The festival of Lohri was celebrated everywhere on 13.01.2010. Let us know about this festival.
Origin of Lohri
The origin of the Lohri can be traced back to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. By the end of the first week of January, small groups of boys ring the doorbell of houses and start chanting the Lohri songs related to Dulla Bhatti. In turn, the people give them popcorn, peanuts, crystal sugar, sesame seeds (til) or gur as well as money. Turning them back empty-handed is regarded inauspicious.
Lohri marks the end of winter on the last day of Paush, and beginning of Magha (around January 12 and 13), when the sun changes its course. It is associated with the worship of the sun and fire and is observed by all communities with different names, as Lohri is an exclusively Punjabi festival. The questions like When it began and why is lost in the mists of antiquity.
The origin of Lohri is related to the central character of most Lohri songs is Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowries. Understandably, though a bandit, he became a hero of all Punjabis. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.
Some believe that Lohri has derived its name from Loi, the wife of Sant Kabir, for in rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi. Others believe that Lohri comes from the word 'loh', a thick iron sheet tawa used for baking chapattis for community feasts. Another legend says that Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived. Eating of til (sesame seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is considered to be essential on this day. Perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi, which eventually got shortened to Lohri.
Ceremonies that go with the festival of Lohri usually comprises of making a small image of the Lohri goddess with gobar (cattle dung), decorating it, kindling a fire beneath it and chanting its praises. The final ceremony is to light a large bonfire at sunset, toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries in it, sit round it, sing, dance till the fire dies out. People take dying embers of the fire to their homes. In Punjabi village homes, fire is kept going round the clock by use of cow-dung cakes.
The History of Lohri
The history of Lohri, a seasonal festival of North India is as old as that of story of Indus Valley civilization itself. The Festival of Lohri marks the beginning of the end of winter and the coming of spring and the new year. The fires lit at night, the hand warming, the song and dance and the coming together of an otherwise atomized community, are only some of the features of this festival. The Lohri of north India coincides with Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in Bengal, Magha Bihu in Assam, Tai Pongal in Kerala, all celebrated on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti.
There are some interesting socio-cultural and folk-legends connected with Lohri. According to the cultural history of Punjab, Bhatti, a Rajput tribe during the reign of Akbar, inhabited parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat (now in Pakistan). Dulla Bhatti, Raja of Pindi Bhattian, was put to death by the Mughal king for revolting against him. The tribal mirasis (street singers) trace the history of the tribe and interestingly, claim Maharaja Ranjit Singh as one of its scions.
Dulla Bhatti, like Robin Hood, robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The people of the area loved and respected him. He once rescued a girl from kidnappers and adopted her as his daughter. His people would remember their hero every year on Lohri. Groups of children moved from door to door, singing the Dulla Bhatti folk-song: "Dulla Bhatti ho! Dulle ne dhi viyahi ho! Ser shakar pai ho!" (Dulla gave his daughter a kilo of sugar as a marriage gift).
Lohri is essentially a festival dedicated to fire and the sun god. It is the time when the sun transits the zodiac sign Makar (Capricorn), and moves towards the north. In astrological terms, this is referred to as the sun becoming Uttarayan. The new configuration lessens the ferocity of winter, and brings warmth to earth. It is to ward off the bitter chill of the month of January that people light bonfires, dance around it in a mood of bonhomie and celebrate Lohri.
Fire is associated with concepts of life and health. Fire, like water, is a symbol of transformation and regeneration. It is the representative of the sun, and is thus related, on the one hand with rays of light, and on the other with gold. It is capable of stimulating the growth of cornfields and the well being of man and animals. It is the imitative magic purporting to assure the supply of light and heat. It is also an image of energy and spiritual strength. That is why the Lohri fire gets sanctified and is venerated like a deity. On this occasion, people offer peanuts, popcorn and sweets made of til- chirva, gajak and revri – to propitiate fire as a symbol of the sun god.
Influence of Lohri
Lohri is one such festival which works as a tie-up bond for various communities. The festival is celebrated with great fervor and exuberance especially in North India. Farmers celebrate this harvest festival with traditional dances and songs. It falls on the 13th January when the Earth starts moving towards the sun marking the auspicious period of Uttarayan.
The earth leans towards the sun along the Tropic of Capricorn (Makara rekha) from the day following Lohri, also known as Winter Solstice. The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun along its elliptical orbit, thus heralding the onset of spring. It is this transition which is celebrated as Lohri.
