Halwas Of India - Religious, Delicious, And Auspicious
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In India, there are sweets galore. Many festivals are celebrated in India, and sweets play an essential role. Sweets are famous and associated with different festivals around the year; however, only a few sweets can match the nostalgic charm of a Halwa. Growing up in Delhi, the harsh winters of the capital city were made a little better with my mother’s piping hot halwa, often prepared on demand, and I enjoyed it tucked inside a quilt. The Sooji (Semolina) Ka Halwa is a simple and yet the most popular halwa prepared in Indian homes, and I am sure many of us have fond memories of enjoying the same at home. On the last day of Navratra, the Ramnvanami festival, Is incomplete without the decadent combination of Halwa Poori and ‘Chana’. Now, when I travel to different parts of the country, I find that Halwa is a culinary phenomenon. In every city, you get delicious Halwas with unique ingredients - exploring the same catered well to my sweet tooth. 

Kadha Prashad 

Many types of halwa are prepared in India, but nothing can beat the pure bliss of having the Kadha Prashad offered in the Gurudwaras (Sikh Temples). The ghee-soaked and wobbly Halwa comprises equal parts of Coarsely ground wheat flour, sugar, and desi ghee. However, the most crucial ingredient that goes into it is the continuous chants of ‘Satnaam Waheguru’, which is recited as the Kadha Prashad is made in the temple kitchen. Kadha Prashad has always tasted divine, no matter which gurudwara I visit. There is undoubtedly a certain divine force which makes it so irresistible. 

Winter Specials 

Other irresistible and heavy-on-the-palate halwas are made with ‘Moong Dal’ and ‘Badam’. ‘Moong Dal Halwa’ is a must-have in Rajasthan and a delicacy to enjoy in winter. As the temperature goes down, the consumption of ‘Moong Dal Halwa’, prepared in Desi Ghee, goes considerably high; almonds provide a rich taste to the halwa prepared with it and are ideal for the cold winters of the north. 

‘Post ka Halwa’ is a unique halwa made of poppy seeds, providing considerable heat to the body and tasting divine. My mother prepared it during the winter months; a small bowl of it is irresistible and often tempts us to have more. 

‘Besan ka halwa’ is another special halwa made from gram flour. Sweets made out of gram flour have a separate fan base. With ‘besan ka laddoo’, ‘Mysore Pak’, and ‘Besan ki Barfi’ taking the coveted positions as the best gram flour desserts in India, ‘Besan ka Halwa’ is undoubtedly a must-try and deserves a top place too. 

Talking of the most loved halwas of India, ‘Gajar ka Halwa’, also known as ‘Gajrela’ in Punjab, is unmissable. Come winter, sweet shops start their ‘Gajrela counters’, over which the delicious halwa with shredded carrots gets heated on low fire and is adorned with cashews and raisins. Any true sweet lover in India would know the mesmerising properties of a well-made ‘Gajar Ka Halwa’. 

In Old Delhi, visit a sweet shop called Shireen Bhawan near Matia Mahal, Jama Masjid area, to have a full range of Halwas on display for people to choose from, among which the most surprising would be safed ’Gajar ka halwa’, which is available for a short time in the whole year, and taste amazing. Gowar Halwa made with Aloe Vera and a dark-coloured ‘Habshi Halwa’ are other unique delicacies available at Shireen Bhawan. 

Halwas Of South India 

Halwas plays an equally culturally important role. The ‘Kesari Bhath; in Karnataka is a must-have sweet with the traditional thalis served in most of Karnataka and is also essential to other states of South India. The Slurpy texture of a well-made ‘Kesari bhath’ speaks of the excellent quality ghee used in its preparation. A morning breakfast of ‘Chow Chow bhath’, which is half a portion of ‘Khara Bhath’ (Upma) and half a portion of ‘Kesari Bhath, became my favourite breakfast combination during my travels across Karnataka. And if ever you get a chance to try the Pineapple Kesari Bhath, without a second thought, try out the sweet goodness of this fruity halwa. ‘Kashi Halwa’ is a delicate halwa made out of ash gourd and is enjoyed for its delicious taste across Karnataka. 

