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Lohri Festival - the Bonfire Festival of Punjab - Festivals of India

Updated on January 27, 2020
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Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

Lohri Festival 2020

Lohri festival will be celebrated on 13 January 2020

The Lohri Bonfire

Lohri Bonfire
Lohri Bonfire | Source

Lohri: The Bonfire Festival Of Punjab

Lohri is a North Indian festival of the people of Punjab and is traditionally a harvest festival when fresh sugarcane is just about harvested and also a time to relax for a brief period before wheat, the main crop of Punjab, is harvested in March/April.

Lohri also is the start of the new financial year for the Punjab farmers. The lohri day is the shortest, and the night, the longest of the year, as from now on, the days will start lengthening with the nights shortening. Lohri also marks the end of the winter season and the advent of spring, with the climate warming up, now on.

According to the Hindu calender, it marks the end of Paush & start of the Magha month.

Though lohri is a Punjabi festival, this day is celebrated by many communities under different names like, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in West Bengal, Magha Bihu in Assam & Tai Pongal in Kerala.

On this day bonfires are lit, songs sung and dancing done to the accompaniment to dhols (drums) & ritualistic celebrations carried out.

This festival is a special occasion for celebrations for families who have newly wed couples or newborns, celebrating their first lohri.

Lohri Festival Origin

A few folk legends are associated with the origin of lohri festival whose actual origin is lost to time. Some of these are :

  1. Probably the most famous of these is the one that connects Dulla Bhatti, a robber, with it. He was a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood during the time of Emperor Akbar who looted the rich and gave to the poor. Alongside this he is believed to have saved a number of girl who were to be sold for ulterior purposes and thus in this process adopted one girl as his daughter and later off married her off giving her a marriage gift of a kilo of sugar.

    All these acts made him quite popular & respected among the people. To honor him, to this day, every year on lohri groups of children go door to door singing his name asking for lohri treats in the form of sweets and money which people happily provide in the form of rewri, gachak, peanuts, til ladoos, puffed rice and jaggery along with a small amount of money. Returning them empty handed is considered inauspicious.
  2. Another legend associates this festival to the Sun God.

    It is said that in olden times village maidens used to go to all households in the neighborhood to collect cowdung cakes, to be burnt in the form of a community bonfire, which were then dumped in one house when it became a sizable quantity.

    This ritual was performed in the belief that their ancestors had formulated a mantra to protect them from the biting cold and which would be invoke the Sun God to send out heat to bear the winter. This mantra was chanted by them with the belief that the flames of the lohri bonfire would reach out their message to the Sun God.
  3. One more legend has it that people in olden times lit fires to protect themselves and their habitation from wild flesh eating animals. To this community fire everyone; boy, girl or elder, contributed by bringing firewood from the jungle.

    This ritualistic bonfire not only symbolises the protection of people by the fire but also in a way worships it.
  4. Others believe lohri derived its name from Loi, the name of Saint Kabir's wife. (Incidentally in rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi).
  5. Some others believe the word Lohri comes from the word loh, meaning a thick iron sheet used for baking rotis or Indian flatbread for community feasts.

Bhangra Dance

Bhangra | Source

The Celebrations

Traditions differ from place to place rurally.

At some places a small image of the Lohri goddess is prepared with cow dung and decorated. Then a fire is lit beneath it and praises of the goddess are sung.

Some other places no image is made but a bonfire of cow dung & wood is lit. Some people go around this fire chanting places but all of them sit around the bonfire singing and eating the traditional lohri sweets and also offering these sweets to the bonfire by tossing them in. They keep singing and dancing late into the night till the bonfire dies out on its own.

Traditional dinner of Makki Ki Roti & Sarson Ka Saag is relished on this day.

These celebrations become more arduous in families that have a newly married couple or a newborn among them. In most such cases, the music is accompanied by professional dholis beating drums and professional dancers doing bhangra & gidda, the popular folk dances of Punjab. Gifts are given to relatives & friends.
Gifts of sweets, clothes & dry fruits are the popular forms of gifting on this occasion.

Kite flying also takes a prominent stage on this occasion.

