Celebrated In: India
Celebrated By: (Hindu)
Celebrating Lohri, the festival of Harvest :
Lohri, a festival to worship fire is celebrated every year on 13th of January and is predominantly celebrated in North India with great pomp. Earth makes Uttarayan movement at this time as it starts moving towards the sun commencing this auspicious period. Lohri marks fertility and hence holds a lot of much important for the newly-weds and new born babies. As a customary practice people gather around the bonfire at night and offer til, puffed rice & popcorns into the flames of the holy bonfire. People offer special prayers on the auspicious occasion of Lohri seeking abundance & prosperity in their lives; later on they make merry by dancing & singing to the tunes of traditional songs.
The festival of Lohri mostly signifies the harvesting of the Rabi crops; in Northern India, especially Punjab and Haryana people celebrate Lohri, to mark the end of winter. They lit up the harvested fields and front yards with bonfires, around which people gather with their friends and relatives and make merry by singing folk songs. People in Punjab celebrate Lohri with great enthusiasm as this marks fertility and the joy of life.
The Bonfire Customs & Tradition
Lohri festival begins with the morning ritual of children going from door to door singing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti; who used to rob from the rich and helped the poor. The children knock on their neighbour’s doors and usually get money from them.
In the evening, after the sun sets, huge bonfires are prepared in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses. People gather to lit up the bonfires by making a circle around (parikrama) it and then puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies are thrown into the holy fire.
They offer special prayers to the fire god, to bless the land with greatest fertility and prosperity. People meet friends and relatives soon after the ‘parikrama’ is done by exchanging gifts and distribute special Prasad offered to God with til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Winter savouries are served to people present around the bonfire along with the traditional Punjabi dinner of makki-ki-roti and sarson-da-saag.
Everyone adorns the best clothes to set the festive mood; newlyweds wear traditional jewelleries to grace the occasion. The courtyard and rooms of the house are sanctified by sweeping and sprinkling water on them. In the evening everyone gather around the bonfire with the new-born given little combs to hold. To lit up the Lohri bonfire a burning fagot is brought from the burning hearth. The holy fire turns everyone’s face with golden hue. Parents give presents to their newlywed daughters on this auspicious occasion.
There is a beautiful tradition of Men throwing sugar canes into the bonfire and women offering Sesame seeds to the same, seeking sons for themselves. Afterwards fire crackers are lit up for adding more fun to the occasion. Then people spend the whole night by dancing and singing folk songs.
Lohri is celebrated with greater enthusiasm in the families that see a new born baby. The festival is also called as ‘Tilori’; the name is derived from two Punjabi names “Til’ and ‘Rohri’ that represent sesame seed and molasses respectively.
Lohri in Different Parts of India:
People across India rejoice on the auspicious occasion of Lohri with different names and different tradition, customs and rituals. The festival of harvest is celebrated in different names in the different parts of India, like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bhugali Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In South India the festival is a three-day celebrations that signifies the beginning of harvesting different crops. A Rath Yatra is organised in the Kandaswamy temple in Chennai on the occasion of Pongal. The day is celebrated as Ganga- Sagar mela in West Bengal; Hindus get purified from all their sins by taking bath in the holy Ganges.
On the Sankranti day people in Maharashtra exchange multi-colored tilguds made from sesame seeds and sugar or jaggery. Til-polis, the specialty of Maharashtra are made for the lunch. Maharashtrians exchange tilguls with an intention to forget the past negativities and restoring sweet relationship with friends, relatives and family members. A ritual of "Haldi-Kumkoo" is organised for married women, wherein they are gifted with utensils.
A custom of giving gifts to the family members and relatives is prevalent in Gujarat, where the elders gift to the younger members of the family. This festival is significant for people of Gujarat in the maintenance of social relationships within the family, caste and community.
People in Punjab celebrate Lohri by litting up huge bonfires on the eve of Sankranti. Sweets, sugarcane are thrown in the bonfires along with rice, sesame seeds and popcorns. Sankranti is celebrated as Maghi, a day after the Lohri celebrations. The famous Punjabi Bhangra dance programmes are organised where they spend whole night dancing and singing. Then a feast is organised that serves the people with traditional Punjabi foods.
In Madhya Pradesh this festival popular in the name of "Sukarat" or "Sakarat" that is celebrated with great enthusiasm by preparing lot of sweets.
In South Indian states Sankranti is popularly known as "Pongal", the name is derived from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk. The festival holds a lot of importance in farmer’s community. On this day people offer the deity with ‘Prasadam’ made by cooking rice and pulses together in ghee and milk after performing the ritual of worship. In southern India people revere ‘Sun’, the god of all the energies on this day.
In Uttar Pradesh, many pilgrims and devotees take a holy bath in the Sangam at Prayagraj, where the rivers Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswathi make a sacred union.
In West Bengal every year a Mela is held at Ganga Sagar thatb witnesses a footfall of thousands of pilgrims from East India.
Significance of Lohri Festival
The festival of Lohri holds a great significance and importance for people of Punjab with the beginning of harvesting. The major Lohri celebration includes preparing a huge bonfire which signifies utmost reverence to the god of energy, Sun. With Lohri, the harvesting of Rabi crops is started. On this day the sun enters the Makara rashi (Capricorn), marking the beginning of the summer season.
Lohri has a special significance as it marks the beginning of a new financial year. It is a significant day for all the farmers and agriculturists. Lohri marks the fertility; hence it is celebrated with great pomp if a new born baby has arrived in the family. On this auspicious occasion people rejoice and together create fun moments.
Lohri celebrations bring a lot of happiness among the masses as they sit together around the bonfire, talking, laughing and praying for prosperity. The reverence to the Sun God brings prosperity as the holy fire burns the evil feelings within our hearts.