Lohri festival is a popular Indian festival linked mainly to the Punjab region. Lohri is believed to be the celebration of winter solstice. Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Because in ancient times Lohri was celebrated on winter solstice day, the Lohri night is believed to be the longest night of the year followed by an increase in the day light, next day onwards.
But Punjabis usually celebrate the festival on the last day of the month during which winter solstice takes place. A key feature of Lohri is the bonfire. It is traditionally associated with the harvest of the rabi crops. Sugarcane products such as gurh and gachak are central to Lohri celebrations, along with nuts which are harvested in January. The other essential food item of Lohri is radish which can be harvested between October and January.
Lohri festival is a very important day for the punjabi farmers as they see the day after Lohri as the financial new year. It’s usually celebrated on 13th January. The traditional custom considers it mandatory to eat “til rice” which is made by mixing jaggery , rice and sesame seeds. People also cherish sarson ka saag and makki ki roti throughout the season, specifically on the festive day. The bonfire is lit at sunset in the main village square where people toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries in the bonfire, sit around it, sing and dance till the fire dies out. Some people also perform a prayer and go around the fire to show respect to the natural element of fire.
A lot of people associate Lohri with the tale of Dulha Bhatti. He was regarded as a hero in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He rescued poor Punjabi girls who were being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East from and arranged their marriages to boys. Sundri and Mundri were two such girls who ultimately became part of the famous folklore.
Lohri festival is celebrated not only across the country, but across the globe by many Indian families.