Punjab and the whole of North India celebrates their most important festival Lohri in the month of January. It is a celebration of the harvest season, Mother Nature and its many blessings and falls on the 13th of January, a day prior to Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan. Lohri is the reminder that the winters are fading away and the bright sun kissed days are here.
"Ayi Rut Basant Di, Te Mooli Chadiya Bheen,
Dhoopa Pargat Hoiya, Te Ghar Nu Chaliya Seen."
The season of spring or basant has arrived, the radishes are flowering/seeds, the sun has appeared again and the cold is going back to its home. The days start becoming longer signaling the arrival of spring after a long and severe winter for northern India. Punjab celebrates the ready crop, fertility and a good harvest.
Lohri in Punjab is celebrated by with great fervor and joy heralding the arrival of harvest season. The festival is long since associated with the legend of "Dulla Bhatti" a legend about a man who lived in Punjab during the time of King Akbar. He helped the poor people and saved girls from being sold as slaves and arranged their marriages. Most of the traditional songs for Lohri mention him as gratitude for what he did.
The day is spent by the village children going to all houses asking for Lohri …. "De De Lohri Oye!!" They collect sweets and money, cow dung, even wood to celebrate Lohri at their homes in the evening. To eat radish (mooli) and khicdhi (rice & dal mix) is considered auspicious for the day. During the late evening in the village squares and homes across the cities and towns of Punjab, a bon fire is lit using wood and ghee. The celebration starts with a prayer for a good harvest and a plentiful season ahead and thanking the gods and singing of folk songs.
The festival is celebrated by first offering the Gur (Jaggery), Til (Sesame Seeds), Phooliya (Popcorn), Moongphali (peanuts) and Gajak and Rewaris to the bonfire as offerings and then sharing them among family and friends. The most popular number for the festival is Sunder mundriye ho! sung by the dholi s or the drummers and dancing to the beats of Bhangra and Gidda – the traditional dances of Punjab continue late into the night. The traditional foods eaten are gur and til, which are combined to make the traditional sweets called rewari or gajak along with Sarson ka Saag and Makki ki Roti are the main items for the dinner. The celebrations continue till late into the night and people sit around the bonfire till it dies down.
In the capital, in Chandigarh, it is celebrated with pomp and show. In the villages of Punjab the festival is especially important for newlyweds and newborns and big celebrations are planned with a mix of modern and traditional sentiments. The newlyweds and the parents with the new born son take a round of the holy bonfire and seek blessings of elders. The grandparents or the elders give their blessings to all the family members and usually the bonfire is lit by the elders of the family. The evening continues with dancing around the bonfire to the beats of a drum or dhol and singing to the tunes of the traditional and the latest hit numbers.