Lohri: Adieu to winters: TIL TADAKE; DIN JHATAKE

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Unlike the other Indian festivals, Lohri reflects less of religion than culture. Lohri marks the culmination of winter, and is celebrated each year on the 13th of January. The festival also celebrates fertility and the spark of life.
The focus of Lohri is on bonfire. People gather around the bonfire and do parikrima, throw sweets, puffed rice and popcorn into the flames, sing popular songs and exchange greetings. The significance of throwing “til (sesame), gajak, gur, moongphali, phuliya and popcorn” in the fire re-emphasizes symbolically the faith in eating natural seasonal foods. Since sesame, jaggery, peanuts, etc., are not recommended in summer, their consumption needs to be reduced from Lohri onwards. Any excess amount is given as gifts to others in the form of ‘daan’ or charity. It also signifies that from the day of lohri, these items are for worship and should be taken in lesser amounts like a ‘prasadam’ and not as major part of the meals. Sesame is worshiped for the next one magh month and is to be taken daily as prasadam.
The bonfire or ‘the artificial source of heat’ is embarked with festivity and supposedly the last need for heat for the season after which the warmth would come from the sun most naturally. The ritual of ‘parikrama’ around the fire also symbolizes a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundant crops and prosperity in the future.
The lohri ritual starts at sunset when people circle around (parikrama) the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies into the fire, shouting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honor come and poverty vanish!). This slogan coincides with the start of the harvesting season in North India. After the parikrama, people exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasadam comprising of five items: “til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn” followed by the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-ka-saag (cooked mustard herbs).
All across India, people celebrate this month in the form of – Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
An extremely auspicious day, Lohri marks the sun’s entry in to the ‘Makar Rashi’. The next day after lohri is Makar Sankranti. One can remember lohri as end of winter and Makar Sankranti as the first day of summer.