Lohri 2021: Significance of the Indian Mid-Winter Festival

Lohri is primarily celebrated in the Punjab region of India by Hindus and Sikhs and this year, the mid-winter festival falls on 13 January.

Lohri is a traditional winter folk festival celebrated in India by people specifically in the Northern region.

It is a festival of new beginnings that commemorates the passing of the Winter Solstice to welcome longer days as the sun journeys towards the northern hemisphere.

Each year, the festival is observed on the night before Makar Sankranti, in accordance with the solar part of the lunisolar Bikrami calendar.

The significance of Lohri…

There are several stories surrounding the origin of Lohri and the consensus seems to trace the festival to the Himalayan mountain region, where the winters are colder than the rest of the country.

It is learned, after weeks of harvesting the Rabi crop, people would gather around a bonfire and celebrate the passing of the winter solstice and the promise of the coming spring season. The festival is also dedicated to the sun deity, Surya, as on this day the devotees expect it’s returning after the cold winter days and ask it for warmth and sunshine.

Another legend attributes the celebration of Lohri to the tale of ‘Dulla Bhatti’ who was a local hero of the Punjab region and during the reign of Akbar, worked as a saviour of the people. He famously saved a group of young girls from being sold into slavery.

His deeds have been passed down as a legend and are deeply instilled in the Punjabi folklore. On Lohri, ‘Dulla Bhatti’ is celebrated and various songs and dances are performed in his honour.

Each year, people celebrate the festival with the traditional bonfire. Unlike most festivals in India which see people visiting family and friends and distributing sweets etc, Lohri celebrations are honoured by people gathering at a common place, with a huge bonfire as the central attraction. Not least the accompaniment of various mitthai (sweet delicacies), sugarcane and nuts.

Owing to Covid restrictions, however, mass gatherings across the world are halted; but just as Indians found alternatives to celebrate Diwali last year through digital means, so too, will Lohri celebrations find a way…

BritAsia TV wishes you all a Happy Lohri!

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