A ‘Multani’ Lohri: How a niche community is keeping its culture alive | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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A ‘Multani’ Lohri: How a niche community is keeping its culture alive

The Multanis , a trading community from Multan in southern Punjab, in present-day Pakistan, moved to Mumbai during Partition.

mumbai Updated: Jan 14, 2018 01:14 IST
Lavina Mulchandani
The Multani community in Mumbai celebrate Lohri.
The Multani community in Mumbai celebrate Lohri.(HT Photo)

In a housing society in Vile Parle, the Multani community celebrated a very different Lohri on Saturday.

The Multanis , a trading community from Multan in southern Punjab, in present-day Pakistan, moved to Mumbai during Partition. “We do not celebrate Lohri as a harvest festival. We celebrate our trade, share the goods we trade — mainly silverware, cloth and cutlery,” says Sudhir Khanna, 76, president of the Shri Multan Seva Samiti.

Lohri is celebrated across northern India with feasts of sarson ka saag, puffed rice and sweetmeats of sesame, jaggery and groundnut. “Multan is an arid region; we don’t traditionally have a lot of vegetables. So our special Lohri food is a spicy mix of seven vegetables — a rare treat,” says Mahesh Nagpal, 75, secretary of the Samiti. “We also feast on sugarcane juice.”

A large bonfire is lit and celebrants walk around it thrice, chanting and making offerings of gulal to their deity, Narsimha, a part-man-part-lion incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu.

There is one Multani priest in Mumbai, who knows each of the families of the 1,000 Multanis in the city.

“The culture lives on through the priest and the elderly. Most youngsters call themselves Punjabi, although our culture is different,” adds Nagpal. Nishant Chawla, 25, a public relations executive, says, “I tell people I’m Punjabi. My family doesn’t speak the language at all.”

A monthly community bulletin with details of events and recipes keeps them united, and helps with match-making.