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Lohri festival celebrations in Shree Mandir

By Bal K. Gupta
February 2014
Lohri festival celebrations in Shree Mandir

Lohri is a popular festival, celebrated in the Indian states of Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Himachal, and Delhi and now all over the world where people from these states have settled. It usually falls on 13th of January, one day before Makar Sankranti. Lohri is the cultural celebration of the winter solstice. The lighting of a bonfire has been common in winter solstice festivals throughout the world to signify the return of longer days. As a festival dedicated to the end of the winter season, Lohri is associated with harvest of the rabi (winter) crops. North Indian farmers also celebrate the day after Lohri, Makar Sankranti, in a big way, and both these days were celebrated at Shree Mandir in Mableton, Georgia.

Along with a huge bonfire, there was the beating of drums, music, and dancing. Reoris (sesame candies), moongphali (unpeeled peanuts) and makki phoolas (popcorn) were provided by Shree Mandir; in India young children go from door to door collecting these treats from neighbors (like Halloween trick-or-treating). Udupi Cafe of Smyrna put up food stalls in Shree Mandir, and people enjoyed eating chana bhatooras, dosas, idlis, and hot tea. Many people of various ages, in traditional Punjabi clothing, participated in dancing and singing.

Over time, people have associated Lohri with the tale of the hero Dulla Bhatti (Abdullah Bhatti, a Muslim Rajput). Many Lohri songs tell his legend: he lived in Punjab during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and besides robbing the rich, he rescued poor Punjabi girls who were being forcibly taken to be sold in slave markets of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to boys of their religion with rituals and provided them with dowries. Amongst them was a Hindu girl Sunder Mundari whose story became part of Punjabi folklore. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti, "the Robin Hood of Punjab," who led a rebellion against the Mughal rule.

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