Lohri – Why do Sikhs celebrate Lohri?

Lohri is a popular festival celebrated on the 13th of January every year. The first association with the name is ‘Punjabi Lohri’ since it is an exclusive Punjabi festival, celebrated with great enthusiasm in the states of Punjab and Haryana. It is traditionally associated with the harvest of the rabi crop.

Celebrated a day before Makara Sankranthi, it marks the end of the winter season. It is essentially a festival dedicated to the Fire and the Sun God.

It marks the movement of the sun towards the north as opposed to the south. It is referred to as the sun becoming Uttarayan, considered to be an extremely auspicious time. People believe that the Lohri night the longest night of the year and from the next day light is meant to increase.

History of Lohri :

The origin of the festival is related to Dulla Bhatti, a robber who lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls who were forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East.

He got them married to Hindu boys and provided them with dowries. He gained respect of the people and became a hero. Therefore every Lohri song has lyrics expressing gratitude to him.

Some people believe that the word Lohri comes from the word ‘loh’, a thick iron sheet tawa used for baking chapattis while others believe the festival has derived its name from Loi, wife of Saint Kabir.

Lohri Celebrations:

With the setting of the sun huge bonfires are lit and people gather around them to celebrate the Lohri festival. Dressed in rich colours people circle around the bonfire (parikrama), offering prayer to the Fire God.

They throw puffed rice, peanuts and popcorn into the fire. After the prayers are offered prashad is distributed, consisting of til, gajak, gur, peanuts and popcorn.

The celebrations are marked by traditional songs and dances. Folk songs are sung and both men and women dance around the fire celebrating the spirit of the festival. While the popular male dances are the Bhangra, Jhoomer, Luddi, Julli and Dankara, the female dances include Giddha and Kikli. A traditional dinner of makki-di-roti and sarson-da-saag is served. Rau di kheer is served as dessert.

In houses that recently had a marriage or childbirth, the celebrations are at their peak. The first Lohri of the newlyweds and new born babies are important and considered auspicious. The festival instills a spirit of brotherhood and unity and generates happiness.

It is an occasion for friends and relatives to meet, exchange gifts and greetings and spend time together. Lohri cards are a special way to express wishes on this occasion. There are special cards for friends, family, relatives, and newlywed couples among others. They usually depict themes like brotherhood, love, unity, peace and prosperity. E-cards are gaining more popularity than normal cards.

The advantage they have is that they can be personalized; available in a wide range of colours and themes with special Lohri songs and quotes, they express the right emotions.

‘Maghi’ is the day following Lohri. According to Hindus this is an auspicious day to take a holy dip in the river and give away charity. On this day sweets are prepared with sugar cane juice.
It is said ‘A good Lohri sets the tone for the whole year ahead’ the more joyous and bountiful the occasion, the greater will be peace and prosperity.

 

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