Lohri Bonfire
Official nameLohri
Also calledLal Loi
Observed byPeople of North India: Punjab, Jammu, Haryana and Himachal P, Dogras, Haryanvis, and Himachalis all over the world but intensity is best seen in Northern India
TypeReligious, cultural, seasonal
SignificanceMidwinter festival, celebration of winter solstice
CelebrationsBonfire, song (Bhangra and Giddha)
FrequencyOnce in a year
Related toDulla Bhatti[1]

Lohri is a popular winter Dogra[2][3] and Punjabi[4] folk festival celebrated primarily in Northern India.[note 1] The significance and legends about the Lohri festival are many and these link the festival to the Duggar region[2] and Punjab region.[6] It is believed by many that the festival marks the passing of the winter solstice. Lohri marks the end of winter, and is a traditional welcome of longer days and the sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere. It is observed the night before Maghi.

Lohri is an official holiday in Punjab,[7][8] Jammu[9] and Himachal Pradesh.[10] The festival is celebrated in Delhi and Haryana but is not a gazetted holiday.[note 2] In all these areas, the festival is celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and whoever wants to enjoy.[12] In Punjab, Pakistan it is not observed at official level; however, Sikhs, Hindus and some Muslims observe the festival in rural Punjab and in the cities of Faisalabad and Lahore.[13][14]


Lohri is celebrated one day before Maghi (Makar Sankranti) and its date is determined as per Hindu Solar Calendar. The date of Lohri changes every 70 years. In the late 19th century, Lohri used to fall on 11th January.[15][16] In the mid 20th century, the festival used to be celebrated on 12th January[17] or 13th January. In 21st century, Lohri generally falls on 13th or 14th January. Lohri in the year 2024 will fall on 14th January as Maghi will be falling on 15th January.[18]


Lohri Bonfire

Lohri is mentioned by European visitors to the Lahore darbar of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, such as Wade who visited the Maharaja in 1832.[19] Captain Mackeson described Maharaja Ranjit Singh distributing suits of clothes and large sums of money as rewards on Lohri day in 1836.[20] The celebration of Lohri with the making of a huge bonfire at night is also noted in the royal court in 1844.[21]

The accounts of Lohri celebration in royal circles do not discuss the origins of the festival. However, there is much folklore about Lohri. Lohri is the celebration of the arrival of longer days after the winter solstice.[22][23][24] According to folklore, in ancient times Lohri was celebrated at the end of the traditional month when winter solstice occurs.[25][26] It celebrates the days getting longer as the sun proceeds on its northward journey. The day after Lohri is celebrated as Makar Sankranti.[27]

Lohri is an ancient mid-winter festival originating in regions near the Himalayan mountains where winter is colder than the rest of the subcontinent. Hindus and Sikhs traditionally lit bonfires in their yards after the weeks of the Rabi season cropping work, socialized around the fire, sang and danced together as they marked the end of winter and the onset of longer days.

Punjabi woman waiting to participate in Gidda


The ancient significance of the festival is it being a winter crop season celebration[28] and is linked to the Punjab region.[29][30][31] A popular folklore links Lohri to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. The central theme of many Lohri songs is the legend of Dulla Bhatti (Rai Abdullah Bhatti) whose father was a zamindar who lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar.[32] He was regarded as a hero in Punjab, for rescuing Punjabi girls from being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East.[33][32] Amongst those he saved were two girls Sundri and Mundri, who gradually became a theme of Punjab's folklore. As a part of Lohri celebrations, children go around homes singing the traditional folk songs of Lohri with "Dulla Bhatti" name included. One person sings, while others end each line with a loud "Ho!" sung in unison. After the song ends, the adult of the home is expected to give snacks and money to the singing troupe of youngsters.[32] Lohri also marks the beginning of the harvest season and sunny days.[34]


