Lohri is an Indian festival. It is most commonly celebrated in the North of India, by the Punjabi people. Lohri is celebrated to mark the end of the cold winter and the start of the coming spring of the new year. It traditionally celebrates the beginning of the harvest season. The people harvest the sugarcane crops. Therefore the Punjabi people see the day after Lohri (Maghi) as the beginning of a new financial year. Lohri is celebrated every year on the 13th of January.
The story behind Lohri is quite interesting. Dulla Bhatti was a thief who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He was well respected by the people in his town. One day he rescued a girl from being kidnapped and adopted her as his daughter. He married her off to a good man in the forest. He was not wealthy and couldn’t afford to pay a dowry. He gave his daughter a bag of sugar as a marriage gift.
Lohri is essentially a festival dedicated to fire and the sun god. It has relations to the position of the stars and the position of the Earth and sun. The new configuration lessens the ferocity of winter, and brings warmth to earth. It is to ward off the bitter chill of the month of January that people light bonfires, dance around it in a mood of bonhomie and celebrate Lohri.
Surya Dev or the Sun God is most commonly associated with Lohri. Agni, the Goddess of fire is also mentioned in the folk songs associated with the festival.
Lohri is celebrated mostly in Northern India by Punjabis. The ancient significance of the festival is both as a winter crop season celebration and a remembrance of the Sun deity.
Traditionally Lohri is celebrated by lighting a huge bonfire in the yard after the rabi crops are chopped. Small idols of Lohri goddess are made with cattle dung and placed beneath the fire.
The bonfire is lit at sunset and people donning traditional attires, circle around it and throw sesame seeds, jaggery, and rewaries in it. They sit around the fire and sing and dance till the fire dies out.
By this way they pray to the fire god, to bless their land with abundance and prosperity. Following this people exchange greetings and gifts with their friends and family members.
Sugarcane products such as gajak, jaggery are an important part of Lohri celebrations, as these are made from the crops harvested in the month of January. Apart from this til, peanuts, and popcorn are also distributed among the people as prasad (offerings made to god). Makki ki roti and sarson ka saag is served in dinner.