BY NEHA HEGDE
The Punjabi harvest festival is called Lohri and arrives just a night before Makara Sankranti, a festival that marks the end of winter. Lohri is mostly celebrated by the Hindus and Sikhs to honor the harvested crops in winter. The harvest festival is referred to different names in different states of India, Pongal in Tamilnadu, Makara Sankranthi in Gujurat, Bengal, and Karnataka, Bihu in Assam, and Tai Pongal in Kerala.
Farmers in Punjab consider Lohri as their New Year in the terms of finance. A bonfire is lighted-up on the night of Lohri and people enjoy singing, dancing, and offering leftovers.
Lohri celebrates the winter rabi crops which are sown in winters such as Sarson (mustard leaves), sesame, whole wheat, and spinach are an integral part of the festival. It is their tradition to serve sinner after the celebration is done around the bonfire.
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The winter harvests such as popcorns, peanuts, jaggery, Rewari, and gajak are distributed to all neighbors, friends, and relatives. Girls of the families dress up traditionally and perform Gidha.
“Til” means sesame and “Rohri” means jaggery and these are the traditional food of this festival. Lohri got its original name which is “Tilohri” by these two words.
During the bonfire, families dance and enjoy famous tunes of this festival like “Sundariye Mundariye Ho.” “Dholis” present at several gatherings is another sight rendering traditional Punjabi touch to the celebrations as people enjoyed ‘Bhangra’ dancing.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: राम मंदिर आंदोलन पर डॉक्युमेंट्री रिलीज
Lohri is also believed to be the longest night of the year in the Lunar Calendar. It implies the end of the coldest month of the year and indicates the arrival of the Sun as Earth now starts to turn towards the Sun. The Sun god is also worshipped during Lohri.
In the context of folklores, the flames of the fire during the bonfire are known to carry messages to the Sun which is why the day after Lohri is warm and sunny bringing an end to “gloomy” winter days. The following day is celebrated as ‘Makara Sankranti’ to mark the beginning of bright days ahead.
Foods like gajak and puffed rice and items like popcorn are thrown into the bonfire to indicate Agni- The God of Fire. It is said that these offerings are thrown in the sparkling flames to effectively impress the gods and thus seek blessings for their family and a good future.