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Happy Lohri.jpg
Lohri Bonfire
Also called Lal Loi
Observed by Multi cultural
Type Seasonal, traditional
Significance Midwinter festival, celebration of Winter Solstice
Celebrations Bonfire, song and dance (Bhangra and Gidda )
Date last day of Poh (Punjabi calendar) Normally 13 January
Related to Maghi (Makar Sankranti celebrated next day)
Bihu (Bhogali / Magh /Bhogi in Telugu)

Lohri (Gurmukhi: ਲੋਹੜੀ, Devanagari: लोहड़ी, Shahmukhi: لوہڑی) is a popular Punjabi folk festival,[1][2][3] celebrated by people from the Punjab region of South Asia[4] The origins of Lohri are many and link the festival to Punjab region.[5] Many people believe the festival commemorates the passing of the winter solstice.[6][7][8] The belief is that Lohri represents the longest night[9] before winter solstice as Lohri was originally celebrated on the night before winter solstice followed by the shortest day of the year which is observed on Maghi.[10] About sixteen centuries ago, these festivals were actually observed at the point of winter solstice[11] which now generally occurs around 21, 22 or 23 December.

Lohri and winter solstice[edit]

Sun sets early on Lohri



There are many origins of Lohri: all forming part of folklore. However, the main theme of Lohri is the belief that Lohri is the cultural celebration of the winter solstice.[12] According to folk lore, in ancient times Lohri was celebrated on the eve of winter solstice day.[13][14] It is for this reason that people believe day light is meant to increase from the day after Lohri when the sun starts its northward journey.[10] Accordingly, the day after Lohri is celebrated as Maghi Sangrand from when the days are meant to start getting longer.[15][16] People believe nights gradually shorten "by the grain of one sesame seed" once the winter solstice passes.[17]

However, instead of celebrating Lohri on the eve of when winter solstice actually occurs,[18] Punjabis celebrate it on the last day of the month during which winter solstice takes place. This is due to linking Lohri to the Bikrami calendar and the twinning of the festival with Makar Sankranti which is celebrated in the Punjab region as Maghi Sangrand. Therefore, Lohri commemorates the passing of the winter solstice.[19]

Scientifically, the shortest day of the year is around 21–22 December with the longest night preceding it on the day before,[20] after which the days begin to get longer. Accordingly, winter solstice begins on 21 December or 22 December and Lohri ought to be celebrated on the longest night before winter solstice day followed by Maghi (Makar) Sangrand on winter solstice which marks the point when daylight will increase.


Happy Lohri

A key feature of Lohri is the bonfire. Lighting of the fire has been common in winter solstice festivals throughout time and the world:[21][22] it signifies the return of longer days.[10] The bonfire is an ancient tradition,[15] forming a key part of Lohri traditions.[23][24][25][26] The bonfire also represents the new life of the sun which begins to reinvigorate itself on winter solstice day.[27]

Seasonal festival[edit]

Punjabis continue to practice their Punjabi folk religion. Respect to the seasons and the natural elements of fire, wind, water and the earth is very important. In the Punjab region, the year is divided into six seasons. The Punjabi months of Maghar and Poh represent the "hemant" season when Winter is at its height. Lohri is celebrated on the last day of Poh and therefore, is a festival dedicated to the end of the Winter season,[12][15] whereas Teej (known as Teeyan in Punjabi) is dedicated to the rain/Monsoon season and Basant Festival is dedicated to the Spring season. Lohri is a Punjabi festival celebrated by all faiths of the Punjab region.[28]

Lohri and harvest festival[edit]

Cut sugarcane
Semisolid sugar cane juice drying in another pan for preparation of Jaggery.

