Any festival is associated with food and so is Makar Sankranti. Read next in our festival special food cuisine – Sankranti recipes!
As the calendar changes, almost entire nation gears up for the festivities of the first festival of the new year- the Harvest Festival known as Sankranti festival or Pongal or Lohri or Bihu in few states. The Sun begins its journey to the northern hemisphere or ‘Uttarayan’.
The main ‘God’ of this celebration is the Sun and it is sort of a welcoming ceremony for the Sun as ‘He’ begins the journey towards the northern hemisphere – from Tropic of Capricorn to Tropic of Cancer.
The zodiac sign Capricorn is Makar in Hindu calendar, in which the Sun is present. And therefore the name – Makar Sankranti.
This celebration is in the honor of the Sun god and the nature for blessing the folks with abundant energy, rich soil, water and nutrients for growing food grains. It is celebrated throughout the nation, in more or less, a similar fashion.
Thanks to Bollywood and media, we totally can relate to celebrations like Lohri, where people sing and dance around a bonfire made of dry leaves, sugarcane scraps, old trees, wood etc. Lots of sweets, rice, and sugarcane is offered to this holy fire. While in Gujarat, our friends spend the entire day on rooftops, competing against their neighbors in a friendly kite-flying tournament. This sport can go on for hours and fills the sky with colors of celebration. A very vibrant sight, I must say!
Festival special food cuisines: Makar Sankranti recipes
Bihu Celebrations in North East
Let us take a little ride to the north east- Assam. The seven sister states or the North East India, has abundant nature, flora, fauna and landscapes. Their culture reflects Indian, Chinese and South East Asian traditions. Such a vibrant part of India and yet quite underrated! The more we learn about this ethnicity, the more we sink into the definition of DIVERSITY.
Just as the rest of the nation, Assam celebrates Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu (bhog stands for food) – a harvest festival. It is to celebrate the end of rice harvesting season and thank the superior powers for their cooperation and blessings. A bonfire called Meji is constructed using bamboo, woods, dry leaves etc. On the day of the festival, friends and families come together to enjoy the lit bonfire and then scatter the ashes all over the farms to restore the nutrients in the soil. A major part of the celebration is of course the food!
Though the names are different, the ingredients are similar. In addition to the local varieties, every region has its own way to play around with these common ingredients providing them with the essential nutrients and warmth to survive the cold winter.
The special Sankranti recipes include Pithas forming main attraction of Assamese celebration. There are various kinds of Pithas made all year round. However, for Bhogali Bihu, they are made using sticky, glutinous brown rice, coconut, sesame, and jaggery.
Jolpan is another breakfast favourite which involves various forms of rice flakes, grains, and ground. It is served with a dollop of homemade RAW BUFFALO MILK YOGURT and jaggery. Some other elements are coconut laru (coconut laddus), Payokh (rice porridge).
Sankranti Celebrations Tamil way
Thai Pongal is another form of this celebration in the Thai month of Tamil calendar. Typically, it a four day-long celebration where each day holds its own importance. The main theme of this harvest festival is again quite similar which involves a bonfire – Bhogi! It also includes offerings and gifts exchanges that include sugarcane, sesame, coconut, banana, turmeric. And of course a whole lot of appreciation and gratefulness towards the nature!
In Tamil Nadu, people sing many more mythological stories in form of Sanskrit hymns, verses, poems and songs, around the bonfire. And the famous Pongal recipes include Ven Pongal (savory, like Upma), Sakkarai Pongal (sweet: jaggery, nuts, rice and milk), Payasam, Medhu Vadai (Medu Vada), Sambhar, Poriyal etc.
Sankranti Celebrations in Gujarat
Gujarati people enjoy their Sankranti recipes while flying kites. These Sankranti recipes from Gujarati cuisine include Undhiyu, Chikki, Khichdo, Dhokla and Chavanu (namkeen). Khichdo can be sweet or savory. The savory version is more or less like a khichadi that involves using lentils, rice and spices. We can compare the sweet version with a Payasam. Undhiyu is a delicious mix of seasonal produce like purple yam, Elephant’s foot/ Yam, Karanda (vine potato), fresh chick peas, carrots, green garlic, fresh fennel, snap beans and kohlrabi.
Lohri Celebrations in Punjab
Friends and families celebrate Sankranti or Lohri with bonfire, songs and Bhangra dances! And of course, yummy Punjabi cuisines!
Til ki Barfi is a sesame treat using sesame paste, sugar, milk solids and spices. Makhane are the puffed lotus seeds and make as awesome porridge ingredient. Similarly Gajak is nothing but a sweet of peanuts, sesame and raw sugar syrup.
Sankranti Celebrations in Maharashtra
The people in Maharashtra celebrate this festival with Tilgul – sweets made of sesame and jaggery. Women drape themselves in gorgeous black saris as they worship the Sugadis, the tiny earthen pots, filled with jujube fruits, carrots, sugarcane, cotton, fresh chickpeas, turmeric. In short, they thank the nature for the wonderful harvest of the season.
Andhra style celebrations (www.sailusfood.com)
Rajasthani style celebrations (www.jaipurlove.com)
One country and all these variations. Don’t forget these are only a few examples of the hundreds. A culture that revolves around nature, that celebrates food in its natural form and is one with the surroundings and respects the seasonal cycles! Absolutely amazing to see how culture and nature works its magic.
Also read our post on Raksha Bandhan celebrations!
Let us know how you celebrate this festival.
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