Food · India

Lohri: The Punjab’s winter solstice

The region of Punjab (five waters) is known as India’s bread basket due to the five rivers that crisscross both Indian and Pakistani Punjab. It is in part for this fertility and its geographic flatness that makes the border between the two countries so contested and tense. However today what we will talk about is Lodhi, a festivity that is shared among Pakistan and India’s Sikh Punjabi populations.

Bonfires in New Delhi

Lodhi takes place every year on January 13th as the bountiful fields of wheat get ready to be harvested following the end of winter. Still while days get longer around this time, January is still relatively cold and any Lodhi celebration tends to include large bonfires on the streets and people wearing either their best or their newest clothes to celebrate. In some ways Ecuador’s New Year celebration with the burning of effigies in large piles and the usage of new clothes reminded me of Lohri.

Revri: The sweet of sesame seeds and jaggery

In Punjab typically young children go around neighbors’ houses asking for sweet treats such as revri (sweet made of sesame seeds and the unrefined cane sugar jaggery; jaggery is also known as panela or piloncillo), roasted nuts or dried fruits. In exchange for treats, children go around singing folk songs; to turn away children without giving them sweets is very rude and a faux pas.

Failing to dance bhangra

During my time in New Delhi in 2015 I was able to experience many of these traditions from Punjab thanks in part to my friend Laxmi’s guidance. This included eating the sweet and smoky sesame treat revri as well as being shown how to dance bhangra (Punjab’s de facto folk dancing). It was a day full of fun, laughter, terribly uncoordinated dancing from me and ancient traditions that I was happy to have been invited to be part of.


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