The history of Lohri, a seasonal festival of North India is as old as that of the story of Indus Valley civilization itself. The Festival of Lohri marks the beginning of the end of winter and the coming of spring and the new year.
Background Of Origin
- The fires lit at night, the hand warming, the song and dance and the coming together of an otherwise atomized community, are only some of the features of this festival. The Lohri of north India coincides with Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in Bengal, Magha Bihu in Assam, Tai Pongal in Kerala, all celebrated on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti.
- The origin of Lohri goes back to ancient times. Traditionally, Lohri is believed to have been a celebration of the passing of the longest night of the year. It has always been associated with winter. In ancient times, Lohri was celebrated on the longest night of the year which means it coincided with the winter solstice(Usually December 22).
- Therefore, people believe daylight is meant to increase from the day after Lohri when the sun starts its northward journey. However, as time progressed, Lohri came to be celebrated as an end of winter festival (January 13). While Punjabis celebrate Lohri all over the globe, it is Punjab where it holds the greatest significance.
The celebrations are marked by well-dressed locals dancing around a huge bonfire which is one of the most important aspects of the Lohri ritual. Men and women dress up in their colourful traditional attire and perform folk dances of the region.
While women are clad in bright kurtas, lehengas and dupattas, men wear colourful kurtas, lungis, and pagdis and sometimes carry a stick. Also, thanks to the number of various dance forms, men and women in Punjab have their own separate dance forms they perform during Lohri. While men groove to Bhangra, Jhoomer, Luddi, Julli and Dankara, women perform the popular forms of Giddha and Kikli.
- Several significant rituals are performed during the Lohri celebrations. The most prominent of course is the big bonfire around which all the activity takes place. Believed to spread enough warmth to last until the end of winter. The bonfire is usually made of dried wood and cowpat and holds great significance in the Lohri celebrations. Another popular ritual which is performed with great zest is the flying of kites. People of all ages gather in the morning to fly colourful kites and the sky becomes full of these fascinating, well-crafted pieces of paper which make the whole atmosphere festive. Kite-flying is supposed to be a reason for people to soak in the morning sun and get enough vitamin D.
- More importantly, it signifies a big thank you to the sun for a good farming season and a prayer to ask for its blessings in the upcoming season. Punjab survives on agriculture and the sun is considered divine by many in the region. No celebration in Punjab is complete without some lip-smacking delicacies. Special dishes prepared for Lohri include gajak, Sarson ka saag and makke di roti. Peanuts, radish, sesame seeds and jaggery that are part of the harvest also become part of the feast.