The festival is celebrated by lighting bonfires, eating festive food, dancing and collecting gifts. In houses that have recently had a marriage or childbirth, Lohri celebrations will reach a higher pitch of excitement. Most North Indians usually have private Lohri celebrations, in their houses. Lohri rituals are performed, with the accompaniment of special Lohri songs.[35]

Singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their brightest clothes and come to dance the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. Punjabi songs are sung, and everybody rejoices. Sarson da saag with makki di roti is usually served as the main course at a Lohri dinner. Lohri holds great importance for farmers. However, people residing in urban areas also celebrate Lohri, as this festival provides the opportunity to interact with family and friends.[36]

Bonfire and festive foods

Lohri is celebrated with a bonfire. The lighting of bonfires during this winter festival is an ancient tradition. Ancient people lit the bonfire to reignite the return of longer days.[37][38][39]

Gurh, solidified and unrefined sugarcane juice is a traditional festive sweet.

In Punjab, Lohri is marked by eating sheaves of roasted corn from the new harvest.[40] The January sugarcane harvest is celebrated in the Lohri festival.[41] Sugarcane products such as gurh and gachak are central to Lohri celebrations, as are nuts which are harvested in January. The other important food item of Lohri is radishes which can be harvested between October and January. Mustard greens are cultivated mainly in the winter months because the crop is suitable to the agro-climatic conditions.[42] Accordingly, mustard greens are also winter produce. It is traditional to eat Gajak, Sarson da saag with Makki di roti, radishes, ground nuts and jaggery.[43] It is also traditional to eat til rice, which is made by mixing jaggery, sesame seeds and puffed rice.[44] In some places, this dish, more like a snack, is named tilcholi.

Chajja dance and Hiran dance

Lohri in Jammu is special because of various additional traditions associated with it like Chajja-making and dancing, Hiran dance, preparing Lohri garlands. Young children prepare a replica of a peacock which is known as Chajja. They carry this Chajja and go from one house to other house celebrating Lohri. In and around Jammu, th special Hiran dance is performed. Selected houses which have auspicious ceremonies prepare eatables. Children wear special garlands made of groundnuts, dry fruits and candies on Lohri day.[45][note 3]

Collecting Lohri items and trick–or–treating

In various places of the Punjab, about 10 to 15 days before Lohri, groups of young and teenage boys and girls go around the neighbourhood collecting logs for the Lohri bonfire. In some places, they also collect items such as grains and jaggery which are sold, and the sale proceeds are divided amongst the group.[37]

In some parts of Punjab, there is a popular trick–or–treat activity which is engaged in by boys. They select a group member and smear his face with ash and tie a rope around his waist. The idea is for the selected person to act as a deterrent for people who refrain from giving Lohri items. The boys sing Lohri songs asking for Lohri items. If not enough is given, the householder will be given an ultimatum to either give more or the rope will be loosened. If not enough is given, then the boy who has his face smeared will try to enter the house and smash clay pots or the clay stove.[37]


During the day, children go from door to door singing songs and are given sweets and savories, and occasionally, money. Turning them away empty-handed is regarded as inauspicious. Where families are welcoming newly-weds and newborns,[47] the requests for treats increases.[37]

The collections gathered by the children are known as Lohri and consist of til, gachchak, crystal sugar, gur (jaggery), moongphali (peanuts) and phuliya or popcorn. Lohri is then distributed at night during the festival. Til, peanuts, popcorn, and other food items are also thrown into the fire. For some, throwing food into the fire represents the burning of the old year and start the next year on Makar Sankranti.

The bonfire is lit at sunset in the main village square. People toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries on the bonfire, sit around it, sing and dance till the fire dies out. Some people perform a prayer and go around the fire. This is to show respect to the natural element of fire,[48] a tradition common in winter solstice celebrations. It is traditional to offer guests til, gachchak, gur, moongphali (peanuts) and phuliya or popcorn. Milk and water are also poured around the bonfire by Hindus to thank the Sun God and seek his continued protection.

