India celebrated the Lohri festival on Thursday, a traditional winter folk festival or a popular autumn festival for farmers, celebrated primarily in the region around India’s northern Punjab state.
It is observed one evening before Makar Sankranti, another harvest feast.
The significance, folklore and legends of this festival, which typically falls on January 13 each year, are all linked to the Punjab region.
How is Lohri celebrated?
Across the country, Lohri is celebrated by lighting bonfires, eating feasts, dancing and handing out presents.
In homes that have recently had a marriage or birth, the Lohri celebrations reach a higher level of excitement with families hosting large gatherings.
People wear their prettiest clothes to the festival and dance the Punjabi folk dances bhangra and gidda as dhol, a double-sided Indian drum popular in Punjab.
Sarson and saw and makki on bread Boiled mustard green leaves and wheel made from cornmeal – usually served as a main course at a typical Lohri dinner.
A bonfire is also lit at sunset, where people throw sesame seeds, jaggery and sugar cubes. Some people perform a prayer and walk around the fire as a sign of respect for the natural element.
In several areas of Punjab, teenage children gather firewood for the fire from around their neighborhood 10-15 days before Lohri.
In some places, they also collect grain and jaggery to sell them and distribute the sales proceeds among themselves.
Due to the Covid pandemic, major Lohri celebrations have been suspended in several states.
However, families have still managed to celebrate the festival on a smaller scale inside their homes and over video calls.
What does Lohri have to do with the winter solstice?
Many people believe that Lohri marks the transition of winter solstice and is a traditional welcome for longer days and shorter nights.
It is also believed that the festival marks the sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere.
What is the famous folklore associated with the festival?
The famous folklore associated with the festival revolves around a local folk legend known as Dulla Bhatti, who is celebrated for her exploits in resisting the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
The character is popularly referred to as “Son of Punjab”.
A story involving Dulla Bhatti is about two girls he rescued from slavery, called Sundri and Mundri, who have become the inspiration behind a popular folk song celebrating them, called “Sundri Mundri.”