The Lohri Festival takes place this week and marks the beginning of the harvest season in India.
Like many of the celebrations associated with the end of the colder months, it is filled with blazing bonfires and symbolically indicates that brighter days are on the way.
Here’s everything you need to know about the colorful festival and how it is celebrated.
When is it ?
Lohri typically takes place on January 13 each year. The date commemorates the end of the month, which includes the year’s longest night – or winter solstice – in India as well as the start of the harvest season.
It is associated with the time of harvest for rabies crops – the crops that are sown in winter and harvested in spring.
The people of Punjab celebrate the harvest of sugar cane through this festival.
Historically, the revenue for winter crops was collected on this day. As a result, some Punjabi farmers are still taking the day after Lohri as the start of the fiscal year.
How to Say Happy Lohri
A direct translation of “Happy Lohri” in Punjabi would be “Lōhaṛī mubāraka”, while a common greeting is “Lohri di lakh lakh vadhaiya“.
In Hindi you can say “Haippee lohadee” or “Ham aapake lie shubh loharee chaahate hain,” and in bengali “Happy Lohri” would be ubha lhari ‘.
What is the origin of the festival?
There are several stories and myths surrounding the origins of the Lohri festival.
It is thought to have originated in the Himalayas, where winters are colder.
Due to freezing temperatures and after the farm work was done, people would keep warm by lighting bonfires and having fun, singing and dancing around them while looking forward to the darkness being driven back.
As such, Lohri is traditionally also a tribute to the sun god Surya, with many songs thanking him for his warmth and asking for his speedy return. The fire god Agni can also be honored.
The festival is also often associated with the story of Dulla Bhatti – also known as Robin Hood from Punjab – a medieval warrior who led a revolt against Mughal emperor Akbar.
He became a folk hero by stealing from the rich and rescuing young Hindu girls who were to be sold into slavery.
How is Lohri celebrated?
In the morning Lohri, children will often go door to door and sing songs about Dulla Bhatti and receive sweets, peanuts and money in return.
The most important aspect of the Lohri festivities, however, is the sacred bonfire, which symbolizes the return of the sun, fertility and good luck.
In the evening, worshipers gather around the bonfires set up in common open spaces to sing, dance, and throw food like popcorn or puffed rice into the flames as a sacrifice to the gods in exchange for a good harvest.
As a harvest festival, it is also traditional to use Lohri to enjoy slices of toasted corn from the new harvest, as well as nuts and sugar cane-related snacks.
What is Maghi?
Maghi is celebrated on January 14, the day after Lohri, and is another important date on the Punjab calendar.
It marks the beginning of the month of Magh, and is often honored with a cleansing dip in the nearest river.
Maghi is also believed to be a great day to give away to charity.