History of Lohri festival

History of Lohri festival

Lohri is the harvest festival of Punjab celebrated on January 13 every year. It is the time of the year when wheat crops start sprouting and the fields are covered with a carpet of gold. It is the time of celebration and feasting as their hard work can be seen flourishing until the crops are ready to be harvested.

Celebration during this time is thanking god for the scrupulous crops in the fields ensuring that they will have enough food for the year. The festival of Lohri is meant to relieve people from the worldly day-to-day routine and make them relaxed, cheerful, and happy.

The festival coincides with the arrival of the Hindu month of Magh celebrated as Makar Sankranti throughout the country at the end of Paush month. During this time the earth is farthest from the sun and, the earth starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year.

On this day, a bonfire is lit people dance around it. People throw rewaries, sugar-candy, popcorn, sesame seeds, gur, etc into the fire and sing and dance around it. People wear their colorful and brightest clothes and dance the Bhangra or Giddha to the beat of the Dhol. Lohri to farmers signifies the commencement of a new financial year. It means an abundance of prosperity; fertility and celebrations expressing joy for the gifts of nature and the Divine.

The legend associated with the festival

The derivation of the name ‘Lohri’

Some believe that Lohri has derived its name from Lohi, the wife of Sant Kabir, for in rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi.

In ancient times the name was Tilorhi, a compound of Til (Sesame) and Rohri, which means Gur. Over time, the word came to be pronounced as Lohri.

Lohri’s word came from loh which means light and warmth. Lohri is also called Lohi. According to the Hindu calendar, the coldest month of the year ends at Pausha and in mid-January, the Earth begins its journey towards the Sun. According to the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna reveals his complete divinity during the period of Lohri. A day after which, the auspicious Makar Sankranti is held which marks the end of the winter season. On this day thousands of Hindus bathe in the Ganges to erase their sins.

The legend of the two sisters

Another legend says that Holika and Lohri were sisters. After an order given from Harnakash, Holika took Prahlad and Lohri to sit in the fire, while Holika perished in the Holi fire, her sister Lohri survived the trail with Prahlad.

The Legend of Dullah Bhatti

Lohri is celebrated in remembrance and praise of Dulha Batti. Lohri couplet is: ‘Sundar Mundari ho – tera koun bechara? Dulla Bhatti wala! Dulled dhi bihayi (literally translated it says – “Sundar Mundari! Who is there to protect you? It is Dulla Bhatti. Dulla got a daughter married.”). The song Sunder Mundriye ho is the folklore of Punjab which is associated with Dulha Bhatti. Dulha Batti was a Muslim robber who lived during the era of King Akbar. He was a robber but a good person. He would steal from the rich and distribute the wealth among the poor.

A dense forest, known as ash, which lies between Gujranwala and Sialkot was home to Dulla Bhatti, famous as Robin Hood of Punjab. He rescued girls who were being forcibly taken away. He arranged marriages of young girls with Hindu Boys and paid the dowries. He was a hero among the local Punjabis there who loved and respected him.

Lohri’s story goes that on the day he was executed in public, to teach a lesson and instill fear in the people, the women lit the bonfire, sang, and danced around it, in memory of their savior Dulla Bhatti. Most Lohri songs are sung in praise of Dulha Batti which expresses their gratitude to him. The Lohri importance is all about the honor of Dulla Bhatti with folk songs describing his brave saga.

The celebration of Lohri would be marked by singing and dancing on the one hand and the bonfire on the other. The sense of community and collective underlies both. The tradition of bonfires is there and continues in many ways as a neighborhood activity in which more than one family might be involved.

Lohri Song

Sunder mundriye ho!
Tera kaun vicaharaa ho!
Dullah bhatti walla ho!
Dullhe di dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho!
Kudi da laal pathaka ho!
Kudi da saalu paatta ho!
Salu kaun samete!
Chache choori kutti! zamidara lutti!
Zamindaar sudhaye!
bade bhole aaye!
Ek bhola reh gaya!
Sipahee far ke lai gaya!
Sipahee ne mari eet!
Sanoo de de lohri te teri jeeve jodi!(Cry or howl!)
Bhaanvey ro te bhaanvey pit!

English Translation

Sunder mundriye ho(Sunder and munder are the name of girls here)
Who will think about you
He is dulla bhatti (a dacoit like robinhood who use to loot the riches and help the poor)
Dulla’s daughter got married (Dulla bhatti help them married with their grooms by considering them his daughters)
He gave 1 kg sugar!
The girl is wearing a red suit!
But her shawl is torn!
Who will stitch her shawl?!
The uncle made choori!
The landlords looted it!
Landlords are beaten up then!
Lots of innocent guys came to save
One innocent boy got left behind
The police arrested him!
The policeman hit him with a brick!
Cry or howl!
Give us lohri ..long live your couple!
Whether you cry, or bang your head later!

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.