History, Significance and Story behind the festival ‘Lohri’

New Delhi: This year, the festival will be celebrated on January 13, 2021, on Wednesday (tomorrow). The harvest festival, which falls on January 13 this year, is celebrated during the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti in a grand manner in the Northern part of the country. Cultural stories dictate that Lohri originates from the word, ‘Loh’- which means a big griddle or a tava, used in community feasts. Another tale says the word pays homage to ‘Loi’, who was the wife of Hindu saint Kabir Das.

The history behind Lohri:

It is said that Lohri can be traced back to the heroic tales of Dulla Bhatti, who is popularly known for his exemplary valour and courage as someone who led a rebellion against emperor Akbar. With his brave display, he instantly became a hero for the people. Almost every song and poem sang on Lohri has words expressing gratitude to him.

Story of Lohri

As you delve deeper into history, you will find a lot many customs and traditions related to the festival. The most popular one remains for the little ones, who go around houses asking for Lohri gifts and items. They go to each door, singing verses in the praise of Dulla Bhatti and other traditional songs, and say ‘Sundari Mundari oye’. Items like sweets, sesame seeds, jaggery, and cow dung cakes are customary for a Lohri puja and celebration.

In the evening, when the sun is about to set, the people assemble in an open space and put all the items of the bonfire and light it.

Since this festival marks a thanksgiving celebration to the Earth and the Sun, people offer sacrificial offerings to the fire and chant holy prayers and mantras. Thereafter, the prashad and offerings from the Lohri is distributed amongst everyone.

People also circle the fire, as a mark to pay their respect, seek prayers and blessings for their near and dear ones. Folkdances and songs particular to the festival are cheered on.

Significance of Lohri

Lohri holds great significance because it is a harvest festival. Held a day before Makar Sankranti, agricultural communities and farmers pray to God for a good harvest season. The festival holds even more important if there has been a happy event in the family such as the birth of a child or a marriage in the past year, signifying fertility and prosperity.

The fire lit with the Lohri pyre is also significant of the end of evil, negative energies, spirits, welcoming in positivity, and praying for a good life.

Celebratory Rituals Of Lohri

During the day, children go from door to door asking for traditional sweets like gajak, chikki, jaggery, popcorn, sesame seeds (til), Rewari, and peanuts, which they call their ‘Lohri’. In the evening, people in the neighbourhood get together and light the holy bonfire. They sit around the bonfire singing folk songs and tossing the collected lohri into the fire to pay homage to the fire God, Agni.

Foods To Celebrate With

 The Lohri festivities start with people indulging in traditional sweets made from jaggery and sesame seeds. These bite-sized treats like Rewari, gajak, popcorn, and peanuts (moongphali) are distributed as prasad and relished besides the holy bonfire. Post that, a Lohri-special feast is served. Customs dictates that all the dishes are made from winter crops including mustard greens, sugarcane, radish, and groundnuts. It usually consists of Sarson ka saag, Makki di roti, and kheer. The meal is accompanied by whole or powdered jaggery and homemade butter (made from cow’s milk). Sesame rice, or til bhaat, is another popular dish that is consumed during the festival.

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