Legends of Lohri

 Lohri the multifaceted festival, is celebrated every year on 13th of January and invariably the time is such that we are caught in midst of a bone chilling and cold misty winter. Lohri, I often laughingly talk about it as a festival of defrosting. We could say it is a festival of seasons.
The history of Lohri, over a period of time, has become quite hybridized that the root and its transition in time are latticed intricately with seasons, element and folklore. The concept is probably as old as that of Indus Valley civilization and Vedic times itself.
In Punjab, the festival of Lohri marks the coming of the end of winter or we could say the coming of spring and the New Year. The bonfires are lit at night and in its warmth, people come together singing lilting folk songs and happy feet dancing to the pulsating beats of the ‘dhol’.It is a great social opportunity for close-knit communities to strengthen the picture of communal harmony.
As you can see Lohri is essentially a festival dedicated to fire and the sun god.
It is a festival to worship fire.
 Lohri in Punjab is a cultural celebration on the eve of Winter Solstice as per Bikrami Calendar. On the other hand, Lohri has been twinned with the Hindu winter solstice festival of Makar Sakranti, which relates to the Sun's entry into the new sign, Makar  ….that is the Capricorn. Hindus pray to the Hindu Sun God, Ravi on Makar Sankranti. In astrological terms, this is referred to as the sun becoming Uttarayan. In this new configuration, the sun begins to move towards the Sun …Hence it is the beginning of the end of the intensity of winter, and it gradually but increasingly starts to bring warmth to earth.

Though there is somewhat some confusion on the true origin of Lohri and culturally in Punjab, they have become blurred….Both Lohri and Makar Sankranti as two festivals with different origins have become linked as they both relate to the winter solstice.
Punjabis, irrespective of their religion, respect the seasons and the natural elements of fire, wind, water and the earth, as they are very significant associates in this agrarian state.
Fire is associated with concepts of purifying life and health. Fire, like water, is a symbol of transformation and regeneration.

It is the envoy of the sun and is thus related, on one hand with rays of light, and on the other with gold. It is capable of stimulating fertility and the growth of corn and wheat fields and the well being of man and animals as well. The fire takes inspiration from the Sun and like magic reassuringly supplies light and heat. It is also an image of energy and spiritual strength. That is why the Lohri fire gets sanctified and is venerated like a deity.

On this occasion, people offer peanuts, popcorn and sweets made of til- gajak and revri as Prasad to the fire as a symbol of the Sun god. A prayer is made to Agni, the god of Fire, and Prasad is distributed.
 The prasad comprises of five main things: til, gazak, gur, moongphali (peanuts), and phuliya or popcorn

In Punjab, the festival of Lohri, in turn, becomes a celebration for good Harvest.

Lohri is traditionally associated with the harvest of the Rabi crops. People thank God for a good harvest.
Another interesting aspect of Lohri is that a Punjabi farmer sees the day after Lohri as the financial New Year.

The date the concept of Lohri is celebrated throughout the country in different forms, as a harvest festival.

  • ·         It is called Tai Pongal in the Kerala,
  • ·         Pongal in Tamilnadu
  • ·         Magha Bihu in Assam,
  • ·         Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh
  • ·         Makar Sankranti in the central part of the country.

The manner and means of celebrating Lohri are different, but the message conveyed by the festival, that of setting aside differences and rejoicing by celebrating the end of the harvest season and the chilly winter is the same. 

Legends abound in Punjab according to one legend Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived with Prahlad.

While on legends …some of you may have heard about the legend of Dula Bhati associated with Lohri.

 Dulla Bhatti was an illustrious legendary Rajput hero of Punjab, who led an uprising against Emperor Akbar. He took up highway robbery in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Dulla Bhatti, like Robin Hood, robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The people of the area loved and respected him. He once rescued a girl from kidnappers and adopted her as his daughter. His people would remember their hero every year on Lohri. Groups of children moved from door to door, singing the Dulla Bhatti folk-song:
 "Dulla Bhatti ho! Dulle ne dhi viyahi ho! Ser shakar pai ho!"
(Dulla gave his daughter a kilo of sugar as a marriage gift).

