This year, the festival will be celebrated on January 13, 2023, which is a Friday. The harvest festival, which falls on January 13 this year, is celebrated during the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti, grandly in the Northern part of the country. Lohri is one festival that brings neighbors and relatives together. Since it falls in the second or third week of the New Year, it is considered the first major Hindu festival.
While Lohri is one festival that marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of the new harvest season, the festival’s name has a lot of historical significance. Cultural stories dictate that Lohri originates from the word ‘Loh’- which means a giant grill or a Tava, used in community feasts. Another tale says the word pays homage to ‘Loi,’ the wife of Hindu saint Kabir Das.
It is said that Lohri can be traced back to the heroic tales of Dulla Bhatti, who is popularly known for his exemplary bravery and courage as someone who led a rebellion against emperor Akbar. With his brave display, he instantly became a hero for the people. Almost every song and poem sung on Lohri has words expressing gratitude to him.
As you delve deeper into history, you will find many customs and traditions related to the festival. The most popular one remains for the little ones, who go around houses asking for Lohri gifts and items. They go to each door, sing verses praising Dulla Bhatti and other traditional songs, and say ‘Sundari Mundari Oye.’ Things like sweets, sesame seeds, jaggery, and cow dung cakes are customary for a Lohri puja and celebration. When the sun is about to set in the evening, the people assemble in an open space, put all the items on the bonfire, and light it.
Since this festival marks a thanksgiving celebration to the Earth and the Sun, people offer sacrificial offerings to the fire and chant holy prayers and mantras. After that, the Prashad and offerings from the Lohri are distributed amongst everyone. People also circle the fire as a mark to pay their respect and seek prayers and blessings for their near and dear ones. Folkdances and songs particular to the festival are cheered on.
Lohri holds great significance because it is a harvest festival. Held a day before Makar Sankranti, agricultural communities and farmers pray to God for a good harvest season. The festival is even more critical if there has been a happy event in the family, such as the birth of a child or a marriage in the past year, signifying fertility and prosperity. The fire lit with the Lohri pyre is also significant for ending evil, negative energies, spirits, welcoming positivity, and praying for a good life.