Lohri 2021: Prayers to Lord Agni, folklore of Dulla Bhatti and harvest reason among reasons why festival is celebrated

While we may envision Lohri being a celebration with bonfire, flashy clothes, fancy foods and dancing to the tunes of songs, the festival is not bereft of a deeper meaning.

Celebrated on 13 January every year, Lohri is about paying gratitude to the almighty and is linked to the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day and the longest night. Lohri marks the end of the harsh winter and heralds spring, the season of bounty.

It is usually believed that offering food items to the God of Fire on this day helps take away all negativity from life and brings in prosperity. The bonfire symbolises Lord Agni and after offering food to the almighty, people seek blessings, prosperity and happiness from the God of fire. Furthermore, it is also believed that walking around the fire on Lohri helps in bringing prosperity.

Lohri is also associated with the harvest crops. Since, the customary time to harvest sugarcane crops is January, Lohri is seen by some to be a harvest festival, with Punjabi farmers seeing the day after Lohri as the financial New Year.

There is also a folklore behind the celebrations. Punjabi women can be seen circumbulating the bonfire singing 'Sunder mundriye ho!', which is a reference to the tale of a man named Dulla Bhatti, who is said to have lived in Punjab during the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar. It is believed that Bhatti would steal from the rich as well as rescue poor Punjabi girls being snatched forcibly to be sold in slave markets. He would then arrange marriages of these girls to the boys of the villages and provide them with dowries as well. Among the girls he rescued were Sundri and Mundri, who have become immortalised in the Punjabi folklore.

Originally, Lohri is celebrated on the coldest night of the year. Since the night is extremely chilly, people protect themselves by burning the fire and keeping it fed throughout the night, spending time around it and worshipping the deities of the sun and fire. Apart from sugarcane, the festival also marks the harvest of sesame seeds, jaggery, radish, mustard and spinach.

Lohri is a festival that is directly associated with the elements of nature. Sun represents the life element, while earth represents the harvest and food while fire maintains our health. Since nature offers these to humans, people offer their gratitude and thank nature for protection and prosperity.

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