Happy Lohri 2021: History, significance and celebrations

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Lohri is a popular winter folk festival celebrated in the northern region of the country, particularly in Punjab.

Every year, it falls on January 13. This is the time the Sun starts moving towards the northern hemisphere marking the auspicious period of Uttarayan. Lohri is observed a night before Makar Sankranti, a festival that marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days and shorter nights.

Significance of Lohri:

For the people of Punjab, the festival of Lohri holds great significance as it marks the beginning of the harvest season of Rabi crops in the state and the end of winter. It is celebrated by making a huge bonfire that symbolises the Sun bringing in warmth. The significance of the festival is both as a winter crop season celebration and a remembrance of the Sun deity.

Lohri puja:

On the day of Lohri, place the picture of Mahadev on a piece of black cloth. An earthen lamp must be lit in front of the deity and people make several offerings and puja to the deity. People usually turn to the West during this puja. After doing puja to Sri Mahadev, people go around the bonfire made of wood and cow dung cakes — singing, dancing and throwing in food items like sugarcane, jaggery and other eatables they have got as part of the puja offering.

Lohri history and beliefs:

As per the Punjabi folk tradition, Lohri’s original can be traced back to the time when a legendary Punjabi hero, Dulla Bhatti rescued innocent girls from the clutches of lecherous men. It is enshrined in folk poetry that is sung during the winter festival of Lohri. The chieftain is believed to have rescued two Brahmin girls, Sundri and Mundri, from Akbar, who wanted them in his harem. Dulla Bhatti became their godfather and is believed to have married them off on Lohri with much pomp and festivity, directly challenging the authority of the emperor.

The tale of Sundri and Mundri was turned into a song that is sung during Lohri celebrations every year.

Lohri celebrations:

Just like many other Indian festivals, Lohri is celebrated in its own unique way. The festival is celebrated by lighting up a bonfire. People dance and sing around it. They eat and also throw popcorn, gur, rewaries, sugar-candies and sesame seeds into the fire. In traditional Punjabi families, dinner is served with gajak, sarson da saag and makki di roti on the day of Lohri festival.

Lohri holds special significance for the newly-married couple or the new-born child in the family and is celebrated with great enthusiasm on these occasions as it symbolises fertility.

Punjabi farmers observe the day after Lohri (Maghi) as the beginning of the financial New Year.

This year though, celebrations is expected to be muted compared to other times in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.