What is the Significance of LOHRI and how is it celebrated across India

  • What is the significance of Lohri and how is it celebrated, in North and across India, under different names e.g. in Tamil Nadu, Assam & Gujarat. What sweets are prepared during Lohri?   

In every region Lohri is celebrated differently in all regions but one common factor of Lohri is its fun filled, happy, dancing, singing characteristic. Lohri is celebrated all over India with different names, ways, rituals and customs.  


The common tradition is to clean and decorate homes, buy new dresses, dance, sing and prepare sweets. Like all other festivals, this festival also maintains happy relationships in the family, caste and community. Lohri is a time for social gathering and enjoyment. 


The harvest festival is celebrated every year marking the end of winter season and beginning of spring, New Year and harvesting rabi crops. Lohri is the time for festivity, get-together, and worshipping Indra, Surya, Agni and the cattle (gowmata) whose blessings made it possible to get a rich harvest. Unlike other festivals, the date for Lohri festival is fixed.


Dedicated to fire and the sun god Lohri is the time when the sun transits the zodiac sign Makar (Capricorn), and moves towards the north. In astrological terms, this is referred to as the sun becoming Uttarayan. The new arrangement decreases the intensity of winter and brings warmth to earth. Lohri night traditionally falls on the longest night of the year known as the winter solstice. The earth leans towards the sun along the Tropic of Capricorn (Makar rekha) from the day following Lohri. The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun along its elliptical orbit, therefore beginning the onset of spring. It is this change which is celebrated as Lohri.

Ganga Sagar. 

Having bath on this day is regarded as most important. A large number of people bathe in the Sangam at Prayagraj where rivers Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati meet. A Mela is held every year at Ganga sagar, Bengal where the Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal. It was here that the river Ganges took the ashes of sixty thousand ancestors of Raja Bhagiratha to Heaven. People take bath in Ganga Sagar, hoping their ancestors will also get liberated.


Also read Ganga Sagar pilgrimage


It is known as Makar Sankranti, Uttarayan, Maghi, in West India, in South it is known as Pongal and in the North it is called Lohri, Tilori and Khichdi. It is called Maghi Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Maghi Bihu Assam.

Pongal. Pic by Bindu Krishnan 

In South India, Pongal is a four day festival- first day is Bhogi Pongal, celebrated in honour of god of rains, Indra Deva. Gratitude is expressed towards Indra Deva for abundant harvest, resulting in prosperity. Kolam designs are drawn to decorate homes with white paste of newly-harvested rice. 

Kolam. Pic by Lakshi Sarma. 

On Pongal, food is cooked at sunrise in an open place. Rice and milk is cooked together and milk is allowed to spill over as it is considered auspicious. It is mixed with ghee, cashew nuts, raisins, and jaggery. This dish is called Pongal and is offered to Lord Sun, as a sign of gratitude. Second day is Surya Pongal, to thank Surya Devata. Third day is Mattu Pongal when the cattle (Gowmata) are honoured for giving milk and for ploughing the fields. Cattle are fed and decorated with bells and cattle races are organised. The atmosphere becomes full of fun and partying. Community feasts are held where all dine together. Fourth day is Kaanum Pongal when relatives and friends meet each other and exchange sweets and goodies.  


On this day in Maharashtra tilguds are prepared of til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus are made from til and jaggery. While giving til guls to each other, people say, ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘eat tilguls and speak sweet words’. 


The tradition in Gujarat is to give gifts to family members and relatives. Known as ‘Sakarat’ in Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh people exchange sweets and there is an atmosphere of celebration. Delicious recipes are prepared for Lohri mainly with sugarcane, til and pea nuts like Ganey Ki Kheer, Atta Ladoo, Nariyal Chikki, Kaju Chikki, Kurmura Ladoo, Pinnie, Gajak,  Shengdana Chikki, Kheer, Gur Gajak.

Gajak is very popular.

Bihu dishes of Assam. 

Also read 5 delicious Bihu recipes of Assam


December and January being the coldest months of the year in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal, Haryana and Punjab, huge fires are lit on Sankrant, as a gratitude to Agni Deva (the fire god) called the Lohri fire. People light bonfires to remove the bitter coldness of January and dance around it in a mood of happiness and celebrate Lohri.

Lohri Fire.

They do parikrama, going around the sacred fire three times, praying to Agni deva to bless the land with abundant crops and prosperity, giving offerings of popcorns, peanuts, revari and sweets to Agni Deva, chanting ‘Aadar aye, dilather jaye’ (May honour come and poverty vanish). Prasada of til, gazak, gur, moongphali, phuliya and popcorn is distributed among all.


