Why people celebrate Lohri – history and significance

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New Delhi | Published: January 13, 2019 12:08:25 PM

Lohri is a Punjabi folk festival, which is predominantly celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus from the northern Punjab region in India, where Lohri is an official restricted holiday.

If you have lived in the northern part of the country, chances are you’ve heard the cheery song, “Sunder mundriye, ho!” by people standing around the bonfires during the Lohri festival. In addition, savouries such as gur rewri, popcorns and peanuts are the three edibles are shared around.

The winter-time festival is observed a night before another festival called Makar Sankranti, which marks the end of the month in the winter solstice; the festival also commemorates the beginning of longer days.

When is it celebrated?
Lohri is a Punjabi folk festival, which is predominantly celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus from the northern Punjab region in India, where Lohri is an official restricted holiday. Lohri is not a holiday in the Pakistani side of Punjab however, the winter-time festival is observed by Sikhs and some Punjabi Muslims in Pakistan as well.

Harvest festival
This festival also has its roots associated with the harvesting of the rabi crops. January is the traditional time to harvest sugarcane crops. Punjabi farmers also tend to see the day after Lohri (Maghi) as their financial New Year.

Punjabi folklore
There are many many stories associated with the festival but one of the popular ones is Sunder Mundriye on which the song is based. According to the Punjabi folklore – Sunder Mundriye – is the story of a man named Dulla Bhatti, who lived in the Punjab region during the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Bhatti was said to have been a bit like ‘Robin Hood’ and used to steal from the rich people, and rescue poor Punjabi girls who were being forcibly taken to be sold in slave markets. Bhatti took it upon himself to arrange their marriages to boys in the village, and gave them dowries from the stolen money. Two of those girls were said to be Sundri and Mundri, who are now associated with this folklore, Sunder Mundriye and hence the song.

Similar festivals
There are many festivals to mark the Winter solstice around the world.

For example, the Yule is observed during Christmas celebrations – a log is burnt to mark the winter solstice.

Another festival called Hogmanay is also celebrated on new year’s day.

READ ALSO | Watch: BSF jawans celebrate Lohri in Jammu

The fire festival of Stonehaven in Scotland is the most famous and is directly related to the lighting winter solstice bonfires. In Scotland, there is another event in which a burning Clavie is carried round in Burghead and is set on the Doorie Hill. When the Clavie is finally burnt out, people take the embers for themselves for good luck for the year.

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