhi community observe this festival as “Lal Loi”.
People make a small idol of the Lohri goddess with gobar (cattle dung), decorate it, kindle a fire beneath it and chanting its praises. Warmth of fire in chilly nights is very soulfull. Logs of wood are piled together for a bonfire, and friends and relatives gather around it. Close relatives and friends gather together around the bonfire. People offer ground nuts, popcorns and rabri to the fire and do parikrama of the fire, seeking blessings and happiness. The Lohri fire is symbolic of the homage to the sun, considered to be very sacred and auspicious. It is also traditional to eat ’til rice’ or tilcholi–sweet rice made with jaggery (Gurr and sesame seeds), Sarson ka Saag and Makki ki roti. People sing and dance and enjoy the festival. People revolve around the fire singing “Sunder mundriye ho!”
Sundri Mundri Hei! Hoi!
Tera Kaun Bechara! Hoi!
Dullah Bhatti wala! Hoi!
Dullah Di Dhi via! Hoi!
Sher Shakar paid! Hoi!
Kuri de Mamma Aaye! Hoi!
UnaNe ChuRi Kuti! Hoi!
Jimidari Lutti! Hoi!
Ik kola GhuT Gaya!
The folklore–Sunder Mundriye–is actually the tale of a man called Dulla Bhatti, who is said to have lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Being quite the ‘Robin Hood’ back in the day, Dulla Bhatti used to supposedly steal from the rich, and rescue poor Punjabi girls being taken forcibly to be sold in slave markets. He then went on to arrange their marriages to boys of the village and provided them with dowries (from the stolen money). Amongst these girls were Sundri and Mundri, who have now come to be associated with Punjab’s folklore, Sunder Mundriye. Young girls in the villages go from door to door, singing songs, dancing on folk songs, to collect cow-dung cake to lit the fire.
The other stories say that the word Lohri has come from the root ‘oh‘, which means a big iron griddle or tava on which chapattis are made for community feasts. Another version says that the Lohri word comes from ‘Loi’, who was the wife of the celebrated Sufi saint Kabir Das.
In some parts of the state people also believe that the festival’s name originated from the name of the sister of Holika, who survived the fire while Holika herself died.
Besides that, some people also believe that that the word Lohri originated from the word “tailor”, which comes from the combination of the words rorhi and til.
Lohri is a wintertime folks festival which is celebrated with utmost zest by Sikhs and Hindus. Lohri is also considered to be the beginning of the financial year by the Sikh community. Lohri marks the culmination of winter on the last day of Paush, and beginning of Magha as per Hindu calendar (around January 12 and 13) when the sun changes its course. The next day of Lohri is Makar Sankranti which holds significance in the Hindu calendar. People take an early bath on this day which is considered auspicious also.
As Lohri is also known for celebrating fertility and a new beginning, the first Lohri after the birth of a baby in the family or newlywed couple is celebrated grandly.