Maghi – Lohri is actually a combination of the Maghi Hindu festival that’s celebrated in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, and the Lohri folk festival that’s celebrated in Northern India. Maghi begins on the first day of the month of Magh in the Hindu calendar, and it comes after Lohri.
The combination of these two events creates a festive atmosphere that’s highlighted with bonfires, eating sweet dishes such as kheer, and following these events, ritual bathing in ponds or rivers. In different cultures, this holiday festival is observed for different reasons. For some parts of Himachal Pradesh, this festival is dedicated to the worship of Agni Devta. In Sikhism, this is a time for people to commemorate the sacrifice of the forty Sikhs who fought for Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
The Significance Of Lohri In Northern India
Even though no one really knows the origins of this holiday, there are historical mentions of it during the 19th century by European visitors to India. Although these accounts tell us that the festival was celebrated even that far back in time, it doesn’t tell us where the holiday originated. To ascertain that fact, we have to look to Indian folklore.
According to folklore, Lohri was celebrated at the end of the traditional month when the winter solstice happens. It’s a way to celebrate the days getting longer and commemorates the passage of the winter solstice. Because it’s linked to the Vikrami calendar, it’s observed the day before the festival of Mahi is celebrated.
Observing Maghi – Lohri
Lohri is celebrated with a wide variety of different events, the first being the lighting of bonfires. All across India — particularly in the Punjab region — bonfires are lit in fields and backyards. This is followed by gatherings where people enjoy holiday foods, dance, and collect gifts. It’s also a time when people wear bright clothing, sing celebratory songs, and perform special holiday rituals.
The lighting of bonfires is a tradition that goes back to ancient times. It started as a way for ancient peoples to try to have an effect on the seasons by reigniting the longer days of spring. After the bonfire, food is the next thing that holds the next most importance during these celebrations. Gurh and gachak are two foods made with sugarcane that are extremely popular, as are the nuts that were harvested during January. Other popular foods enjoyed include radishes, mustard greens, jaggery, sesame seeds, and puffed rice.
Maghi is celebrated by eating dishes such as Rauh di Kheer, which is a dish where rice is prepared and cooked in sugarcane juice. The dish is prepared on Lohri and then kept cool. It’s served cold on the morning of Maghi and served with red-chili curd. It’s also customary for Hindus to take baths in the Ganges, or if that’s not feasible, then in ponds, canals, rivers, or streams. And finally, many people spend the day cleaning their homes in preparation for spring, very much like spring cleaning in the west.