Makki Di Roti & Sarson Da Saag

Public Domain
Public Domain


Pinni, a sweet made of wheat flour, evaporated milk & dry fruits
Pinni, a sweet made of wheat flour, evaporated milk & dry fruits | Source

About Lohri Sweets

Among the sweets that are specific to lohri festival and a must eat are:

  • Gajak made with peanuts & gur (jaggery) or jaggery & til (sesame seds)
  • Chikki made with dry fruits & sugar
  • Til ladoo, rewri, pinnis & ganne ki kheer (rice cooked in sugarcane juice).

Whether it is Lohri, Pongal or Sankranti the message these festivals send out is of love and also that the spirit of universal brotherhood and oneness must prevail over all odds.

Lohri Festival

© 2016 Rajan Singh Jolly


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    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Hi Flourish, I'd say one hardly knows anything about other cultures. In fact, India is a land of so many diverse cultures that we ourselves have not much knowledge about other cultures within the broad Hindu cultures. The research was enlightening to me as well. Appreciate your read and comments. Thanks.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      This was so interesting. How little we Americans often know about the cultural practices of others. Thanks for sharing.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      @ Surabhi Kaura, good to see you still remember this old lohri song that kids sing asking for lohri. I'm glad you like this article on lohri. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Surabhi Kaura 

      4 years ago

      Hi Rajan ji,

      I was going to write a poem on Lohri and stumbled upon your hub. Wonderfully written! It reminds me of my childhood days when we used to open our doors to kids singing, “Sunder Mundariye… hoyee... Tera kaun beechara… hoyee… dulha pathi wala...” Good old days! Thanks you for sharing this.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      It is indeed the largest festival for the farming community and a time for celebration for all. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 years ago from Dubai

      Lohri is a great celebration, I love to watch Bhangra and not forgetting the delicious sweets.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Thank you bro manatita44. It is always a pleasure to hear from you and your comments can lift up anyone's spirit.

      Thanks for sparing time to red through the article. I as well have not been regularly posting here as I'm busy with my other websites but it always feels good to hear from old friends.

      Thank you.

    • manatita44 profile image


      4 years ago from london

      Very nice article, Rajan. Great to know about this festival. They will probably celebrate at the Sikh Gurdwara here in West Ealing, London, Uk, and so I look forward to going there.

      I note the pinni as well as the chapati/roti. Delicioso, as the Spanish say. I like the Bhangra spirit of the Sikhs and of course their singing and playing of devotionals shabads are sublime!

      Good to interact with you again bro. I recall you doing some truly wonderful Hubs, but alas! I have not visited you as often as I'd like as I'm generally in the world of spiritual or esoteric poetry. Rest assured that you are always in my Heart of Love and beauty.

      Thank you so much, My dear brother, and seasonal greetings 2016.

      Wahe Guruji ka kalsa, wahe Guruji ke Fateh.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      @Venkatachari M, Yes of course these are great traditions we must hold on to to preserve our roots. Wish you a Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

      @DDE, thanks Devika and wish a very Happy New Year to you as well.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Awesome! I like Bhangra dancing. You shared a valuable hub on such a tradition. Nice photos! A Happy New Year to you.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      4 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Great description of lohri festival. We celebrate it as Bhogi festival on that day here in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The next day is Makar Sankranti.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      @billybuc, thanks Bill and a very Happy New Year to you and your family as well.

      @swalia, you are right Shaloo. Wish you and your family a Happy Lohri and a great New Year.

      @Ruchira, thanks. Wish you and your family a very Happy Lohri too.

    • Ruchira profile image


      4 years ago from United States

      The tradition has been written aptly!

      Happy Lohri to you and your family, Rajan.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      4 years ago from India

      Lohri is a special festival for we 'Punjabis'. Advance Lohri wishes to you and your family!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I always love your cultural lessons. Thank you and Happy New Year to you and yours.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      @ Jasmeetk, thanks for reading.

      @ChitragandhaSharan, Lohri definitely is a much awaited festival especially for its treats and sitting out in the biting cold with the fire warming the body. Appreciate your stopping by.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Wow! Your hub has already set the mood for 'Lohri.'

      I love this bonfire festival with all these delicious recipes you have mentioned above.

      Thank you for introducing another aspect of the rich culture and traditions of India to the readers who are not aware of it!.

    • Jasmeetk profile image

      Jasmeet Kaur 

      4 years ago from India

      very well written...


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