13th January means Lohri for the North Indians and I can already smell the roasted popcorns, revri, gazak, peanuts from faraway. I am in Mumbai and I am not going to be home tomorrow and thus I am nostalgic. However, I will time-travel to Punjab and talk about the Lohri celebrations in Amritsar and Hosiarpur. Facebook has been teasing me with memories from last year. It was quite a thrill to do a road trip and celebrate the festival with locals in a rustic ambiance. Having been married in a Punjabi family for last 7 years, this was definitely a golden chance to soak in the vivid visuals of the state, to seek blessings at Taran Tarn and Harminder Sahib and to see Punjab during its much-loved festival. Phulkari duppatas, praying around the bonfire, throwing Gachak, Rewri, Peanut and Popcorn into the fire, dancing to the beats of bhangra & giddha and relishing Makke ki roti and Sarso ka saag was the steal as well as the highlight of the trip.
Being the first festival at the turn of the calendar, Lohri not only marks the end of winter season in northern India but also happens to be the most popular folk festival of the state of Punjab in India. Festivals are of utmost importance because they pump in a fresh leash of energy in our mundane routine. They prompt us to halt, take a break and cherish life. They also put us together effectively, by making us connect with different communities. Seeing a place getting decked-up to celebrate a local festival and then celebrating it with the locals is one of the best ways to gain insight around local history, culture, people and food. No doubt, it makes us more tolerant and appreciative towards different and unique traditions. And most importantly, they foster peace and harmony among humankind. I have travelled to couple of places only and only for their famous festivals and have come back more happy, content and practically more enriched. Thus, I never shy from giving this piece of advice that there is no better time to visit a place than a local festival. In fact, if you visit a place twice, you will feel the difference during festive and non-festive days.
Home to the holiest of the Sikh shrines, the state of Punjab is ranked 12th favorite when it comes to tourist arrivals. While the capital city Chandigarh garners attention as one of the most aesthetically planned city of India, Amritsar beats all as the everlasting historical heart of the state. Nevertheless, other cities and towns like Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Bathinda, Pathankot, Hosiarpur promise tranquil splash of green, vast blooming mustard fields, crisscrossing long canals, traditional culture, roots of spirituality, legacy of Gurus and high-spirited locals. Punjab makes a pretty and perfect choice to road trip in.
I remember on the day of the festival, a different kind of vibe had set in. We had wheeled from Amritsar to Hosiarpur and every little village, town or city on the way had a different zing about it. The whole ambiance was electrifying, cheerful, upbeat and friendlier. Golden temple was extremely crowded but hey, that’s the day to be there.
Celebrating Lohri in the heart and soul of Punjab has to be one of the most authentic cultural experiences that I will rave about for years to come. I was thrilled to discover Punjab beyond its signature mustard fields, holy Golden temple and butter loaded Paranthas. The memories of the colorful markets, enthusiastic young and adults trying their hands at kite flying, contagious energy of the locals and the common sighting of decked-up shops selling Phuliyas, Rewris, Peanuts and Popcorns are still fresh in my mind.
The first Lohri for a married couple and later, for their new born baby is celebrated as a very significant occasion in the Punjabi community. For the farmers, it marks the harvest time of rabi crop and sowing season of the winter crops.
Celebrations in a Farm House in Hoshiarpur
Fresh and clean air, canopy of trees, mustard fields and a smooth run on the road. After the visit to Golden Temple (first thing in the morning), I reached Kailash Farms in Hosiarpur on the day of the Lohri festival . The simplicity and cultural richness of Punjab is best felt on the roads and next when you meet the locals and celebrate with them, it just gets on you. At the farm, we were showered with heartwarming Punjabi hospitality by the owners and the staff. They were very excited to take me through various authentic village experiences such as harvesting crops, climbing trees, riding tractors, flying kites and more.
The arrangements for the evening were equally delightful. Everyone got dressed up well. We collected in one of their garden where the wood was placed on a circular platform. There were local singers and dancers to add on to the fun and excitement. The ladies had put on their phulkari dupattas and looked their best. The owners initiated a prayer and then all of us took rounds of the burning woods and muttered our prayers while offering some popcorns and gajak in the fire. After that the party was open for dance, music and great food. And when its punjabi dhol, you just cant stay calm. Together we danced. It was quite a memorable Lohri, well spent in the land of saints, Hosiarpur. It will always remind me of kite flying, tractor rides, chewing on sugarcanes from fields and dancing around bonfire. And not to forget, we did it all in the Punjabi style in Punjab.
Some parts of the story have already been published in the form of articles on Outlook Traveller website last year. Wishing you a Happy Lohri!!