People dance around the fire, to the beat of dhol (traditional Indian drum). Dholak is played; bhangra dance is done by male folks while the females do Giddha and Kikli.


Also read Folk Dances of North India


Dances of Lohri symbolize energy, strength and excitement of the people, after a good harvest. Khichri, makki di roti with sarson ka saag (cooked mustard herbs) is specially prepared for the occasion. In olden times, melas were held in which races, singing, wrestling bouts, acrobatics were held, old and young all wore new clothes. People from faraway places travelled on their bullocks to participate in Lohri fairs.


In homes where there is a new-born or a newlywed, Lohri is celebrated with even greater enthusiasm. Feasts are arranged for the people as Lohri is a festival of fertility and very important for the baby and new bride. The first Lohri of a new born is a special occasion in which all the guests bring gifts for the baby and mother. The child's mother dresses up in jewellery and mehndi on her hands and feet sits with the baby in her lap while everyone puts fruits, sweets, clothes, jewellery and money in her lap.

The first Lohri of a bride is considered very important. It is celebrated on a large scale just like a wedding. The recently wedded bride is given gifts along with dry fruits, revari (sweet made of sugar and sesame seeds), peanuts, and sesame ladoos. Sweets made of molasses and sesame seed are sent to relatives and friends. Groups of little children go singing round the village collecting 'gur' and 'rewari' for themselves. Eating til (sesame seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is considered essential on this day.  Possibly the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi, which eventually got shortened to Lohri.


There are some interesting folk-tales connected with Lohri. According to some legends Dulla Bhatti was the Raja of Pindi Bhattian. Bhatti was a Rajput tribe during the reign of Akbar, which inhabited parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat (now in Pakistan).  The tribal mirasis (street singers) trace the history of the tribe and interestingly, claim Maharaja Ranjit Singh as one of its scions. It is said that he was put to death by the Mughal king for revolting against him. Some legends say that he was a bandit. Dulla Bhatti robbed the rich landlords and gave that money to the poor. Due to his bravery, he became a hero of the people of Punjab. He rescued Hindu girls who were forcibly taken to be sold in slave market and arranged their marriages to Hindu boys.


A week before Lohri, small groups of children visit houses and sing Lohri folk songs related to Dulla Bhatti and his bravery. In turn, people give them popcorn, peanuts, crystal sugar, sesame seeds or gur and money.


‘Sunder mundriye ho, tera kaun vichaara ho, Dulha bhatti wala ho, Dulhe ne dhee vehaai ho, Ser shakkar paai ho, Kudi da laal pathaka ho, Kudi da saalu paata ho,
Salu kaun samete ho, Chacha gali dese ho, Chache choori kutti ho, zamidara lutti ho, Zamindaar sudhaye ho, Bum Bum bhole aaye ho, Ek bhola reh gaya,
Sipahee far ke lai gaya, Sipahee ne mari itt, Paanvey ro te paanvey pitt,
Sanoo de de Lohri, te teri jeeve Jodi, Bas-bas eh fad 10 rupaiye te agge vadh’ 

Beautiful girls, who will save you, Dulla of bhatti tribe, Dulla got his daughter married and gave one kilo sugar as dowry, girl is very pretty, girl’s shawl is very long, who will wrap the shawl, uncle is shouting at her, aunty is preparing sweets, rich have been looted, rich are shouting, army of poor has looted, one poor is left behind, constable has caught him, a brick hits the constable, he will cry or lament but give us lohri, and you will always get happiness, okay now stop, take ten rupees and go to the next house. 


Lohri is enjoyable as people gather together at one place while in Diwali people individually visit others’ homes. In Lohri people eat sweets together around the fire and makki di roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) is traditionally eaten with sarson ka saag (cooked green leafy herbs) with lot of songs and dances.


Makki de roti te sarson da saag, suraj diyaan kirna, khushiyaan di bahaar,
nachde ne saare te vich baldi aag,dhol di awaaj te nachdi mutiyaar,
Mubaarak hove sarkaar Lohri da tyohaar. 

Makki roti with sarson saag, awaiting sun’s rays, lots of happiness, everyone dancing around the fire, girls dancing on beats of dhol, wishing everyone a very happy lohri festival.


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Author Seema Burman  has been writing high quality columns on culture and spirituality for years including for Speaking Tree.


Also read

1. Why is Makar Sankranti celebrated

2. How Pongal is celebrated over 4 days

3. The Bonfires of Magh Bihu

4. Significance of Kolam

5. How Dussehra is celebrated across India

6. How Holi is celebrated across India


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