Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lohri – the Bonfire Festival of India

Lohri 2011, the winter solstice festival of India falls today, i.e. on January 13th. As Lohri 2011 dresses up, the North Indian regions of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh, it comes as a reminder that the sweetness of winter is soon going to be transformed into the blossoming spring season or the Vasant Ritu. The North Indian festival of Lohri is also essentially a harvest festival and a time for married couples to seek blessings from the elders. 

Traditions of Lohri festival

There is an old tradition of kids going about collecting money from neighborhood houses on this auspicious and beautiful occasion of Lohri. Even the Lohri 2011 is still witnessing that age old cultural tradition when the children sing merry songs in the praise of Dulha Bhatti (a legendary Punjabi character similar to the brave Robin Hood) who robbed the rich people to help the poor. These little singers who move from door to door in the neighborhood are either gifted with money or are offered goodies that include sweet dishes like gajak, gur (jaggery), til bhuga, rewri and moong phalli (peanuts).

Lohri Bonfire festival in Punjab
Lohri is also known as the bonfire festival of India as in the evening of this festival, a bonfire is arranged for and people gather around and relish winter savories together. The festival of Lohri reaches a bigger significance if a family experiences a happy event in the same year like the birth of a baby or a wedding. The scene of Lohri celebrations across North India is pumped up by energizing dance performances like Bhangra, gidda and dhol. People throw popcorns, til and puffed rice in the fire, collected from the neighborhood houses. This ceremony signifies offerings to the Fire lord or Agni Dev to seek his blessings for prosperity and abundance. People sing and perform folk dances around the fire, which is one of the most beautiful moments of the North India Lohri festival.

Gidda Dance During the Punjab Lohri Festival
Lohri and other Indian festivals

Lohri is celebrated during the period of Uttarayan or winter solstice and in Eastern and Central India, during the same time, Makar Sankranti festival is celebrated. Also, Pongal is celebrated in the Southern part of India. Each of these three festivals thus has connections to winter solstice, blessings and definitely new harvest. In South India, the sankranti festivals stretch to more than three days welcoming the onset of the harvest season. A rath yatra is organized from Chennai’s Kandaswamy temple on the day of Pongal. In West Bengal, Makar Sankranti reaches the epitome of festivity in the pilgrim spot of Ganga Sagar on the Bay of Bengal. A huge fair is organized on the Sagar Island and pilgrims from far and wide collect to take a holy bath in the confluence of the Holy Ganges River with the sea and worship the deities at the Kapilmuni Temple.

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