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Festivals - Lohri - Harvest Festival of Punjab
 
Lohri - Harvest Festival of Punjab

Lohri is the harvest festival of Punjab, famously known as the the breadbasket state of India. Thus, people residing in Punjab attach a great significance to Lohri, the festival in feasts and foods. This harvest festival is celebrated to mark both celebration and sharing.Lohri festival is a well-renowned harvest festival celebrated in North India, especially in Punjab. According to the Hindu Solar Calendar, Lohri falls in the month of Paush (around 13 January) and is celebrated a day before Makara Sankranthi. Lohri festival marks the sun's entry in to the northern hemisphere. A festival dedicated to fire and the Sun God, Lohri denotes the end of winter on the last day of Paush, and beginning of Magha (mid January). Lohri Festival coincides with Pongal Festival in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in Bengal & Kerala, Magha Bihu in Assam and Thai Pongal in Kerala. This year, the date of Lohri Festival 2011 is on 13th January 2011, Thursday.

Lohri festival prompts people to be thankful for God's provision and to celebrate his creation, its focus on farming.

In Punjab, wheat is the main winter crop, which is sown in October and harvested in March or April. In January, the fields come up with the promise of a golden harvest, and farmers celebrate Lohri during this rest period before the cutting and gathering of crops. For Punjabis, this is more than just a festival, it is also an example of a way of life.

Celebrating The Harvest Festival

Lohri is a festival of zeal and verve and marks the culmination of the chilly winter. In true spirit of the Punjabi culture, men and women perform Bhangra and Giddha, popular Punjabi folk dances, around a bonfire. Enthusiastic children go from house to house singing songs and people oblige them generously by giving them money and eatables as offering for the festival.

Logs of wood are piled together for a bonfire, and friends and relatives gather around it. They go around the fire three times, giving offerings of popcorns, peanuts, rayveri and sweets. Then, to the beat of the dhol (traditional Indian drum), people dance around the fire. Prasad of til, peanuts, rayveri, puffed rice, popcorn, gajak and sweets is distributed. This symbolizes a prayer to Agni for abundant crops and prosperity.

Lohri is also an auspicious occasion to celebrate a newly born baby’s or a new bride’s arrival in the family. The day ends with a traditional feast of sarson da saag and makki di roti and a dessert of rau di kheer (a dessert made of sugarcane juice and rice). The purpose of the Lohri harvest ceremony is to thank the God for his care and protection. During this festival the people prepare large quantities of food and drink, and make merry throughout the day and night. Therefore everyone looked forward to this day.

Thus the jubilation at a bountiful harvest becomes the reason for the celebration of Lohri. It is one of the most popular harvest festivals of Punjab, with fairs held at various places. Dancing men and women, sing and dance around the bonfire and people come out of their houses to greet one and all.

Lohri festival is a well-renowned harvest festival celebrated in North India, especially in Punjab. According to the Hindu Solar Calendar, Lohri falls in the month of Paush (around 13 January) and is celebrated a day before Makara Sankranthi. Lohri festival marks the sun's entry in to the northern hemisphere. A festival dedicated to fire and the Sun God, Lohri denotes the end of winter on the last day of Paush, and beginning of Magha (mid January). Lohri Festival coincides with Pongal Festival in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in Bengal & Kerala, Magha Bihu in Assam and Thai Pongal in Kerala. This year, the date of Lohri Festival 2011 is on 13th January 2011, Thursday.

Lohri Festival Traditions

Lohri is not only a function but also an occasion for people to get together with friends and relatives. People light up the harvested fields and front yards with flames of fire. They throw sweets, puffed rice and popcorn into the flames, sing folksongs and exchange Lohri greetings.

After the crack of dawn, children visit every house by singing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi version of Robin Hood who is said to have robbed from the rich and helped the poor. They are given money as they knock on doors, and in the evening, people gather around bonfires.

The Bonfire Customs

During the Lohri celebrations, huge bonfires are lit in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses. This custom is a kind of prayer to Lord Agni, the God of fire, to bless the land with wealth and prosperity. People then meet friends and relatives, exchange gifts, and distribute prasad (offerings made to God). The prasad comprises of five main items, namely, til (gingelly), gajak (a hardened bar of peanuts in jaggery or sugar syrup), gur (jaggery), moongphali (peanuts), and phuliya (popcorn). They serve winter savories around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-ka-saag (cooked mustard herbs).

Lohri dances are performed on the day. Male dances include Bhangra, Jhoomer, Luddi, Julli and Dankara. Female dances are Giddha and Kikli.

Significance of Fertility

Lohri is also a festival that celebrates the first marriage or birth of the male child in the family. On the day, the new-born baby sits on the lap of his/her mother and the relatives shower their blessings. Afterwards, the family members shake their leg around the bonfire by singing traditional songs and by performing certain rituals. In the same way, the newly wed couples receive blessings of elders from the family.

The Maghi Day

The next day of Lohri, known as Maghi, denotes the beginning of the month of Magh. The day is marked by preparing Kheer in sugar cane juice. It is also an auspicious day for the Sikhs in commemoration of a battle. The forty immortals who were the followers of Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth Guru of Sikhism) and who died in his defense are revered during the day.
 
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