The origin of Lohri is related to the central character of most Lohri
songs that is Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during
the reign of emperor Akbar. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls
being forcibly taken to be sold in slave markets of the Middle East. He arranged
their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowries.
Understandably, though a bandit, he became a hero of all Punjabis. So every
other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.
Some believe that Lohri has derived its name from Loi, the wife of Sant Kabir, for in rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi. Others believe that Lohri comes from the word 'loh', a thick iron sheet tawa used for baking chapattis for community feasts. Another legend says that Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived.
Eating of til (sesame seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is considered to be essential on this day. Perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi, which eventually got shortened to Lohri and hence the festival got this name in this unique fashion.