Amidst the freezing cold weather, people of northern Indian get busy making preparations for Lohri – the long-awaited bonfire festival. Besides this there were celebrations of Makar Sankrant and Tamil Pongal. Navi Mumbai too celebrated the festival. We bring to you a special report. In Punjab, the breadbasket of India, wheat is the main winter crop, which is sown in October and harvested in March or April. In January, the fields come up with the promise of a golden harvest, and farmers celebrate Lohri during this rest period before the cutting and gathering of crops. According to the Hindu calendar, Lohri falls in mid-January. The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year. In the morning on Lohri day, children go from door to door singing and demanding the Lohri ‘loot’ in the form of money and eatables. They sing in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich to help the poor, and once helped a miserable village girl out of her /misery by getting her married off like his own sister. In the evening, with the setting of the sun, huge 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 munchies into the fire. Songs are sung to Agni, the fire god, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity. Nowadays, Lohri brings in an opportunity for people in the community to take a break from their busy schedule and get together to share each other’s company. Lohri almost coincides with the festivals of Pongal and Makar Sankranti, all of which communicate the same message of oneness and celebrates the spirit of brotherhood, while thanking the Almighty for a bountiful life on earth.
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