Lohri has more to it than feast, dance and music

Celebrated on 13th of January every year, Lohri is an auspicious festival.  It is considered as a harvest festival.  It marks the end of winter, a time when the sun heads back to the northern hemisphere and stays longer each day warming the ground for the new crops to be sown.

Lohri songs praise Surya asking for heat and thanking him for his return. Another legend says Lohri is celebrated in reverence to Agni. There are regional variations too with regard to celebrations. In some places, a small image of Lohri goddess is made with cow dung and placed before the bonfire, around which people sing and dance.

Usually on this day, children go from door to door singing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi version of Robin Hood who robbed from the rich and helped the poor. Once he rescued a girl who was forcibly taken away and later he adopted her as his daughter. He gave her in marriage with the Hindu boy and gave her sugar as a marriage gift. This made him a hero. Most Lohri songs are sung in praise of Dulha Bhatti which expresses their gratitude to him. In the harvested fields, huge bonfires are lit and people gather around the rising flames, circle around the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and rewri into the fire. This is an offering to God. After this, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad. The prasad comprises of five items: til (sesame), gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. No Punjabi meal is complete without ‘shakkar ka swaad’.

Winter savouries are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti and sarson-ka-saag. Diners can indulge in desserts like khulfi faluda, pinni, gajjak, chukander halwa and lacchedar litchi rabri to end their meal. The festival experience comes full circle with the merry-making tradition of song and dance with the dhol.

The next day of Lohri is known as Maghi, a day that signifies the beginning of the month of Magh. According to common belief, this is an auspicious day to take holy dip and give away charity. Kheer is prepared in sugarcane juice to mark the day.