01/26/2013, 00.00
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Punjab celebrates the "Lohri": From culture, an invitation to a springtime of peace and unity

by Shafique Khokhar
The tradition, characteristic of the Pakistani province unites Christians, Muslims and Sikhs. It celebrates the end of winter, paying homage to the figure of an Asian Robin Hood. Theme of 2013: "Peace: My right." Christian leader: from culture, a warning to brotherhood. Prayer for prosperity.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A typical January feast which marks the end of winter and the rebirth of the land, crops, life, as well as a celebration based on a "cultural" element as a factor of union "between people different faiths, ethnic or religious identity. " In this spirit, Pakistani Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have described the "Lohri" festivities featured recently in the province of Punjab. It bears witness to the "renewal of life" and welcomes the harvest season, a period of "peace, abundance, happiness and fertility" in the fields and families. And the slogan "Peace: My right", it was also a moment of encounter and engagement between religious and secular personalities.

The "Lohri" marks the beginning of the new financial year and focuses on the figure of the "rebel" Dulla Bhatti, a native of the province of Punjab and present in many local songs and legends. He lived in the sixteenth century during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar and is considered an Asian "Robin Hood": he stole from the rich and helped  girls in need. From today's Faisalabad young girls were sent throughout the Middle East and forced into prostitution: he used to rescue them, and give them a small dowry to get married.

The highlight of the Cultural Festival 2013 - organized by the Lok Vehar Development Organization, in collaboration with Shajr and Sojhla - was held last January 19 at Faisalabad, in the presence of hundreds of people. Young people dressed up with bright colors, moments of singing and dancing. As required by tradition, the crowd gathered in front of a big fire and threw corn kernels into the fire to drive out hatred and division, then danced around the flames, praying for abundant crops and prosperity.

George Clement, a former Christian MP, told AsiaNews that the festival of Lohri is characteristic "of the Punjabi culture," and is not related to any "religion, sect or ethnicity" in particular. He adds that culture "is an element of union" and can form the basis for a "renewed peace process, transforming nature into culture of coexistence." This is echoed by the Muslim artist Asif Hoat, who said that the festival helps people to "put aside hatred and discord, in order to create a harmonious society." Gurmeet Singh, a Sikh, director of Lok Vehar spoke of an "opportunity for interaction between different communities," which meet to pray "together for peace and prosperity."

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