Lohri is traditionally associated with the harvest of the rabi crops.[29] The traditional time to harvest sugarcane crops is January[30] and therefore, Lohri is a harvest festival. The general time to sow sugarcane is January to March and the harvesting period is between December to March with a 12 to 18-month cycle.[31] Sugarcane products such as gurh and gachak are central to Lohri celebrations, as are nuts which are harvested in January [32] The other important food item of Lohri is radish which can be harvested between October and January. Eating mustard and spinach (sarson da saag) on Lohri is an ancient tradition. Mustard greens are cultivated mainly in the winter months because the crop is suitable to the agro-climatic conditions.[33] Accordingly, mustard greens are also a winter produce.

Lohri and the financial new year[edit]


Punjabi farmers regard Lohri as the financial new year. New agricultural tenancies commence on Lohri[12] and rents are collected on this day.[34] Punjabis regard the day of winter solstice as a new year[35] which is celebrated as Maghi new year the next day in rural Punjab, India. Historically, during the 19th century, revenue for winter crops was collected either on Lohri or Maghi.[36]


As Lohri has been linked to the Bikrami calendar, the festival has been twinned with the astrological festival of Maghi celebrated in the rest of India as Makar Sankranti. Other cultures observe winter solstice as per its original meaning (see winter solstice).

Lohri falls in the month of Paush i.e. around 13 January, as per the Gregorian calendar. It is, actually, celebrated a day before Maghi, as it marks the end of the winter season of hemant in the Punjabi calendar. The sun usually enters the Nirayana Makara rashi (Capricorn) on 14 January (99% of the time). However, there are times when the sun could enter the zodiac a day before or a day after 14 January. Regardless, Lohri is still celebrated a day before Maghi. Makara (Maghi) sankranti (Sangrand) marks beginning of the solar maagha masa, and Lohri must be celebrated on the last day of the solar Dhanur masa, which also marks the exit of the sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius).

For the general latitude and longitude of Punjab, 13 January represents the day after which sunrise occurs progressively earlier in the morning, till about 10–12 June. After these days in June, sunrise begins to occur progressively later in the morning till about 10–12 January. Therefore, the celebration of lohri on 13 January every year coincides with the shift from a progressively later sunrise to a progressively earlier sunrise.

The de-linking of Lohri and Maghi may take place in 2019. Although Maghi has been celebrated on January 14 for the last 100 years, it will from 2019 be marked on January 15 or January 16, except in 2021. However, Lohri may continue to be celebrated on 13 January.[37]


Punjabi Sarson da Saag and Makki di roti
(1) Jaggery Gur Punjab India
ground nuts (peanuts)
Sesame seeds (til)

It is traditional to eat Gajak, Sarson da saag with Makki di roti, radish, ground nuts and jaggery.[38] The tradition to eat saag on Lohri and Maghi has been ongoing since time immemorial.[33] It is also traditional to eat "til rice" which is made by mixing jaggery, sesame seeds and rice.[39] In some places, this dish is called 'Tricholi.'

Collecting Lohri items and trick or treating[edit]

In various places of the Punjab, about 10 to 15 days before Lohri, groups of young and teenage boys and girls go around the neighbourhood collecting logs for the Lohri bonfire. In some places, they also collect items such as grains and jaggery which are sold and the sale proceeds are divided amongst the group.[15]

A popular activity engaged in by boys is to select a group member to smear his face with ash and tie a rope around his waist! The idea is for the selected person to act as a deterrent for people who refrain from giving Lohri items. The boys will sing Lohri songs asking for Lohri items. If not enough is given, the householder will be given an ultimatum to either give more or the rope will be loosened. If not enough is given, then the boy who has his face smeared will try to enter the house and smash clay pots or the clay stove![15]

Dulla Bhatti[edit]

Over time, people have associated Lohri to the tale of Dulla Bhatti.[40] The central theme of many Lohri songs is the legend of Dulla Bhatti, whose real name was Rai Abdullah Bhatti and lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was regarded as a hero in Punjab. He saw the Mughals as foreign invaders and saw it as his duty to resist them. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued poor Punjabi girls, being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East from the Sandal Bar region. He arranged their marriages to boys and provided them with dowries. Amongst them were two girls Sundri & Mundri(married in 1614) who gradually became theme of Punjab' folklore. So some Lohri songs express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti. Dulla Bhatti's grave is at Miayani Sahib Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.