Among some sections of the Sindhi community, the festival is traditionally celebrated as Lal Loi. On the day of Lal Loee children bring wood sticks from their grandparents and aunties and light a fire burning the sticks in the night with people dancing and playing around the fire. The festival is gaining popularity amongst other Sindhis where Lohri is not a traditional festival.[49]

Lohri and the financial year

Historically, during the 19th century, revenue for winter crops was collected either on Lohri or Maghi.[50]

Celebration area

Ready to perform Punjabi cultural dance" Gidha"

Lohri is celebrated to denote the last of the coldest days of winter. The festival is celebrated in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir since Mughal times.[51] The festival is observed as Lal Loi in the Sindhi community.[52][53][54][55]

Lohri songs

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There are many Lohri songs. For example, the following song which has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti (the 'ho's are in chorus):[56]

Sunder mundriye ho!
Tera kaun vicharaa ho!
Dullah Bhatti walla ho!
Dullhe di dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho!
Kudi da laal pathaka ho!
Kudi da saalu paata ho!
Salu kaun samete!
Chacha gali dese!
Chache choori kutti! zamidara lutti!
Zamindaar sudhaye!
Bum Bum bhole aaye!
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!
(Laugh, cry or howl!)


Beautiful girl
Who will think about you
Dulla of the Bhatti clan will
Dulla's daughter got married
He gave one ser of sugar!
The girl is wearing a red suit!
But her shawl is torn!
Who will stitch her shawl?!
The uncle made choori!
The landlords looted it!
Landlords are beaten up!
Lots of simple-headed boys came!
One simpleton got left behind!
The soldier arrested him!
The soldier hit him with a brick!
(Cry or howl)!
Give us Lohri, long live your pair (to a married couple)!
Whether you cry, or bang your head later!

Similar festivals in other countries

Festivals analogous to Lohri are celebrated in various regions around the world.

During Christmastide celebrations, Christian parishioners often hold candles during the hymn Silent Night at church services, and at home yule logs are burnt: "as the fire grew brighter and burned hotter, and as the log turned into ashes, it symbolized Christ's final and ultimate triumph over sin."[57]

The festival of Hogmanay is celebrated on New Year's Day. The fire festival of Stonehaven in Scotland is the direct descendant of lighting winter solstice bonfires.[58] Another event is observed every 11 January when the flaming Clavie (a barrel full of staves) is carried round in Burghead and is wedged on the Doorie Hill. When it is burnt out, people take the smouldering embers to bring good luck for the coming year.[59]

See also


  1. ^ Quote: "Lohri is the winter festival of Punjab, and is celebrated by all people."[5]
  2. ^ According to Saini (1968), "the advent of the displaced persons, from the West Punjab have introduced "Lohri" and "Baisakhi" etc. here""[11]
  3. ^ According to the Jammu Kashmir Government Portal: "Punjabi festivals such as Lohri and Vaisakhi are celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm throughout the region, along with Accession Day, an annual holiday which commemorates the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Dominion of India"[46]