Spending Time with Family and Friends
By celebrating Lohri altogether, people come across importance of agriculture, harvest and also relationship values. It gives a chance to spend time with family and friends. The main event of the day is huge bonfire with all the family members dancing around the holy fire. Thus, this festival is taken as a day to worship fire. Bonfires are also symbolic in paying homage to the Sun God as Lohri is the festival connected with the solar influence.
Preparations for Lohri celebrations begin way ahead the festival. People in villages begin collecting twigs, branches and cow dung whereas people in towns gather thin log of wood to make fire. Families consider it to be the best time to shower their blessings over the newly wed couples and new born babies. Even huge functions are organized for such celebrations. The seasonal goodies like revri, dry fruits, patti, peanuts and sugarcane form an integral part of the celebrations. People also throw these goodies into the fire while chanting and dancing around the fire. Womenfolk prepare a pudding of spinach, mustard leaf and lentil cooked in sugarcane juice which is believed to purify blood and cleanse our body from within.
Dulha Bhatti also popularly known as Robinhood is the heroic icon that is associated with the harvest festival of Lohri. The legendary figure of Dulha Bhatti also represents the glorious secular tradition of Lohri bonfire. Even today, children go door to door singing traditional folk songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a thief who helped the poor and fought for their rights. There are hundreds of traditions and stories associated with this legendary figure in Punjab. The medieval folklore relates the celebration of Lohri to the legendary figure of Dullah, who was the contemporary of yet another Super Human, poet Divine, Sri Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Master, who sacrificed his life at the altar of humanity at Lahore.
History of Dulha Bhatti
Centuries ago, rulers of Delhi controlled large parts of the fertile province of Punjab. However, due to weak governments at Delhi, there was a perennial flow of hordes of invaders from Afghanistan, Central Asia, Persia, Greece and Asia Minor through the Khyber Pass into the sub-continent and the people of Punjab always had to bear the maximum brunt of their pilferage, loot and plunder.
There is a vast tract of semi-arid region lying between rivers Chenab and Ravi, which now falls in the districts of Sheikhupura and Faislabad, called the Saandal Bar. The people of this area were known to provide stiffest opposition to marauders. The Mahmud of Ghaznawi had carried out one special campaign to subdue the burly and bold Virk Jatts, Gurjars and Bhatti Rajputs of Saandal Bar. Even Babur makes a mention of the resistance offered to him by these chivalrous people in his autobiography ‘Baburnama.’ From a social point of view these valiant tribesmen had a very secular outlook and their lifestyle was a composite blend of Hindu and Islamic rituals and traditions. In due course of time, the Mughals had consolidated their hold over the entire country but dominance of the region lying between the Chenab and Ravi, eluded them. People of this area never paid any taxes rather they openly defied the authorities and indulged in looting the royal caravans and treasures.
‘Saandal’, a warlord of Bhatti Rajput clan led these tribals. He openly rebelled against the Mughal Imperialism. Prince Jahangir, the heir apparent fired with zeal to prove his prowess carried out campaigns to consolidate the Mughal authority in the region. There were many skirmishes in which Saandal and his son Farid were captured and executed. Their skins were peeled from dead bodies, filled with chaff and hanged at the Delhi gate of the Fort of Lahore to instill a sense of fear amongst the rebels.
However, son of Farid, Abdullah or Dullah as he is fondly called remained unfazed and continued his defiant activities. Dullah earned notoriety in the eyes of authorities. He looted wealthy landlords and Imperial officers and distributed the booty amongst the poor. Dullah enjoyed huge popularity amidst the poor tribal folks of the area. He came to be regarded as a father figure for the distressed and oppressed. He became a living embodiment of the chivalrous and secular, socio-cultural character of the region.
Traditional Stories of Dulha Bhatti
Legendary stories are associated with the brave Dulha Bhatti. He used to rob rich to help the poor and needy. It is believed that Dullah had restored the prestige of an innocent girl whose modesty was outraged by a wealthy Zamindar. There are various versions of the actual story. Some traditions say that Dullah had adopted this girl as his daughter and arranged her marriage in the Jungles of ‘Saandal Bar’. As there was no priest nearby to chant the Vedic Hymns and solemnize the marriage Dullah had lit a bonfire and composed an impromtu song, “Sunder Mundriye Tera Kaun Vichara ! Dullah Bhatti Wala Ho! Dullaeh Di Teeh Viahi Ho! Ser Shakar Payi !” The bride and the groom were asked to take pheras of the bonfire as Dullah sang this hilarious song.