During the day, children go from door to door singing folk songs. These children are given sweets and savories, and occasionally, money. Turning them back empty-handed is regarded inauspicious. Where families are welcoming newly-weds and new borns,[41] the requests for treats increases.[15]

The collections gathered by the children are known as Lohri and consist of til, gachchak, crystal sugar, gur (jaggery), moongphali (peanuts) and phuliya or popcorn. Lohri is then distributed at night during the festival. Till, peanuts, popcorn and other food items are also thrown into the fire. For some, throwing food into the fire represents the burning of the old year and start the next year on Maghi

The bonfire ceremony differs depending on the location in Punjab. In some parts, a small image of the folk Lohri goddess is made with gobar (cattle dung) decorating it, kindling a fire beneath it and chanting its praises. The folk Lohri goddess is believed to be an ancient aspect of the celebration,[15] and is part of a long tradition of Winter solstice celebrations manifesting as a god or goddess.[42] In other parts, the Lohri fire consists of cow dung and wood with no reference to the Lohri goddess.

The bonfire is lit at sunset in the main village square. People toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries on the bonfire, sit around it, sing and dance till the fire dies out. Some people perform a prayer and go around the fire. This is to show respect to the natural element of fire,[43] a tradition common in winter solstice celebrations. It is traditional to offer guests til, gachchak, gur, moongphali (peanuts) and phuliya or popcorn. Milk and water is also poured around the bonfire by Hindus to thank the Sun God and seeking his continued protection.

Among some sections of the Sindhi community, the festival is traditionally celebrated as Lal Loi. On the day of Lal Loee children bring wood sticks from their grand parents and aunties and light a fire burning the sticks in the night with people enjoying, dancing and playing around the fire. The festival is gaining popularity amongst other Sindhis where Lohri is not a traditional festival.[44]

Kite flying[edit]


Kite flying on Lohri is popular in some parts of Punjab. People get onto the roof tops and fly kites of various sizes and colours. Amritsar is the place to visit if someone wish to see kite flying. People of amritsar are ones who are very passionate about flying kites and it can be seen on the festive day itself. [45]

Where celebrated[edit]

Punjabi woman waiting to participate in Gidda
Bhangra Dance Punjab
Ready to perform Punjabi cultural dance" Gidha"
2 dhols

Lohri is celebrated to denote the last of the coldest days of winter. Apart from Punjab, people from other northern Indian states of the Punjab region (Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh), Chandigarh and Jammu) become busy making preparations for the festival. Lohri has been celebrated in Jammu since Mughal times.[46] The festival is observed as Lal Loi in the Sindhi community.[47][48][49][50]


In houses that have recently had a marriage or childbirth, Lohri celebrations will reach a higher pitch of excitement. Punjabis usually have private Lohri celebrations, in their houses. Lohri rituals are performed, with the accompaniment of special Lohri songs.

Singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their brightest clothes and come to dance the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. Punjabi songs are sung, and everybody rejoices. Sarson da saag and makki di roti is usually served as the main course at a Lohri dinner. Lohri is a great occasion that holds great importance for farmers. However, people residing in urban areas also celebrate Lohri, as this festival provides the opportunity to interact with family and friends.

Lohri songs[edit]

There are many Lohri songs. For example, the following song which has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti (the 'ho's are in chorus):[51]

Sunder mundriye ho!
Tera kaun vicharaa ho!
Dullah Bhatti walla ho!
Dullhe di dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho!
Kudi da laal pathaka ho!
Kudi da saalu paata ho!
Salu kaun samete!
Chacha gali dese!
Chache choori kutti! zamidara lutti!
Zamindaar sudhaye!
Bum Bum bhole aaye!
Ek bhola reh gaya!
Sipahee far ke lai gaya!
Sipahee ne mari itt!
Bhaanvey ro te bhaanvey pitt!
Sanoo de de Lohri, te teri jeeve jodi!
(Laugh,cry or howl!)


