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FESTIVALS OF LOHRI AND MAKAR SAMKRANTI
It is one of the most important festival of Northern India which is celebrated with utmost fanfare in traditional style. This festival is always celebrated on 13th January. Lohri  marks the end of winter season and it is the day when the sun changes its course also which is also called ‘Makar Samkranti’ which too is celebrated throughout India which marks the start of auspicious days. Makar Samkranti marks the transition of sun from Saggitarius to Capricorn during winter in the northern hemisphere which is called ‘Uttrayan’ (Sun starts moving towards northern side).  In Northern India It is called ‘Makar Samkranti and celebrated on 14th January.  In other parts of India, it is celebrated with different names like Pongal in South India, Bihu in North East India etc.  People who are inclined towards old traditions and religion, take a dip in the morning in the holy water of sacred rivers or ponds etc and worship the Sun to give them peace and prosperity. People also give charities to the poor and needy ones in the form of food, clothes and also money etc. These traditions are still alive and in small town and cities of India which are not fully affected by modernism, one can find stalls distributing hot food, clothes and money to the poor and needy ones on the day of Makar Samkranti.  This tradition is continuing since the time immemorial and finds its mention in our ancient scriptures as well.
As regards Lohri, it is a festival of Punjab in India and it has its origin in Punjab and nobody knows as to how it started and how old it is. There are various stories popular behind this festival.
Some people believe that it is related to the famous tale of a person namely ‘Dulla Bhatti’. Dulla Bhatti was a highway robber in Punjab during the reign of Akbar who was the emperor of India at that time in 16th Century. Dulla Bhatti used to rob the rich only for specific purpose to help the poor and needy with the money he robbed from the rich. He also used to rescue the girls who were kidnapped and taken forcibly for sale in  the slave markets of other neighbouring countries. He also used to give money to the parents of the rescued girls for arranging their marriage. As such he was a superman for the people of Punjab during that time.  That is why the most famous song of  Lohri  which everyone in India is well acquainted and sings with great zeal has his name in almost every line of the song to express gratitude to Mr Dulla Bhatti, a bandit by profession but a noble soul.
 When the festival of Lohri starts approaching in January, small groups of boys and girls knocks at the door of houses and start singing the famous song of Lohri i.e. “Chunri Munri ho, Tera Kaun Bichara ho, Dulla Bhatti wala ho………….”. People take it as auspicious if the groups of the little boys knocks their doors singing this song. In turn, people give them popcorn, peanuts, dry fruits, crystal sugar, sesame seeds (til), jaggry as well as coins. Though, in big cities, this tradition of boys knocking the doors on Lohri is getting reduced, but in small towns and cities of Punjab and Northern India, one can discern these things very easily for at least 15 days before the festival finally comes on 13th January.  
Some people are of the belief that the festival of Lohri has  its an other link. It has derived its name Lohri from the word  ‘Loi’ who was wife of a famous poet cum saint, Kabir Das who also lived during the period of Akbar in 16th century. In local Punjabi dialect, Lohri is pronounced as Lohi. Some people associate this festival with an other ancient legend of Holika, and Lohri is believed to be the sister of Holika. Holika was burnt in the holy fire by Hirnakashyap who was against even the recital of God’s name. Holika burnt in the holy fire but Lohri survived after that. And people celebrate this festival to remember her. As regards Holika, Hindus celebrate a separate festival for her holy sacrifice in the fire, called Holi which too is celebrated in the month of February or March every year. Holi is the festival of colors which is well known all over the world.
 
Celebration of Lohri is very simple but very attractive which tightens the relationship and emotional bonds between the people. Freinds, relatives and family members gather  in the open space in or outside home and light a bonfire at sunset. All sings together and move around the bonfire dancing, rejoing and chanting  Lohri songs. They also throw some peanuts, jiggery and sesame seeds (reoris) etc in the bonfire to worship it. In addition to this, they sit around this bonfire gossiping, cracking jokes, doing mimickery, singing songs, playing antakshri etc for hours making the atmoshpere more pleasant.This continues for 2-3 hours till 10-11 pm. Really It is fantastic to celebrate such festivals in India. Some people organise dinner etc on this occasion which adds to the celebration. In villages of Punjab, people celebrate this festival whole of the night.
May God bring peace, harmony and prosperity in the world ….. Let us do our Ek Koshish one attempt to make the world a single family through these festivals !
 Ek Koshish one attempt
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Unique Indian Tradition: ‘Ahoi Ashtami’- One Day Fast by Mothers for Well-being and Long Life of Their Sons
Today is the religious celebration of Ahoi Ashtami in India. In Hinduism, this ritual of  keeping fast by mothers for well being and long life of  their sons which is popularly known as ‘Ahoi Ashtami’ that falls on 8th day of Kartik month every year is the most important ritual in Indian culture and religion. This not only shows immense love and affection of mothers towards their sons but also tends to keep the families joint and united by filling the thoughts of respect and regards by sons for their mothers. This is unique tradition in India as no other country seems to have such tradition. There is a story behind this most important ritual in Indian culture and religion. 
There lived a woman with her seven sons and one day she went to forest to bring some soil to plaster the floor of house. While she was digging soil in the forest, she unfortunately and unintentionally killed a small cub like creature. She felt unhappy and sorry over this incident and came back to home. After this incident all of her sons died one after another within a year. The woman started believing in her heart that her sons died due to her sin of killing that cub. One day she narrated the incident of her killing of that cub to some wise ladies in her neighbourhood.   Upon hearing the story of that woman, they advised her to keep fast, confess and pray the Almighty Goddess Ma Bhagwati by making a picture of that cub on the wall on 8th day of Kartik which would redeem her sin of killing the cub. The woman kept fast on that day and prayed the Goddess as was advised by making a picture of that cub on the wall and after some time the Goddess blessed her with all of her seven sons. Since then, this tradition has become a ritual amongst the Hindu mothers to worship the Almighty Goddess Ma Bhagwati by keeping a whole day fast and praying the Almighty Goddess Ma Bhagwati in the form of picture of cubs made on a wall of house for the well being and long life of their sons. Really the tradition is filled with immense love and affection between mothers and sons.  
On this day Hindu mothers make pictures of cub(s) on the wall of their house or hang pictures of Ma Bhagwati on the wall and pray Ma Bhagwati as shown in the picture. For the long life of their sons, they also wear a necklace of silver beads around their neck.   Two silver beads are added every year in this necklace of silver beads for long life of their sons. Mothers keep on adding these silver beads until they die. In the day time, women/mother gather and listen to the story of Ahoi Ashtami with great devotion. In the evening they pray Goddess Bhagwati and then also pray stars for the long lives of their sons. After that they give food to the eldest lady in the house or if there is no elder lady in the home, they give food to some other elderly woman in the neighbourhood or in the temple. After that only they eat something to break their fast.
It is really a unique tradition in India only to cement the bonds of love and affection between mother and son.
Ek Koshish One Attempt

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