Lohri: The festival to worship fire and celebrate fertility
Lohri is celebrated majorly in Northern India with great pomp. It is celebrated on 13th January in the month of Paush or Magh. This signifies the end to the winter season as the earth slowly moves towards the sun marking the auspicious period of Uttarayan. It is also a festival of fertility, of renewals of life and is very important for the newly weds and the mothers of new born babies. It is a season of harvesting Rabi crops and people of Punjab and Haryana celebrate it with great energy and enthusiasm. It is celebrated in different parts of the India as well, but under different names for instance in Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Pongal, in Karnataka as Sankranti, In Andra Pradesh as Bhogi, in Assam as Bhuguli bihu. The people worship agni, the god of fire on this day.
Even though it may be celebrated under different names in various parts of the nation, the significance is the same and the celebrations consist of singing songs, dances, wearing new clothes and meeting with family and friends. Special prayers are offered and a variety of goods are prepared. As it is celebrated under different names, the performance and ceremony is also done differently in each state. In Punjab, a bonfire is lit on the eve of Sankrath, which is celebrated as Lohri. The Punjabis show their happiness by dancing the Bhangra Dance and putting sweets, rice and sugarcane in the fire.
In Punjab there is legend which goes back to Mughal time, Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during Akbar Ruling. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market. He arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowries thus spreading message of equality. Understandably, though a bandit, he became a hero of all Punjabis. Hence on every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.
The farmers call Lohri as the ‘Golden Harvest Season’ as the Rabi crops are the main source of wealth of the farmers and they enjoy the coming of this harvesting season with full happiness. Apart from that, this festival is considered of great importance for newly wed couples as a new member of the family, the bride has been brought into the family and everyone look upon her with love and affection and pour their blessings on her. The new bride dresses up in her best outfit and ornaments. The reason is that she is the one who will bear children to the family and take the family name forward. The same honor is given to the new born child and his mother and they wish them happiness, goodhealth and prosperity. After the Bhangra dance all members gather around for a grand meal consisting of maily vegetarian food like Sarso ka Saag, Makhe di Roti, Shahi Paneer and so on. They also refrain from drinking on this special occasion.
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