In Kozhikode, also known as Calicut, the Kozhikode halwa is one of the specialities of this culinary-rich city. Kozhikode halwa is made with a fermented paste of flour cooked in coconut oil and sugar; it comes in different colours and is shaped like wobbly bricks of gastronomical goodness, with raisins and cashews studded in every piece. In the southern Tamilnadu town of Tirunelveli, outside the Swami Nellaiappar temple, is a small shop called Iruttu Kadai Halwa shop. This dimly lit sweet shop has been selling the famed Tirunelveli halwa for over a century. A long queue of food lovers waits for the delicious ghee-laden halwa every day at 5 PM. To enjoy the delightful Tirunelveli halwa is a gastronomical pleasure every food lover in India must indulge in. 

Unique Halwas Of India 

Halwa, a seemingly simple sweet dish, is prepared with unique ingredients in certain parts of the country. A culinary trip to the erstwhile princely state of Rampur took me to the Raza Library, where our host Nawab Kazim Ali Khan of the Rampur Royal Family, handed over a list of more than 200 traditional dishes prepared in the royal kitchen of Rampur. The list included some of the most awe-inspiring combinations I have come across. ‘Adrak ka Halwa’ has an interesting folklore attached to it for being prepared for the Nawab, who was advised to include ginger in his diet for health reasons. Skills of Rampur’s traditional cooks prepared a decadent ginger halwa. The presence of the disliked culinary ingredient, ginger, could not be deciphered by the nawab, and he ended up loving the new innovative creation. 

The list of Rampur halwas included non-vegetarian halwas like ‘Gosht Ka Halwa’, ‘Macchli Ka Halwa’, ‘Ande ka halwa’, ‘Murgh ka halwa’, etc.; never before could I have imagined meats being used to prepare sweet dishes; however, after travelling across India and knowing the skills of Indians with culinary ingredients, I would believe anything is possible when it comes to Indian regional cuisines. 

Another royal city, Hyderabad, has one unique halwa called ‘Jauzi Halwa’, the favourite of the Nizams. The Turkish confectioner, who started the ‘Jauzi Halwa’ shop called Hameedi Confectioners, made this fantastic ghee and saffron-laden Halwa flavoured with nuts and a spice called Jauz (Nutmeg), making the Jauzi Halwa, an irresistible sweet dish from the city of Nizams. 

The list of Indian Halwas is a long one. Karachi or the Sohan Halwa can be enjoyed at Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. Joshi Budhakaka makes Bombay’s special halwa, the Mahim Halwa, also known as the Ice Halwa, Mumbai’s Sheera is a must-have halwa too. ‘Gur Ka Halwa’ in Amritsar is a delicacy par excellence. Ingredients like Bottle gourd (Lauki), Anjeer (Figs), Shakarkand (Sweet potato), Singhada (Water chestnut), Beetroot (Chukandar), Kadoo (Pumpkin), Papaya (Papeeta), Dates (Khajoor), Ragi (Finger Millet), Makai (Corn), Chana Dal (Bengal gram), Bajra (Pearl millet), Gondh (Edible Gum) and many other ingredients are prepared into a halwa in different parts of India. 

Eating Halwa invokes many happy memories of Life, and one reason for it is the auspiciousness involved with cooking and eating halwa on festivals and special days. Winter 

days feel warmer with the piping hot halwa and poori, or as my memory takes me back to the special halwa with the fried Katlama like parathas outside the Hazratbal masjid in Srinagar, overlooking the beautiful Dal Lake. A delicious halwa is always close to your reach in Kashmir or Rajasthan, Tamilnadu or Karnataka, in homes or temples, or on the busy streets of your favourite city. Explore the length and breadth of India and enjoy the delicious Indian sweets as you tread along. A halwa, to begin with, would be considered an auspicious start. 

Sidharth Bhan Gupta, Founder of 361 Degrees Hospitality, is a Hospitality / Food and Beverage / Restaurant Consultant, Travelling across India on a Cultural and Culinary Exploration.