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FESTIVAL OF LOHRI

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Lohri marks the culmination of winter, and is celebrated on the 13th day of January in the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti. For Punjabis, this is more than just a festival, it is also an example of a way of life. Lohri celebrates fertility and the spark of life. People gather round the bonfires, throw sweets, puffed rice and popcorn into the flames, sing popular songs and exchange greetings.

The festival assumes greater significance if there has been a happy event in the family during the elapsed year, like the birth of a male child or marriage.

An extremely auspicious day, Lohri marks the sun's entry in to the 'Makar Rashi' (northern hemisphere). The period, beginnin
g from 14 January lasting till 14 July, is known as Uttarayan. It is also the last day of the month of Maargazhi, the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The Bhagawad Gita deems it an extremely sacred and auspicious time, when Lord Krishna manifests himself most tangibly. And so, across India, people celebrate the month and the prodigious harvest it brings - Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and the Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The focus of Lohri is on the bonfire. The traditional dinner with makki ki roti and sarson ka saag is quintessential. The prasad comprises of five main things: til, gazak, gur, moongphali, phuliya and popcorn. There is puja, involving parikrama around the fire and distribution of prasad. This symbolises a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundant crops and prosperity.

It is also the one day when the womenfolk and children get attention. The first Lohri of a bride is extremely important. The first Lohri of a newborn baby, whether a girl or a boy, is also equally important. Children go from door to door singing and asking for the Lohri prasad.

Lohri is a festival connected with the solar year. Generally, it is an accepted fact that this festival is to worship fire. This is particularly a happy occasion for the couples who for the first time celebrated Lohri after their marriage and also the first Lohri of the son born in a family. Children visit homes in the neighbourhood and sing songs. One of the famous ones is :

Sunder mundriya..ho
Tera kaun vichara..ho
Dulla Bhatti walla..ho
Dulle ne ti viahiyi..ho
Saer Shakar payi..ho
Kudi de boje payee..ho
Shallu kaun samete..ho
Chacha galee dese..ho
Chache choori kutee..ho
Zamindaran lutee..ho
Zamindara sidaye..ho
Gin-gin pole layee..ho
Ik pola reh gaya..ho
Sipahi farh ke lei gaya..ho
Aakho mundao taana..
Mukai da dana..
Aana lei ke jana..


The day begins with children collecting money from houses in the neighborhood. In the evening, winter savories are served around a bonfire. Celebrated enthusiastically in Haryana, Punjab and parts of Himachal Pradesh, it also signifies the beginning of the end of winter.

Children go from door to door singing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi version of Robin Hood who robbed the rich and helped the poor. These "visitors" are given either money or gachak, bhuga, til, moongphali, gur and rewri.

A bonfire is lit and everyone gathers around it. Munchies, collected from each house, go around the party and are also thrown into the fire.

The day is celebrated as Ganga-Sagara in West Bengal and according a belief, Hindus purify their sins by taking bath in the Ganges. A big fair is also held on the Sagara Island, 64 km from the Diamond harbour where the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal.

Call it Lohri, Pongal or Sankranti, the festival conveys the same message -- the bond of brotherhood and the spirit of oneness.

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