Bonfire festival of Lohri

Goodbye Cold, Welcome Warmth: Bonfire festival of Lohri

Lohri celebrations at Farhataas, India

As the fire is lit, people’s faces glow with joy, and the celebration of Lohri gets underway. It is an event to celebrate the end of the dry and cold days of the North Indian Winter.

Lohri, is typically a North Indian festival especially celebrated in the breadbasket of India, the Punjab. Its origins can be traced to various folklore and religious beliefs. It is mainly believed to be the cultural celebration of the winter solstice and hence it marks the end of the bitter cold winter, the beginning of longer days and basically more sunlight. It also marks the harvesting of the Rabi crops.

Lohri has many counterparts all over the country, be it Bihu in the far eastern state of Assam or Pongal in southern Tamil Nadu. Other festivals like Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan also happen around the same time and the basic sense of celebration is similar.

The name Lohri, is also traced back to a lot of sources. Some say it came from the name of Saint Kabir’s wife, Loi. Some others believe it is ‘Loh’, which means fire, from where the name was derived. Eating of Til or sesame seeds and Revri is an integral part of the festival and people believe the name came from joining the two words, Tilohri, which later became Lohri.

The day starts with children visiting all the homes in the neighbourhood, performing songs folk dances and collecting sweets, and occasionally money.

The onset of the evening marks the lighting of a bonfire, which is a central aspect of the festival.  People offer sesame seeds, popped corn, gurh or jaggery and sugar candy to the lit fire and sit around it. Traditional music and dance follow with great fervour. Men perform Punjabi folk dance of Bhangra around the fire, and the women usually perform the traditional Gidda dance.

A jolly mood ensues and the celebrations go on till late at night until the fire dies out. The next day is the first day of the month of Magh the harbinger of warmer days.

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