January 13, 2007

Its ‘Lohri’ Today

Filed under: India n Me,opinions,Our Festivals — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 10:55 am
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A very happy Lohri to all North Indians.

My earliest memories of celebrating this ‘bonfire festival’ go back to the days when Bombay (as it was then called) seemed to be a place where all festivals were celebrated with fervour and sans self consciousness.

Lorhi and Baisakhi on 13th April, are the only festivals which are celebrated on the same date, irrespective of planetary transits.Lorhi was a reason to gorge on ‘revadis, gajak ( sesame and jaggery sweets) meet up with relatives, sing songs in the open, after having venerated the fire God, having created a massive bonfire and ritually bid adieu to winter, welcome the rabi harvesting. Of course Bombay did not have winters, there wernt crops to be harvested either. But there were songs to be sung, a taste of Punjab in the winters to be envisioned, and the end of the winter solstice, so ingenuously manipulated into a festival by our ancients, celebrated.

Punjabis by any definition, are a robust, jovial, lot, redy to break into a ‘Gidda’ or ‘Bhangra’ ( vigorous dances..much like the Greek form) at the first given opportunity

There are no open spaces left..if any, those are now manicured lawns of Societies, where rituals of the kind will be perhaps cause for furore by residents. Those, like me, who live independently, the problem of accumulating pounds of wood to be burnt can pose a problem, as much as the venue. Oh how I miss being in Punjab where it is yet celebrated with as much enthusiasm and joie de vivre.

For some details on its significance:

“In Punjab, the breadbasket of India, wheat is the main winter crop, which is sown in October and harvested in March or April. In January, the fields come up with the promise of a golden harvest, and farmers celebrate Lohri during this rest period before the cutting and gathering of crops.

According to the Hindu calendar, Lohri falls in mid-January (13th January, 2003). The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year, Paush, and announcing the start of the month of Magh and the auspicious period of Uttarayan – January 14 to July 14. According to the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna manifests himself in his full magnificence during this time. The Hindus ‘nullify’ their sins by bathing in the Ganges.”

The actual ritual is one of a kind and has interesting underlying suggestions..

“In the evening, with the setting of the sun, huge bonfires are lit in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses and people gather around the rising flames, circle around (parikrama) the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies into the fire, shouting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honor come and poverty vanish!), and sing popular folk songs. This is a sort of prayer to Agni, the fire god, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity. After the parikrama, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad (offerings made to god). The prasad comprises five main items: til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Winter savories are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-ka-saag (cooked mustard herbs).

“Aadar aaye dilaatar jaaye” me also indicates that the time for renewing life afresh has come..after the cold unrelenting winter of fears and anxieties. Just as nature has crossed over to from barren to the bountiful, our energies have to be as if it were shaken off its lethargy, exposed to the warmth of energy generating fire and re-lit..Beautiful isnt it?

The relinquishing of jaggery and til into the fire apart from keeping the flame alive could also suggest that these ‘heat rendering’ foods be given up now, since summers are up next. It is this transition which is celebrated as Lohri in northern India, Makara sankranti in the central part of the country and as Pongal-Sankranti in South India.

The festival is spread over three days in South India and also signifies the beginning of harvesting. A rath yatra is taken out from the Kandaswamy temple in Chennai on Pongal.

The day is celebrated as Ganga-Sagara in West Bengal and according a belief, Hindus purify their sins by taking bath in the Ganges. A big fair is also held on the Sagara Island, 64 km from the Diamond harbour where the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal.

Call it Lohri, Pongal or Sankranti, the festival conveys the same message — the bond of brotherhood and the spirit of oneness should prevail despite all odds.

In Mumbai, I satisfy my urge to experience winter by resorting to my ‘shawls’ at the mere hint of a nip in the air..pretend pretend.Winters are here…put on your stockings and kick up a fuss with.”Its soooo cold.. its time for brandy with honey in warm water”’er killed no one and does help to keep the spirit of Lohri alive.


  1. Hi..happy lohri to you 2 πŸ™‚

    did u manage with the ‘gajak’? the recipe you sent was good but I think i added in 2 much water..hee time it will be beter

    Comment by Neha — January 15, 2007 @ 10:22 am | Reply

  2. Its pongal as well..wish you guys cld have tasted the pongal treats my grand mom prepared. I miss it. And my wife hates it when I say so..haha But there is a see she used to cook it in earthen ware and all that….it tasted totally different.

    Comment by dilip — January 15, 2007 @ 11:12 am | Reply

  3. Hey Neha.Thanks ..yeah the quantity of water is crucial though my mom told me that weather is a requires the dry climate of the North..Mumbai is far too wet and humid for a perfect gajjak..MMMM..I love the North in Winters..sigh

    Hi Dilip, Happy pongal to you..Ha Ha .so you are going on with your “My-mom-cooks-better-than-you’ talk on Pongal? Poor gal πŸ™‚

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — January 15, 2007 @ 12:08 pm | Reply

  4. I really really miss home at such times 😦 I feel so far removed from whats it like to be Indian in this festival sense.

    Moms sister sent us snaps of the celebrations back home. In delhi its a lot more boisterous than in other parts of India..The weather I believe is freezing cold there. It must be really romantic n all of that.
    if all goes well, v are planning a trip towards the end of the year in time for around two months. maybe i will get to experience it the nxt year…also want to see the jaipur festival. maybe we can go together kaveeta what say? Mom was suggesting that as well.

    Comment by puja — January 16, 2007 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

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