Beautiful girl
Who will think about you
Dulla of the Bhatti clan will
Dulla's daughter got married
He gave one ser of sugar!
The girl is wearing a red suit!
But her shawl is torn!
Who will stitch her shawl?!
The uncle made choori!
The landlords looted it!
Landlords are beaten up!
Lots of simple-headed boys came!
One simpleton got left behind!
The soldier arrested him!
The soldier hit him with a brick!
(Cry or howl)!
Give us Lohri, long live your pair (to a married couple)!
Whether you cry, or bang your head later!

Other legends of the origin of Lohri festival[edit]

Some people believe that Lohri has derived its name from Loi, the wife of Saint Kabir. There is a legend amongst some people that Lohri comes from the word 'loh', which means the light and the warmness of fire. Lohri is also called lohi in rural Punjab. According to another legend Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived with Prahlad. Eating of til (sesame seeds) and rorhi is considered to be essential on Lohri day. Perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi, which eventually got shortened to Lohri.

Other parts of India[edit]

Lohri coincides with the festivals of Pongal, Bhogali Bihu and Bhogi.

In Andhra Pradesh, the day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhogi (భోగి) and this is when people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. At dawn people light a bonfire with logs of wood, other solid-fuels and wooden furniture at home that are no longer useful. The disposal of derelict things is where all old habits, vices, attachment to relations and material things are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the "Rudra Gita Gyana Yagya". It represents realization, transformation and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating divine virtues.

Festivals in other countries[edit]

Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony 2003

Winter solstice festivals have been incorporated into other festivals which are celebrated in various regions around the world. The festival of Yule is observed during Christmas celebrations whereby a log is burnt to commemorate the winter solstice.

