During the freezing winter in the northern part of India, where the temperature is about 0-5 degree Celsius, people of especially Punjab and Haryana regions of Northern India are engaged in the preparations of the long awaited fest of Lohri. It is said as ‘long-awaited’ as this fest has a great significance and brings enthusiasm among the people.
Punjab is one of the largest wheat producers of India. Wheat is mainly sown in October and harvested during the month of March – April. As a promise of good harvest to the farmers, small saplings of the wheat crop begins to develop during the month of January. Lohri is celebrated in the mid of January. It also marks journey of earth towards the sun, thus ending of the coldest month of the year. According to the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna expresses himself in his full brilliance at this time. Hindus bath in Ganga to nullify their sins.
On the Lohri morning, children can be seen moving from door to door singing folk songs. Along with singing of folk songs they also demand Lohri i.e. ‘loot’ in the form of money and eatables, which are generally sweets. It is considered as inauspicious to send these children empty handed.
The songs that are sung generally praise ‘Dhulla Bhatti’. Dhulla bhatti resided in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was not only known for helping poor by robbing rich people but also helped village girls out of misery and getting them married.
With the setting down of the sun, harvested fields and front yard of houses are lit by the huge bonfires. People start gathering around these rising flames. People do ‘Parikrama’ around the bonfire (i.e. moving in circles around the bonfire) and also sing folk songs shouting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” which means “May honor come and poverty vanish!” and also offer rice, Til, popcorn, peanuts and other munchies to the fire. This is also one sort of prayer offered to ‘Agni God’ to bless them with prosperity and their lands with fertility. People meet their friends, relatives and others, interchange gifts and greetings giving Prasad to each other.
After offering prayer to bonfire, men begin the popular dance of ‘Bhangra’. This dancing is continued till the midnight with the beat of drums and number of new group joining in. Women generally don’t participate in ‘Bhangra’. They hold separate bonfire in their courtyard encircling around gracefully.
Nowadays Lohri brings an opportunity for people in community to take a break from their busy schedule and get together to spend some time of enjoyment.