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 Lohri
Amidst the cold weather and the dense fog outside, everything seems stagnant in the northern part of India. However, people are busy making preparations for Lohri the long-awaited bonfire festival when they can come out of their homes and celebrate the harvesting of the Rabi (winter) crops and give in to relaxing and enjoying the traditional folk songs and dances.

In Punjab, 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). 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. People 'nullify' their sins by bathing in the Ganges.

On Lohri day, children go from door to door singing and demanding the Lohri 'loot' in the form of money and eatables like til (sesame) seeds, peanuts, jaggery, or sweets like gajak, rewari, etc. They sing in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich to help the poor, and once helped a miserable village girl out of her misery by getting her married off like his own sister.

Sunder mundriye..ho
Tera kaun vichara..ho
Dulla bhatti waala..ho
Dulle ne ti viahiyi..ho
Saer shakar payi..ho
Kudi de boje payee..ho
Shallu kaun samete..ho
Chacha galee dese..ho
Chache choori kutee..ho
Zamindaran lutee..ho
Zamindara sidaye..ho
Gin-gin pole layee..ho
Ik pola reh gaya..ho
Sipahi farh ke lei gaya..ho
Aakho mundao taana..
Mukai da dana..
Aana lei ke jana..


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 of five main items: til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Winter savories are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti and sarson-ka-saag.

The day following Lohri is called 'Maghi', signifying the beginning of the month of Magh. According to Hindu beliefs, this is an auspicious day to take a holy dip in the river and give away charity. Sweet dishes (usually kheer) are prepared with sugar cane juice to mark the day.

In other parts of India, Lohri almost coincides with the festivals of Pongal and Makar Sankranti, all of which communicate the same message of oneness and celebrate the spirit of brotherhood, while thanking the Almighty for a bountiful life on earth.

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