Lohri is big. It’s bigger than Holi, the festival of colours, for many north Indians. With the sun at its furthest point from the earth, the Rabi (winter crop) harvested and the cold weather settling in, it’s time to celebrate nature’s bounty with loved ones and keep warm by the bonfire.
When it is?
The Hindu calendar dictates that Lohri generally falls sometime in mid January when the sun is furthest from the earth. In 2017 Lohri falls on Friday 13th January.
Lohri celebrations vary from region to region, family to family, so don’t take this run down as a given of what is going to happen. Delhi, a melting pot of people and cultures, will see everything mixed together in an massive display of merriment.
In the morning there might be a knock on your door as children wander around the neighbourhood asking for Lohri loot. Cash and sweet treats, such a sesame seeds, peanuts, jaggery and gajak will be well received.
Songs in priase of Dulha Bhatti, a legendary Punjabi figure who lived during the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar, might well be heard from the little one and ladies during the day. A Robin Hood like character, Dulha Bhatti is said to have stolen from the rich and given to the poor.
In the evening, as the temperature drops and the sun sets, bonfires will be lit. Festival goers will walk around the fire throwing in popcorn, peanuts and puffed rice. Cries of “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honour come and poverty vanish) will be heard as food stuffs are thrown into the flames. Then it’s time to sit around the fire, keep snug and sing folk songs.
The bonfires are also said to be of special importance for newly weds and newly born babies. New borns will be taken round the fires to be blessed, whilst newly weds will be given special gifts.
Gift swapping doesn’t stop there. Family members will exchange presents with one another and everyone feasts on traditional north indian foods like Butter Chicken, Sarson ka Saag (mustard leaves) and Makke ki Roti (corn bread)
After that it’s time to start dancing. Performed mostly by men, it’s all about Bhangra.
Expect Lohri to last well into the evening. Seen by Punjabi’s as their celebration they seize the chance to show everybody else what a fun loving bunch they are!
Where can I see it?
Celebrate the Lohri Festival with a fire, peanuts, popcorn and folk music at India’s premier cultural centre, the Indian Habitat Centre. The IHC Lohri Celebrations will start at 7.30pm on Friday 13th January. For more information, visit the IHC website.
Community centres and colony associations organise festivals too. Why not simply walk the streets around the capital, see what you come across and join in the fun?
Photo credit: Lakshman Anand