Lohri and Sankranti Festivals
Yours truly circling around the fire
Lohri, a Punjabi festival(North India) is celebrated on January 13 every year. This festival is traditionally related with the harvest of the rabi crops. The customary time to harvest sugarcane crops is January; therefore, Lohri is seen by some to be a harvest festival. And thus, Punjabi farmers see the day after Lohri (Maghi) as the financial New Year. Friends and family gather to celebrate. Bonfires are lit in the front yards of houses and people gather around the rising flames, circle around the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn, and other snacks into the fire, shouting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honor come and poverty vanish!), and sing popular folk songs. Sikhs are very gregarious people and are known to celebrate with song and dance. (Did I tell you I am a sikh?)There are few foods that are eaten around the bonfire; roasted peanuts, revri or jaggery and sesame flat discs, popcorn, dates, puffed rice and crispy, yummy gajjak which are like Nutri-bars made of sesame, jaggery, and nuts.
Sarson da saag( mustard greens) and makki di roti( flat bread made of corn flour) on the day of Lohri. My aunt and mom used to make khichdi (soft cooked rice with lentils) in the night for dinner.
Sikhs celebrate the first Lorhi of newlyweds and ‘boy child’ are celebrated with gusto. But it is heartening to see that now many people are celebrating it at the birth of the girl child too. Last night I was invited to the first Lorhi of my nephew and also the first Lohri after the birth of my neighbor’s daughter! Both Parties were just a few hundred meters apart and I was literally party hopping!
Children visit homes in the neighborhood sing songs and ask for money. There is a story behind this festival…….
The history of Lohri
There is a large tract of semi-arid terrain lying between the rivers Chenab and Ravi called the Saandal Bar. (It now falls in the districts of Sheikhupura and Faislabad). The people of this area were known to providethe stiffest opposition to the Muslim marauders.They never paid any taxes; rather, they openly defied the authorities andindulged in looting the royal caravans and treasures. ‘Saandal & # 39, a warlord of Bhatti Rajput clan led these tribals.Prince Jahangir, the heir apparent, fired with zeal to prove his prowess carried out campaigns to consolidate the Mughal authority in the region. He captured and executed Saandal and his son, Farid. Their skins were peeled off and hung at the Delhi gate of the Fort of Lahore to instill a sense of fear amongst the rebels.However, the son of Farid, Abdullah or Dullah as he is fondly called, remained unfazed and continued his defiant activities. Dullah earned notoriety in the eyes of authorities. He, like Robin Hood, looted wealthy landlords and Imperial officers and distributed the booty amongst the poor. He came to be regarded as a father figure for the distressed and oppressed and became a living embodiment of the chivalrous and secular,socio-cultural character of the region. Dullah was the contemporary of yet another Super Human, Poet Divine, Sri Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Sikh Guru, who sacrificed his life at the altar of humanity at Lahore.It is believed that Dullah had restored the prestige of an innocent girl whose modesty was outraged by a Mughal general. Dullah had adopted this girl as his daughter and arranged her marriage in the Jungles of ‘Saandal Bar’. As there was no priest nearby to chant the Vedic Hymns and solemnize the marriage Dullah had lit a bonfire and composed an impromtu song:
Sundari Mundariye…… The bride and the groom were asked to take pheras of the bonfire as Dullah sang this hilarious song. The ‘ho’s are in chorus…..
Sunder mundriye ho! ( Oh, you pretty lass)
Tera kaun vicaharaa ho! (Who is your protector, you pitiable one? )
Dullah Bhatti walla ho! (There’s this man called Dullah, from Village
Bhatti) and so on….
The Dancing Couple
No Inbhibitions…Dancing Kiana not yet 2 years old
I am a North India by race but was born and brought up in the south and I have adapted all the customs from the south too.According to Hindu astronomy, it is on Makar Sankranti that the sun enters the rashi (zodiac) of makara (Capricorn) which coincides with the English month of January. Unlike other Hindu festivals which come on different days every year, Makar Sankranti always falls on 14th of January. On this day, the sun passes through the winter solstice, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is considered very auspicious as it signifies a new beginning. It is also known as Uttarayan. From this day, the duration of the day increases and that of the night decreases and winter recedes, paving the way for the summer. In the coastal regions of South India, it is a three day harvest festival. In Andhra Pradesh, Bhogi is the day preceding Sankranti and Kanuma is the day after. On Bhogi day, in the early morning, a bonfire is lit up with waste before the traditional special bath after an oil massage. (Lohri bonfire is at night and bhogi is the next morning) I have the best of both worlds, don’t I? Shakkar Pongali (rice pudding with milk) is an important item during this festival. Special dishes, like ariselu (sweet sesame rice cakes), are prepared. On Kanuma day there are Cock fights and a whole spread of non-vegetarian dishes is laid on the table. I went to a village recently and they were showing off their prized rooster which had won a fight. It is banned and illegal but still it continues.
The other day I was invited to a friend’s house and there was these Gangireddus; multicolored decorated bull moving from one house to the other led by its master who plays the ‘Nadaswaram’ (kind of flute)during Sankranti. Thebulls are trained to dance or perform acrobatics to entertain the crowd. The training is given by ‘Yadava’ sect they acquire bulls and train them. The Gangireddu are gifted money, clothes, and grains in return for the performance, and are active during the Sankranti and Dusshera festivals.The feats of the Gangireddu (bull) are indeed pleasing. The Gangireddu can dance rhythmically, nod in acceptance, deny in negation, kneel down and prostrate, bow down and even stretch its tongue to show it can sing. It can put its four legs in a plate or exhibit more enterprising feats such as standing on its master’s chest and bowing down in reverence when he sings in praise of a donor.
Indian festivals are so colourful and full of gaiety and food plays an important role in all. and I get to celebrate both Lohri and Sankranti. I even got this as a
goodie bag last night……Droolworthy sweets and Nutri-bars….
Info about Festivals is sourced from Wikipedia