One of the major festivals of India, Sankranti is celebrated with great pomp and show. Dedicated to Lord Surya, the day is also known as Maghi, and marks the first day of entry of the Sun into Makra (Capricorn) Rashi (zodiac). Observed on 14th January of the Gregorian calendar, it’s also known as Uttarayan as from Sankranti the Sun begins its northward journey.
Festivities related to Sankranti have many names depending on the region where it’s celebrated. For example, it’s called Til Sankrant in Gujarat, Poush Sankranti in West Bengal, Maghi in Punjab (preceded by Lohri), Bihu in Assam and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. The festival is marked with devotees taking a dip in holy rivers such as the Ganges, Godavari and Krishna among others.
Also, certain food items have become an integral part of the festival and this blog will focus on such items that are consumed widely across the country on Sankranti.
A sumptuous Sankranti staple, til ladoos, is made by warming sesame seeds with jaggery. Cardamom powder is also used in their making.
They are widely made and eaten in different parts of the country including Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. Til laddoos are not only rich in the aroma but also in iron and calcium.
One of the most loved delicacies on Lohri, sarso ka saag and Makki ki roti is an absolute must-have. While sarso ka saag is made from nutritious mustard leaves, Makki ki roti has ingredients like maize flour, red chilli powder, ghee and salt.
Fenugreek leaves are also added to enhance its taste. The combo is a perfect blend of Punjabi spices and flavour.
Puran Poli is another Sankranti delicacy that’s served as lunch in the state of Maharashtra and is one the state’s traditional delicacies during the festival. In this, the mixture of chana dal and jaggery is stuffed into dough rolls. Then it’s cooked in ghee until it puffs up.
Note that apart from Makar Sankranti, the dish is also made and eaten during Naraka Chaturdashi and Diwali.
Undhiyo is a Gujarati dish and is one of the most favourite delicacies prepared during Makar Sankranti. Derived from the Gujarati word “Undhu”, this dish is entirely prepared in earthen pots with seasonal vegetables such as eggplants, yams, sudti papdi and unripe bananas being its chief ingredients. The vegetables are either cooked or fried, and they are usually done in batches.
The earthen pots in which Undhiyo is cooked are sealed and placed upside down in a fire pit. Slow cooking in the earthen pot gives it a rustic flavour.
Another popular dish, Makara Chaula is a Sankranti special dish from Odhisha. It’s a delicious blend of freshly harvested rice, banana, sugarcane, jaggery milk and cheena.
Ginger, pepper and cut fruits are also added in the making of this dish that’s also served as prasad during the festival.
One of the widely prepared dishes during Makar Sankranti, Khichdi needs no introduction. Combining pulses and rice along with seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower and green peas, khichdi is served as bhog in many places during the festival.
Often teamed with chutney and fried veggies, Khichdi is easy to digest and detoxifies the body to a great extent. It also provides the right balance of proteins and carbohydrates and is gluten-free.
What is Makar Sankranti without Gokul Pithe, particularly in West Bengal? It is prepared in almost all households in Bengal to mark the occasion. Essentially prepared with khoya, coconut, and jaggery that stuffed into small balls of flour dough that are flattened and deep-fried in ghee or oil, the taste of Gokul Pithe is irresistible.
Easy to prepare, Gokul Pithe, apart from Makar Sankranti, is also prepared on Janmasthami as it’s considered to be one of the favourites of Lord Krishna.
Another popular Sankranti dish, Payesh Puli is a combination of two dishes into one – Payesh and Pithe. Pithe is essentially a rice flour dumpling that’s filled with grated coconut. Payesh, on the other hand, is a boiled mixture of milk, rice and jaggery.
Just like Gokul Pithe, Payesh Puli is one of the widely made and eaten dishes, particularly in West Bengal, during Sankranti.
Murukku is a deep-fried snack that’s made with dal flour and rice flour. The flours are mixed with chilli powder, salt, water and asafoetida, among others. Made into a dough that gets either spiral or coil shapes, this dish is a Sankranti special from the state of Tamil Nadu. The shapes are then fried in vegetable oil.
Murukku has various variations that result from the proportions and types of flours used in its making. Some of its variants are Mullu murruku, Pakoda murukku and Manapparai murukku, among others.
Dahi Chuda is an absolute must in Sankranti, particularly for people in the north and east India. It’s a dish consisting of flattened rice mixed with curd.
Easy to prepare the dish consumed at daybreak also has many health benefits. While curd improves digestion, Chura keeps the stomach filled for a long time and is gluten-free.
People from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh prepare this sweet dish on Sankranti. It’s made of rice flour, wheat flour and jaggery. The dough is flattened and then fried.
This dish is also known for its soft texture and not being overly sweet. Before consumption, it’s offered to God. Rava appalu is another variant of this dish that’s made using suji.
Ellu Bella is a Sankranti dish from the state of Karnataka. It’s prepared by mixing ground nuts, jaggery, sesame seeds and shredded coconuts.
The dish is then served along with sugarcane and sugar candy moulds. It’s a culture to distribute this dish to neighbours and the tradition has been followed for years.
Prepared primarily in Uttarakhand, Ghughute is made from wheat flour and jaggery. The mixture is mixed and beaten into different shapes like knives, pomegranate flowers, sword and spirals, among others. It’s then fried until the colour changes to brown.
Another favourite dish across households during Sankranti, there are various variants of Halwa that’s prepared during the festival.
Suji and Badam Halwa are the most common ones made and served. Some households also make Gajar ka halwa, the chief ingredient of which is carrot.
With Makar Sankranti around the corner, you can try any of these dishes to make the festival truly memorable. Happy Sankranti.