He would rescue Hindu girls from being forcibly taken to be sold in the slave market of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowries. Understandably, though a bandit, he became a hero of all Punjabis. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.
Dulla Bhatti was born as Rai Abdullah Khaan Bhatti in a Punjabi family to mother Ladhi and father Farid Khan in the area of Sandal Baar, near Faisalabad now in Pakistan …..Sandal Bar is also related to the legend of Mirza Sahiba. He belonged to the warrior-like Rajput clan of Bhattis. He followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather and became a rebel He refused to accept the legitimacy of Mughals and refused to pay any tax.

Such was the level of resistance put up by the rebels that Akbar had to shift his Imperial Capital to Lahore for nearly 20 years and ordered the execution of the rebels. Legend has it that to instil fear into the hearts of the common man, Akbar got their skins stuffed with wheat hay ‘toori’ and hung the dead-bodies on the main Gates of the city.

This happened before Dulla was born and for obvious reasons, he was never told of until he was a young man. Another legend has it that Dulla was born at the same time as Akbar’s son Salim ….who would later become Emperor Jahangir; but Salim was a weak child and on doctors’ suggestions Akbar brought in Ladhi ….Dulla’s mother, a strong Rajput woman to his palace in Delhi to breastfeed Salim. So both Dulla and Salim were practically brought up by Ladhi. In youth, these two were good friends…..In time to come, Dulla and his mother went back to their homeland.

The story of Dulla has been poetically treated by many and has been written in style known as Saddaan quite similar to Mirza. The above incident is thus narrated:
Tera saandal dada maareya, ditta bhore vich paa, Mughlaan puthhiyaan khallaan laah ke bhariyaan naal hawaa.

There is a kind of folklore an epic in the Punjabi language called Dulle di var, which narrates the battle events of Dulla Bhatti. Even today there is a region in Punjab, Pakistan, called Dulle Di Bar means the forest of Dulla Bhatti. This legendary Punjabi hero is buried at Miani Sahib Qabristan (Graveyard) in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. There is a town Dullewala (Bhakkar District) in the name of legendary Dulla Bhatti where he had a stay with his allies.

The Lohri bonfires that mark the end of the deep winter and the start of spring
The version of Lohri Song that best describes this contribution of Bhatti and the immense respect with which this rebel is held in the eyes of all Punjabis is:
Sunder mundriye ho!
Tera kaun vicaharaa ho!
Dullah bhatti walla ho!
Dullhe di dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho!
Kudi da laal pathaka ho!
Kudi da saalu paatta ho!
Salu kaun samete!
Chache choori kutti! zamidara lutti!
Zamindaar sudhaye!
bade bhole aaye!
Ek bhola reh gaya!
Sipahee far ke lai gaya!
Sipahee ne mari eet!
Sanoo de de lohri te teri jeeve jodi!(Cry or howl!)
Bhaanvey ro te bhaanvey pit!

Translation and nuances of Lyrics

Who will save you poor one …………This is to a rescued girl
Dulla Bhatti is here for you ………(He rescued the girls who were abandoned and rejected after  kidnap!)
The Dulla married off his daughter……..(the rescued girls were adopted by him as his daughters)
He gave a Ser(sher about a kilo)of sugar!
The girl is wearing bridal red dress!
But her shawl is torn………….(poor and soiled-girl has been kidnapped &raped)
Who will stitch her torn shawl…….(repair her reputation)?!
The uncle made sweet ghee bread (choori)!
The landlords had it…….. (the girl kidnapped by rich moghul landlords!)!
He made the landlords eat a lot!
Lots of innocent guys came……….. (poor grooms)
One innocent boy got left behind ……(the poorest of poor!)
The soldiers arrested him!......... (Indicated that he was in collusion with Bhatti the rebel)
The soldiers hit him with a brick!........ (tortured him)
Cry or howl!
Give us lohri (gifts) ..long live you couple!"


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