The Indian Lohri Festival marks key seasonal transitions: the end of winter growing season and the start of winter harvest. This festival celebrates the reduction of long winter nights and the transition into long, warm days. Lohri is primarily celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent.
In Punjab, the harvest festival Lohri is marked by eating sheaves of roasted corn from the new harvest.
Sugarcane crops take 10 – 12 months to fully mature. Lohri celebrates the cultivation of sugarcane planted during the previous fall. In India, fresh sugarcane juice is commonly available and locals enjoy the fresh juice by removing a layer of the sugarcane and chewing the fibrous membranes, releasing the nectar.
India Farmers Protest
The India Farmers Protest began in September 2020. On November 26, 2020, farmers from Punjab and Harayna attempted to move into the national capital, Delhi. However, they met government resistance and remain positioned at the same location months later as protestors continue to oppose the Three Farm Bills which were passed in September 2020 by the Indian government.
This protest is being reported as the world’s largest protest due to the volume and commitment of its voluntary participants. Approximately 70 people have died during the protest. As a result of these deaths, farmers, Sikhs and people from the Punjab State are planning muted Lohri festival celebrations to acknowledge this community loss.
Celebrating Lohri During the India Farmers Protest
During Lohri, it’s common to see groups dancing around a communal fire, whether at home or with the larger community on a public scale. On the streets, it’s easy to find fresh popcorn, roasted peanuts and sweets such as Til or Tilwa for purchase.
Til or Tilwa
Til, also known as Tilwa is a traditional Indian sweet meaning to eat “til rice.” This delicacy is made by toasting either sesame seeds or fluffy rice flakes. The dry mixture is combined with hot jaggery to form a paste which is shaped by hand into white, sweetened balls.
Jaggery is concentrated sugarcane juice. While jaggery tastes as sweet as sugar, the concentration results in a liquid substance which is more nutritious than sugar itself.
As Lohri is one of the largest celebrations in Punjab, celebrations will undoubtedly continue despite the current global pandemic and ongoing protest. While the outcome of the Farmers Protest remains uncertain, the traditional warmth and certainty of winter’s end won’t mark the end of the political protest. Rather, organizers will show reverence for their fallen countrymen, the loss of 70 fallen farmers still hoping to inspire political change with the new season.