The warmth of Lohri bonfire spreads good cheer

Festivities galore

The warmth of Lohri bonfire spreads good cheer

As you read this article, the voices of women and young children singing songs and the merry rhythm of dhols beating at your doorstep will fall on your ears. The motley group of revellers are not just seeking donations for festivities and bonfire to mark Lohri but are formally bidding adieu to the winter season.

Lohri, an important festival in the Punjabi calendar is also celebrated with gusto in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.  Families and friends gather around a bonfire in traditional clothes for an evening of rituals, dance, music and food. The festival is especially significant for the new-born and newly-married couples in Punjabi families.

Groups light a bonfire and offer rewari, peanuts, jaggery, popcorn and sesame seeds, while singing and dancing around it to the beats of the dhol. It is celebrated on January 13 during the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti which falls on January 14 every year.

“My earliest memories of this festival go back to the time when I used to live in the refugee colony at Karol Bagh after my parents migrated from Pakistan,” recollects well known singer Madan Gopal Singh after his group Chaar Yaars performed at Habitat Centre to celebrate the festival. 

“We were a group of boys who went from house to house singing songs and were given goodies or money. I still remember how generous the classical music-loving South Indians were in giving us alms.”

Sharing his nostalgia of this festival of giving and sharing, he defines it as “quiet and gentle” among the rest. It “completely transforms one’s being by encouraging one to masquerade poverty even if one is well-off,” the singer adds as one spots handcartpullers going back home with the left-over popcorn, peanuts and rewaris after an impressive sale the night before.

The dawn also brings with it another festivity, Makar Sakranti, which marks the transition of Sun to Capricorn (Makar) zodiac. While people in North India cook, eat and donate khichdi, those in the South (Tamil Nadu) offer prayers and supplications to the Sun god on the occasion of Pongal. 

“In the early hours of the morning we set up a brick stove and cook rice in milk with jaggery. We then place sugarcane and worship the Sun god,” informs Neelkandan Namboodri, a personal assistant with a private firm in Delhi. 

Though it is difficult for many people  based in the City to adhere to all the norms and rituals associated with these religious events, the one thing they ensure is a visit to the temple. Similarly, people from Assam indulge in merry-making as they celebrate Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu.

The name of the festival comes from the word Bhog which means eating and enjoyment. It is a harvest festival like in Punjab and also encourages exchange of sweets and greetings.

It is little known but the transition of sun is also celebrated in countries outside India such as Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.   

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