Means ‘Good bye to Til or Sesame’, (which is used excessively in winters) and ‘welcome to longer days’ (which signify the dawn of summer).

Lohri, the festival of bonfire falls on 13th 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, Paush, and announcing the start of the month of Magh and the auspicious period of Uttarayan – January 14 to July 14 (“Uttar” North and “ayan” movement towards). Uttarayana is considered to be the holiest half of the year. In Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says, “I am Uttarayana among the ayanas.”

Unlike other Indian festivals, Lohri reflects less of religion than culture. It is more a heritage of the agrarian Indian society than a felicitation of some Indian God.

Lohri is also the time to say good bye to winter foods. 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 dilader 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 prasad 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 leaves). Eating of til (sesame of seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is considered to be essential on this day.

Lohri therefore is the last day of eating heat producing winter foods. This is what the ritual of throwing these items in the bonfire is. It also signifies that from the day of lohri these items are for worship and to be taken in small amount like a prasadam and not as major part of the meals.

The bonfire or the artificial source of heat, to many, 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.

As per Ayurveda the six months of Uttarayana (Adana –Dry Season) consists of Shishira, Vasanta and Grishma periods (Late winter, spring, summer). Bitter, pungent and astringent tastes are dominant in the soil. During the late winter chances of asthmatic attacks, vata imbalance, dryness of the body etc. are more. Maximum chances of vata emergencies liken heart attacks and stroke occur during full moon in this period.

The Dakshinayana (6 months, Visarga – Wet Season) consists of Varsha, Sharad, Hemanta (Rainy, autumn, early winter seasons). Sweet, sour, salt tastes are dominant in the soil.

Winter therefore can be divided into wet (early) and dry (late) winter. Wet winter is characterized by fall in temperature along with high humidity. Environmentally, we see fog and smog during this season. Dry or late winter on the other hand is characterized by absence of fog, smog and presence of chilly airy winds.

Most hypothermia illnesses occur in dry late winter. The transition phase between wet and dry winter is on Lohri. In terms of Ayurveda, it means shifting from Kapha to Vata atmosphere. The onset of dry winter is also the time for accelerated movement disorders in the body. Accelerated hypertension, arrhythmias, paroxysmal atrial tachycardia (PAT), brain hemorrhage, heart attack etc. all occur at the start of dry late winter.

Unpublished compilation of data has also shown that maximum temporary pacemakers are also put during this season.

The correct lifestyle in this season has been defined in Ayurveda and it involves reducing consumption of stringent, bitter and pungent foods.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).