Friday, January 6, 2012

History of Lohri

Harvest festival

The festival of Lohri is very ancient and historically owes its origin to ages of the Indus Valley civilization. The state of Punjab is known as the breadbasket of India and crop harvest is extremely important. The festival of Lohri is associated with the traditional harvest of rabi crops. The worshippers offer food items such as peanuts, rewri, flour, and butter to the Lohri bonfire to thank God for a good harvest. Thus Lohri celebrates the glory of farming. Wheat is the main crop of Punjab and is sown in October and harvested in the month of March or April. In January, the farmers are eager to reap the rich harvests and as they prepare themselves for cutting and gathering of the crops in the months that follow they enjoy the festivities of Lohri.

Lohri is celebrated with great enthusiasm and zeal and marks the peak of extreme North Indian winters. Revelers gather around the holy Lohri bonfire and perform Bhangra and Giddha. Groups of children wander from door to door chanting and singing Lohri songs and asking for Lohri offerings, which are then distributed among the people gathered in the evening. Fairs are held, men and women dance in merriment, people greet each other lovingly as everyone exuberantly participate in the celebration of bountiful harvest. Lohri coincides with other harvest festivals held in various other Indian states such as Pongal, Makar Sankranti, Magha Bihu, and Tai Pongal.

The Legend of Dulla Bhatti

The people of Punjab lovingly pay their homage to their hero of the ancient days, Dulla Bhatti. They sing songs in praise of this folk hero. Dulla Bhatti is said to have been a Muslim who was a highway robber and a convert from Sikhism. He is believed to have resided in Punjab in the reigns of Emperor Akbar. His fame lies in rescuing Sikh and Hindu girls who had been forcibly taken to be sold off in the Slave market of the Middle East. He also arranged for dowries for Sikh and Hindu girls and facilitated their marriages. He was a symbol of a rebel who belonged to the family of Bhatti Rajputs and got converted to Islam religion forcibly. His dynasty formed the rulers of Pindi Bhattian who ruled the Sandal Bar area of Pakistan.

The Legend of Fire and Sun God

The festival of Lohri is celebrated in the last of the month of Paush and marks the celebration of the waning winters thereafter. Lohri is said to be celebrated in an attempt to seek protection for the Sun and Fire Gods from the chilly winters. It is believed that the early men have formulated a special mantra that can bring heat and respite from wintry coldness. So they started chanting this mantra as they went around the holy bonfire. Thus took birth the ritual of Lohri bonfire and the gathering and offering of peanuts and rewri into the fire. There is ritual commonly observed in the countryside in which young village girls wander from one household to another asking for cow dung cakes. As they visit each house, they also chant Lohri songs. After collecting these cakes they pile them is a huge heap at one chosen spot. This pile is then used for preparing bonfire. There are several popular Lohri mantras and songs that are chanted in honor of the Sun God and Fire God to seek their blessings of warmth in the freezing cold of the winters. The Lohri worshippers strongly believe that the prayers on the day of Lohri reach the Sun God and so the next day as the morning sun dawns and begins the month of Magh, the sun shines with all its glory and fill the hearts with warmth and reduces the chill.

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