  1. ^ "On Lohri, remembering Dulla Bhatti, the landlord who stood up to the mighty Akbar". Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  2. ^ a b Jeratha, Aśoka (1998). Dogra Legends of Art & Culture. Indus Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 978-81-7387-082-8. Lohri has a special significance in and around Duggar area...
  3. ^ Excelsior, Daily (12 January 2023). "Lohri - The Bonfire Festival of Dogras". DailyExcelsior. Retrieved 29 December 2023. Lohri is one of the major festivals of the Dogras.
  4. ^ Cambridge Anthropology, Volume 25, Issue 3(2006)
  5. ^ S. Warrier; John G. Walshe (2001). Dates and Meanings of Religious and Other Multi-Ethnic Festivals, 2002-2005. Foulsham. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-572-02659-2., Quote: ."Lohri is the winter festival of Punjab and is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs."
  6. ^ Jeratha, Aśoka (1998). Dogra Legends of Art & Culture. Indus Publishing. ISBN 978-81-7387-082-8.
  7. ^ List of Holidays punjab.gov.in Retrieved 9 March 2023
  8. ^ Punjab Government List of holidays 2019
  9. ^ List of holidays for the calendar year 2023
  10. ^ "HP Government - Holidays - Government of Himachal Pradesh, India". Himachal.nic.in. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  11. ^ Saini, P. (1968). Discovery of Haryana. India: Hira Parkashan
  12. ^ Chauhan, Ramesh K. (1995) Punjab and the nationality question in India. Deep and Deep Publications [1]
  13. ^ AsiaNews.it. "Punjab celebrates the". asianews.it. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  14. ^ Dilagīra, Harajindara Siṅgha (1997). The Sikh Reference Book. Sikh Educational Trust for Sikh University Centre, Denmark. ISBN 978-0-9695964-2-4.
  15. ^ officer, Punjab Settlement; Talbot, Walter Stanley (1901). Final Report of the Revision of the Settlement of the Jhelum District in the Punjab. "Civil and military gazette" Press. lohri , ( about 11th January )
  16. ^ Dr. H.S. Singha (2005). Sikh Studies. Hemkunt Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-81-7010-245-8.
  17. ^ Brown, Alan (1986). Festivals in World Religions. Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-36196-6. Lohri ( around 12 January )
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  22. ^ "The Tribune...Science Tribune". Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  23. ^ The Tribune Festival binge: Amarjot Kaur 10 January 2015
  24. ^ Celebrating with the Robin Hood of the Punjab and all his friends! Nottingham Post 13 January 2014 [4] Archived 16 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine
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  26. ^ Hindustan Times 12 01 2013
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  28. ^ Celebrations, Volume 4, (2002) World Book]
  29. ^ What is Lohri? Why is it celebrated?, Somya Abrol, India Today, (13 January 2017)
  30. ^ "The Telegraph - Calcutta : Opinion". Archived from the original on 28 April 2004. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  31. ^ R. C. Dogra, Gobind Singh Mansukhani (1995)Encyclopaedia of Sikh Religion and Culture [5]
  32. ^ a b c Kailash Puri; Eleanor Nesbitt (2013). Pool of Life: The Autobiography of a Punjabi Agony Aunt. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-1-78284-067-1.
  33. ^ "The origins of lohri". Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India.
  34. ^ "What is the significance of Lohri and why we burn fire on Lohri?". Business Insider. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  35. ^ "Happy Lohri 2022: Date, Origin and Significance of the Harvest Festival". News18. 13 January 2022. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  36. ^ "Happy Lohri 2022: Significance, Delicacies And Wishes For The Festival". Moneycontrol. 13 January 2022. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  37. ^ a b c d Sundar mundarye ho by Assa Singh Ghuman Waris Shah Foundation ISBN B1-7856-043-7
  38. ^ "NDTV 06 12 14". Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
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  46. ^ Jammu Kashmir Government Portal
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  48. ^ FirozBakht Ahmed Deccan Herald 18 January 2010
  49. ^ Nidhin Singhi "Lohri gaiety warms all"Times of India 13 01 2012
  50. ^ Proceedings - Punjab History Conference (2000)
  51. ^ Jyoteeshwar Pathik, Diwan Chand Sharma (1980) Cultural Heritage of the Dogras. Page 106 "The festival of Lohri is said to be celebrated from Mughal time when a witch had created tyranny and horror on the Jammu Punjab border near Sialkot district." Light & Life Publishers [6]
  52. ^ "LOHRI: THE BONFIRE FESTIVAL - The Indian Panorama". Retrieved 12 January 2017.
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  56. ^ "Dhulla Bhatti Song".
  57. ^ Collins, Ace (2010). Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Zondervan. p. 191. ISBN 9780310873884.
  58. ^ "The History of Hogmanay". Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  59. ^ Spence, Lewis (1 January 1999). The Magic Arts in Celtic Britain. Courier Corporation. ISBN 978-0-486-40447-9.