The harvest festival in Punjab is celebrated with dance, a community bonfire culminating into a grand homemade feast. Amidst the falling temperatures and freezing cold, the intense sheets of fog, Punjabis of the northern Part of India start preparing for this harvest festival. Punjab which is also known as the breadbasket of India grows the largest amount of wheat. The fields are seeded with wheat in the month of October. This crop is harvested in the month of March and April. So January is the time when the fields come up with rich promising crops and farmers celebrate Lohri during this rest period before the cutting and gathering of crops.
Lohri is mainly celebrated by the people, especially residing in the northern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and parts of Himachal Pradesh. This is similar to a community gathering — the long-awaited bonfire festival — when they can come out of their homes and celebrate the harvesting of the Rabi (winter) crops and give in to relaxing and enjoying the traditional folk songs and dances.
The religious significance of Lohri says that according to Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna manifests himself in full magnificence during this time. The occasion of Lohri also marks the end of the coldest month of the Indian solar calendar, Paush and starting of the new month of Magh announcing the auspicious occasion of Uttarayan. During this time, Hindus take a dip in the river Ganges to purge themselves from the sins.
During the Day children in gangs visit door to door to collect the Lohri Loot singing songs. The Lohri Loot is in the form of money and eatables like til (sesame) seeds, peanuts, jaggery, or sweets like gajak, rewri, etc. They sing old folks songs and fables in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich to help the poor.
In the evenings after the sun sets and the temperature drops. Folks get together and set up bonfires in the fields and in front of the houses. There is a tradition of walking around the fire called ‘Parikrama’ and while they do this they throw into the fire puffed rice, pop corns shouting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honor come and poverty vanish), and sing popular folk songs. This is just a prayer to the god of Fire Agni Devta to bless them with prosperity and plenty for the year.
After the “ Parikramas “ people exchange gifts, sweets and Lohri greetings among themselves and eat prasad.The prasad mainly includes five items namely til (sesame seeds) , gajak (a savoury made of sesame seeds and sugar), jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Then follows is a homemade feasts where the people gorge on authentic cuisine like makki-di-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) soaked in butter and sarson-da-saag (cooked mustard herbs) and ‘suji ka halwa’ (a homemade sweet dish ). Lohri is a festival of prominence for the Punjabis especially if it’s a new born baby or a newlywed bride’s first Lohri. The the families host Lohri bonfires and feasts which is accompanied by singing dancing and merriment.
The Night ends to the beats of Bhangra with men and women dancing to it around the bonfire. The men don traditional silk lungis with matching kurtas which are complemented with embellished turbans and jackets while they perform the traditional Punjabi dance ‘Bhangra’.
The girls are seen wearing the traditional patiala salwars paired with embroidered kurtis. The Chunaris or shawls which they wear feature the traditional phulkari embroidery done in multicolored threads.The folk dance of punjabi women is known as ‘Gidda’ and they are seen wearing the traditional gidda dress with interesting braided hair do’s as they perform this move to flirty beats of Punjabi folk music.
Lohri is an occasion for people of the same community to take a break from their busy schedule and get together to share each other’s company. This is also an occasion to celebrate the unity in diversity when people of diverse communities in various urban localities come together to celebrate the joy of togetherness. In other parts of India, Lohri almost coincides with the festivals of Pongal, Makar Sankranti, and Uttarayan commonly known as the harvest festival of India.