Harvest festivals are celebrated all over India at this time of the year though by different names–Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and Makar Sankranti in Gujarat and other parts of India. All these festivals signify health, wealth and prosperity and the coming of warmer days. One such festival is Lohri, which is marked by the Sikh community.
According to the Hindu calendar, Lohri falls in mid-January. It is also the day when the earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, changes its course–the start of its six-month long journey towards the sun or the Uttarayanam, thus ending the coldest month of the year, Paush and starting the month of Magh.
There are many traditions and stories associated with Lohri. In Punjab, children go knocking from door to door and are given savouries like til laddus, gazak, peanuts, puffed rice and gur ki patti (candy made from jaggery and peanuts). Turning them away is considered inauspicious. Songs are sung in praise of Dulha Bhatti, the Punjabi equivalent of Robin Hood, who robbed the rich and gave his loot to the poor. He is also said to have prevented the village girls from being sold off as slaves and arranged their marriages, complete with dowry and all.
Harvest festivals are celebrated all over the country at this time of the year though by different names–Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and Makar Sankranti in Gujarat and other parts of India. All these festivals signify health, wealth and prosperity and the coming of warmer days.
On the day of Lohri, people create huge bonfires in the harvested fields and in front of homes in the evening. People go around the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies. They ask Fire God Agni to banish poverty and usher in prosperity.
On the morning of Lohri children go around the neighborhood singing Lohri songs. They are given money, til (sesame), jaggery, peanuts and popcorn.
All homes are decorated on the day and people prepare and share makki ki roti (made of millet) and sarson ka saag (cooked mustard leaves).
On the day people eat and distribute Prasad made of til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts and popcorn.
The popular belief is that Til or Sesame helps in fighting the cold and various ailments that appear during the period.
There is great importance to Lohri song which is mainly based on nature, winter and on a folk hero Dulha Bhatti. It is said that Dulha Bhatti used to rob rich people and help the poor. He lived during the rule of Akbar. He also used to rescue girls and women taken away forcibly. He arranged for the marriage of such girls and women.
The festival is annually held on January 13 or 14.
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