The festival of Hogmanay is celebrated on new year’s day. The fire festival of Stonehaven in Scotland is the direct descendant of lighting winter solstice bonfires.[21][22] Another event is observed every 11 January when the flaming Clavie (a barrel full of staves) is carried round in Burghead and is wedged on the Doorie Hill. When it is burnt out, people take the smouldering embers to bring good luck for the coming year.[52][53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ramesh K. Chauhan (1995) Punjab and the nationality question in India. Deep and Deep Publications [1]
  3. ^ "Bishop Joseph Arshad: "Lohri festival - to wish each other well, peace, and prosperity"". 4 February 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  4. ^ [3] Asian News Jan 2013: Lohri celebrated in Faislabad, Punjab, Pakistan
  5. ^ "The Telegraph - Calcutta : Opinion". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  6. ^ "The Tribune...Science Tribune". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  7. ^ The Tribune Festival binge: Amarjot Kaur 10 January 2015
  8. ^ Celebrating with the Robin Hood of the Punjab and all his friends! Nottingham Post 13 01 2014 [4]
  9. ^ Census of India, 1961: Punjab. Manager of Publications
  10. ^ a b c http://www.purewal.biz/Holamu.pdf
  11. ^ The Astrological Magazine, Volume 54 (1965) Roman Publications
  12. ^ a b c [5] Singh, Hazara: Seasonal Festivals and Commemorative Days. Publisher: Hazara Singh Publications
  13. ^ "What a wonderful world". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  14. ^ Hindustan Times 12 01 2013
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Sundar mundarye ho by Assa Singh Ghuman Waris Shah Foundation ISBN B1-7856-043-7
  16. ^ "Shilpa Shetty's sari shows off her baby bump as she makes her first public appearance since announcing her pregnancy". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  17. ^ "Punjabi pockets warm up for Lohri bonfires - Times of India". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  18. ^ With Bonfires And Dancing, Indians Ring In Hindu New Year by Julie Mccarthy 15 01 2014 [6]
  19. ^ Hindustan Times 12 January 2015 Snigdha Ahuja
  20. ^ Cameron McPhail 21.12.2016) The Telegraph 'First day of Winter: everything you need to know about today's Solstice'. Accessed 30.12.2016 [7]
  21. ^ a b "The History of Hogmanay". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  22. ^ a b "What is "The Fireballs Ceremony"? - The Stonehaven Fireballs Association". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  23. ^ Page 17: From Kartik month the Sun is moving away from the earth. Ancient people lit the bonfire to reignite the return of longer days. This is a very ancient tradition. Sundar mundarye ho by Assa Singh Ghuman Waris Shah Foundation ISBN B1-7856-043-7
  24. ^ Makar Sankranti signifies Uttarayana which on winter solstice.[8] Lohri is celebrated the night before Makar Sankranti.
  25. ^ NDTV 06 12 14
  26. ^ "An Indian Thanks Giving - NDTV Food". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  27. ^ Walker, Harlan (1991)Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, 1990: Feasting and Fasting : Proceedings. Oxford Symposium [9]
  28. ^ Chauhan, Ramesh K. (1995) Punjab and the nationality question in India. Deep and Deep Publications. [10]
  29. ^ [11] Shivani Vig The Times of India 13/01/2010
  30. ^ [12] Toby Sinclair (1994) India. Odyssey [13]
  31. ^ "Sugarcane Crop Cycle(India)". 18 December 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  32. ^ http://www.faidelhi.org/general/statistics/sowing.htm
  33. ^ a b Indian Food Packer, Volume 49 (1995)
  34. ^ Randhir Singh, Sir William Roberts (1032) An economic survey of Kala Gaddi Thamman (Chak 73 g. b. ) a village in the Lyallpur District of the Punjab. C. & M. Gazette Press [14]
  35. ^ Srinivasan Kalyanaraman (2003) Sarasvati: Bharati. Saraswati Sindhu Research Centre [15]
  36. ^ Proceedings - Punjab History Conference (2000)
  37. ^ Hindustan Times (14.01.2017) After a 100 years, Makar Sankranti gets a new date. Accessed 15.01.2017.[16]
  38. ^ "Lohri page". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  39. ^ Sundar Mundarye ho by Assa Singh Bhuman Waris Shah Foundation ISBN 81-7856-043-7
  40. ^ "Origin of Lohri". 
  41. ^ "Lohri brightened by festive spirit - Times of India". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  42. ^ "Who Are the Deities of the Winter Solstice?". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  43. ^ [17] FirozBakht Ahmed Deccan Herald 18/01/2010
  44. ^ Nidhin Singhi "Lohri gaiety warms all"Times of India 13 01 2012
  45. ^ Hindustan Times by Vandana SIngh 09 01 2014
  46. ^ Jyoteeshwar Pathik, Diwan Chand Sharma (1980) Cultural Heritage of the Dogras. Page 106 "The festival of Lohri is said to be celebrated from Mughal time when a witch had created tyranny and horror on the Jammu Punjab border..." Light & Life Publishers [18]
  47. ^ "LOHRI: THE BONFIRE FESTIVAL - The Indian Panorama". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  48. ^ "Lohri Aaye Rey". 13 January 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  49. ^ "Dr Jitendra organises joint celebration of 'Lohri', 'Bihu' festivals - Scoop News Jammu Kashmir". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  50. ^ Daniyal, Shoaib. "Lohri legends: the tale of Abdullah Khan 'Dullah' Bhatti, the Punjabi who led a revolt against Akbar". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  51. ^ "Dhulla Bhatti Song". 
  52. ^ "The Burning of the Clavie, Burghead Moray". Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  53. ^ [19] the Magic Arts in Celtic Britain Lewis Spence

External links[edit]