Tracing The Patriarchal Evolution Of Lohri: From Celebrating Women’s Safety To The Male ChildIt went from being all about women to all about men!
Much like Pongal and Makar Sankranti, the winter crop season is also celebrated in the Punjab region. This festival is known as Lohri. While this festival primarily marks the end of the winter season and welcomes longer days, there is folklore that it also celebrates a man who saved women from lecherous men back in the day. But over the years, this festival has become more about the harvest, newly married couples and the birth of the male child making it patriarchal. Let’s understand how this festival has evolved over the years.
The Story Of Dulla Bhatti
As per the Lohri folklore, Dulla Bhatti was a dacoit who operated in Punjabi during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Some tales claim he was a zamindar and while there’s no clarity as to what he did but the one thing that he was known for was – saving women. Among these women were 2 girls – daughters of a Brahmin, Sundari and Mundari. As the tale goes, the Mughal Emperor allegedly wanted to take the girls for his harem and he send his Army to bring the girls to him but the Brahmin, fearing for his daughters’ safety took them to Dulla Bhatti and requested him to save them. Dull Bhatti was known to be the Punjabi Robinhood and so, he took the girls in and considered them as his daughters. He then married them off but since he did not have anything to give in dowry during their vidaai, he bid them adieu with gud, shakkar and til.
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This is also why there are several folk songs around this folklore that people sing while celebrating Lohri with a bonfire as well as snacks like til ladoos, gur, peanuts, gachchak and popcorn among other sweet and savoury snacks. These snacks are also put on the bonfire for blessings. But over the years, this harvest festival has evolved to become sexist.
Why Does Lohri Only Celebrate The Birth Of A Male Child?
Apart from the folklore and harvest season, Lohri also marks a new beginning and happiness for newly married couples as well as those who have had a newborn male child in the family. In the modern world people also celebrate the birth of the girl child and seek blessings for her during Lohri but traditionally, it is the birth of the male child that is celebrated during this festival. And this tradition still continues in most parts of Punjab. Despite the cultural and historical significance this festival has with women’s safety and rights, over the years, it emerged as the son’s festival where the birth of the male child was celebrated on a much larger scale and little to no value was given to the girl child’s birth. This is why Lohri suddenly went from being a feminist festival to a sexist festival that stole the purpose of this festival.
This Lohri, let’s take a step back and make it about women’s rights and safety. It’s time to give back the importance of this festival instead of allowing sexist man-made customs that further patriarchy in our already heavily patriarchal society.