Lohri – The Bonfire Festival
Lohri is one the most popular festivals of India. More specifically, it is a Punjabi festival but is celebrated all over the world with great zeal and passion. The festival is usually associated with the harvest of the rabi crops and is, therefore, regarded as the harvest festival. Lohri also marks the winter solstice and is regarded as the longest night of the year. The festival is celebrated with gusto all over the world.
According to a legend, in earlier times, a group of women from each village use to go from one house to another and collect cow-dung cakes. They use to do so few days before Lohri. At the end of the everyday, the cow-dung cakes were placed in one particular house. After being asked for the reason for the same, they said that they wanted to protect themselves from the cold but also offer their prayers to the Sun God. They burned the cow-dung cakes, making their extreme winters a little more bearable and invoking the Sun God, asking him for his blessings.
While doing so, they use to chant mantras and sing songs.
Newly married couples offer their prayers to the fire in order to have children whereas many parents offer their prayers in order to get a suitable match for their unmarried daughters. The festival is celebrated for protection. The flames that are born after burning the pile of cow-dung cakes are believed to reach the Sun.
Beliefs and Significance
People sing songs dedicated to Dulla Bhatti on Lohri. It is believed that during the reign of Akbar, Dulla Bhatti used to steal money from the rich people and donate it to the poor and needy. He also rescued many girls, especially from Punjab, who were being sold in the slave market. He also use to get them married to eligible boys and arrange dowry for them. Eventually, Akbar executed him because of the uproar he had created in his kingdom. Hence, people honor and commemorate the valor of their hero on Lohri. The festival of Lohri is believed to bring happiness, harmony and good luck for the people in the wake of the New Year.
The main attraction of the festival is the religious and sacred bonfire. The bonfire is lit at night and people gather around it. They then take rounds about the bonfire and offer prayers to the gods. They also offer groundnuts, jaggery, popcorn and sweets made with sesame seeds like rewari and gachak to the deities and throw the same into the fire. One of the most popular rituals of Lohri is kite flying. This is also considered as a harvest festival. People show their joy and success by getting at the top of their terraces and flying kites. Children form groups and visit the houses in their neighborhood in order to collect Lohri, which is given to them in the form of sweets. Together, everyone sing songs, play musical instruments like Dhol, It is a double headed drum played using two wooden sticks. It is slung over the neck of the player while he plays the instrument and young women and girls perform special dance called Gidha around the bonfire.
A very famous song sung to celebrate the day is
Sunder mundriye ho!
Tera kaun vicharaa ho!
Dullah Bhatti walla ho!
Dullhe di dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho!
Kudi da laal pathaka ho!
Kudi da saalu paata ho!
Salu kaun samete!
Chache choori kutti! zamidara lutti!
Bade bhole aaye!
Ek bhola reh gaya!
Sipahee far ke lai gaya!
Sipahee ne mari itt!
Bhaanvey rot e bhaanvey pitt
Sanoo de de Lohri, te teri jeeve jodi!
This song is sung while taking rounds around the sacred bonfire.