Celebrated on 13 January every year, Lohri festivities happen when the Rabi crops are harvested. Lohri is celebrated all across Punjab and is the harvest festival that marks the end of winter. On this day, the sun enters the Makara (Capricorn) Rashi. Farmers celebrate it with greater fervour as it is also the time for settling the accounts for produce from the farms and symbolic of new beginnings. Farmers look forward to a bumper crop and the prosperity ahead by celebrating Lohri. If there has been a birth or marriage or any other happy occasion in the family, then there is further significance during Lohri for that family.
The origin of Lohri dates back to the time of Emperor Akbar and to Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway thief, a sort of Robinhood of Punjab. He used to rob the rich and rescue Hindu girls who were forced to work as slaves in the Middle East. He got them married and also gave them dowry. Some Lohri songs express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti who became a hero among all Punjabis. Another belief has it that Lohri got its name from Loi, the wife of Sant Kabir and in some areas of rural Punjab Lohri is also called Lohi.
On Lohri day, after sunset, a huge bonfire is lit up in almost every farm and home and symbolizes tribute to the Sun God for bringing in warmth after the dead cold winter. This is also a prayer to Lord Agni, the fire god, for his blessings with abundance and prosperity.
After the bonfire is lit, everyone performs a parikrama and then sits around the bonfire, and offer til (gingelly), peanuts and beaten rice to the flames. For Sikhs and Punjabis, Lohri is not just a festival; it is very much a part of their lives. Dances of Gidda and Bhangra along with folk songs are also performed around the fire. Prasad of the til, peanuts, puffed rice and popcorn is also distributed. The day ends with a feast of sarson da sag and makkai di roti and kheer. On this day everyone is dressed in traditional finery and jewellery and exchange sweets and gifts.
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