Lohri day: History, Why it is celebrated & Facts of little known
Photo: Hindu Portal

Lohri & Legend of Dulla Bhatti

Most people know of Lohri as a festival of the Punjabis where they build a bonfire, dance, offer jaggery and grains to the fire, and of course, indulge in lots of dancing. The story behind these traditions is in fact a tale of valor, rebellion, and revolution, initiated by Rai Abdullah Khan Bhatti fondly referred to as Dulla Bhatti, Sabrang India cited.

Dulla’s father and grandfather were Muslim-Rajput landlords (zamindaars) in Lahore who opposed the taxation system levied by the Mughal empire under Emperor Akbar. There were frequent skirmishes between the Bhatti landlords and the Faujdar’s armies where the Bhattis pushed back and defeated the Mughal forces. Ultimately, Emperor Akbar called for their arrests and execution. They were executed 4 months before Dulla was born. When Prince Salim was born, an astrologer convinced Akbar that the only way the Prince would grow up to be a strong ruler as if he was nursed by another woman whose son was born on the same day as the Prince. This woman was none other than Dulla’s own mother Ladhi who is said to have given birth to Dulla on the same day as the Prince.

As the years went on, Ladhi hid her husband and father-in-law’s weapons in a closed room and kept their history a secret from the headstrong teenage Dulla. When Dulla and his friends created mischief in the village by damaging women’s waterpots with their catapults, a village woman taunted him by saying, “Why do you show your strength here to women and poor people? If you are so strong, go and avenge your father”. This made Dulla ask his mother to tell him the truth and she finally opened up the secret room full of weapons. Dulla’s young blood and courage led him to form a band of highway robbers along with his friends using these weapons. They would steal from the rich traders and distribute the goods to poor villagers. Dulla became a savior for the poor.

One such poverty-stricken Brahmin landed at Dulla’s camp with a special plea. He had two young and beautiful daughters Sundari and Mundari, who were betrothed in another village. He was too poor to afford a wedding, let alone two. Desperate to save his daughters, the Brahmin implored Dulla for help. Dulla vowed that he would make sure the two girls would be safely wed to their betrothed and told the Brahmin, “Your daughters are my daughters”. He started a donation campaign in the neighboring villages and people donated jaggery and grains in small and large amounts for the double wedding. On the wedding day, Dulla lit huge bonfires along the path to ensure safe passage for the wedding party. This is why Lohri is celebrated by lighting bonfires and offering jaggery and grains.

Lohri day: History, Why it is celebrated & Facts of little known
Photo: DNA India

How is Lohri celebrated?

The festival of Lohri is celebrated at the end of autumn and brings great joy and happiness to people. The farmers of Punjab and Haryana thank God on this day so that their upcoming harvest is good. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of longer days. The sun travels towards the Northern Hemisphere during this time.

The festival of Lohri is celebrated in the evening. Peanuts, jaggery, sesame and gajak are eaten on this festival. In the evening, all the people of the house burn Lohri outside the house. They put peanuts, gajak, sesame and maize in the bonfire and revolve around it and pray for a happy future. Along with this, family members sing folk songs revolving around Lohri. This festival is also very special for newly married couples. Newly married couples pray for their happy life by offering a sacrifice in the fire of Lohri.

The bonfire symbolizes Lord Agni, the God of Fire. That's why people offer various kinds of food items to the fire to seek blessings, prosperity, and happiness from Lord Agni. It is believed that if one walks around the fire on Lohri day, one can expect miracles to happen. It bears a message that is universal in every sense. Many devotees of Lord Agni thus believe that their prayers and concerns will receive an immediate answer, and things will change for the better.

Lohri day: History, Why it is celebrated & Facts of little known
Photo: DNA India

Facts that little known about Lohri

The Meaning of Tilohri

Lohri actually comes from the word ‘Tilohri' i.e. ‘til' meaning sesame and ‘rorhi' meaning jaggery/gur. Eventually, the festival was just referred to as Lohri. These two traditional foods are associated with the festival as “they are both believed to cleanse the body from within, bringing renewed energy for the new year,” says Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja. That's why foods like jaggery, gajak, til ki chikki are offered to the fire as a way of paying gratitude to nature's bounty and also eaten on this day.

Exchange of Gifts

Lohri is also the time when gifts are exchanged among family members as a token of love and respect. “Every year, one day before Lohri, I go and give gifts to my daughter-in-law's family. This includes gifts, a basket of fruits, sagan, gur, dry fruits, revri, gajak, mithai, the works,” says Home-Chef Subhash Bala Kher.

Farmer's New Year of Harvest

Lohri marks the new year for Punjabi farmers, bringing health and prosperity to all. Every year on Lohri day, the farmers gather in Punjab to pray and show gratitude for their crops before the harvesting begins and pray to Lord Agni to bless their land with abundance. Some even chant “Aadar aye dilather jaye” i.e. “may honor come and poverty vanish” and sing other popular folk songs while moving around the fire.

Indulging in Winter Foods

Since Lohri celebrates the harvest of winter crops, it is customary to eat winter foods on this day. The traditional Punjabi dinner includes sarson da saag and makki di roti, til ki barfi, gur ki roti, makhane ki kheer.

Goodbye Winters

The festival of Lohri bids goodbye to the cold gloomy winters and marks the beginning of bright sunny days ahead. The following day is celebrated as Makar Sankranti where people usually greet each other with the words, “Til-gul ghya ani gud gud bola” which literally translates to ‘eat jaggery and sesame seeds and speak words”.

The Importance of First Lohri for Brides

The first Lohri a bride celebrates with her husband's family is considered very special. The newlywed couple is presented with gifts and showered with love,” adds Home-Chef Subhash Kher. As a new member of the family, the bride performs Punjabi gidda around the fire and receives blessings from elders. It is believed that the bride will bring success to her new family through her own good fortune.

Here are 8 interesting things about Lohri Day:

Facts about Lohri day: History, Why it is celebrated & Facts of little known
Lohri Celebration. Photo: DGreetings.com

1. It is believed that the Lohri night is the coolest night of winters as it is also the longest night of the year and ironically it is also the shortest day of the year too!

2. Lohri is also celebrated as the harvest festivals. As traditionally January is the time period to harvest sugarcane crops

3. Why the festival is important in Punjabi because farmers consider the day after Lohri as the financial New Year, which also holds immense importance to the Sikh community.

4. Folk songs are sung on Lohri to thank the Sun God Apart from dancing and Gidda. A festival essentially dedicated to the fire and the sun God, Lohri is associated with the concept of life and health in the Hindu religion.

5. In rural Punjab Lohri is also pronounced as Lohi. who was the wife of Sant Kabir.

6. According to another legend Holika and Lohri were sisters. Holika perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived. But one more legends says that since eating of til (sesame seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is part of the festival, then perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi, which eventually got shortened over the years to Lohri. The word Lohri is also believed to have an origin from the word regional word ‘loh’ which means warmth and light of fire.

7. In North India, the first Lohri a bride celebrates with her husband’s family is considered very special. The newlywed couple is the center of attraction and is gifted with clothes and jewelry. The first Lohri after the wedding for a woman is considered to be very auspicious.

8. Kite flying on Lohri is also very popular.

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