Holi 2023: Khaja-Goja, Essence Of Shantiniketan’s Dol Purnima
Image Credit: Khaja is a sweet snack from Eastern India. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

While the rest of the country celebrates Holi when the season changes from winter to spring, people in West Bengal’s Shantiniketan celebrate something called Basant Utsav to mark the occasion of Dol Purnima. This year too, as the nation celebrates Holi 2023, people in Shantiniketan will celebrate Basant Utsav on March 8, 2023. And amid this celebration, as an integral part, everyone will enjoy tonnes of traditional sweets known as Khaja and Goja. 

The Tradition Of Shantiniketan’s Basant Utsav

Now in case you didn’t know, Shantiniketan is a small town in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. The town was established by Devendranath Tagore, and his son, the famous Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore expanded it further as a university town centred around Visva-Bharati University. Tagore and his family founded Shantiniketan as a space where nature and culture come together to celebrate the joys of life. The idea of Basant Utsav on Dol Purnima stems from this founding thought.  

Legend says that it was Tagore’s youngest son, Samindranath, who first started the concept of Ritu Utsav or the celebration of season change in 1907. The concept was then expanded on by Tagore himself, who believed that Holi or Dol Purnima should be celebrated in tandem with nature, natural colours, food, song and dance at Shantiniketan. Thus, the Basant Utsav was born in 1920. Other seasonal festivities at Shantiniketan include Barsha Mangal (monsoon), Ananda Bazar (fall), Sharad Utsav (winter) and Maghotsav (foundation of the Brahmo Samaj).  

The celebrations of Basant Utsav at Shantiniketan do not involve the worship of any deity or gods. Instead, it’s a secular festival of colours where the day begins with teachers, students and visitors dressing up in yellow or pure white clothes, greeting each other with abeer or dry colours, singing and dancing to the tunes played on Indian instruments like Ektara, Dubri and Veena, and finally, by consuming traditional sweets. Of these, Khaja and Goja are two traditional sweets that are savoured by locals as well as tourists on this day. 

Understanding The Relevance Of Khaja & Goja 

In case you’ve never tasted either, Khaja and Goja are deep-fried, syrup-soaked sweet snacks from the Eastern part of India. Legend says that Khaja, which is basically prepared with refined flour, originated in the region of Magadha, which currently lies in Bihar. Traditional halwais make a thin, layered dough similar to a puff pastry or baklava, which is then deep-fried in ghee and dipped in sugar syrup. On the other hand, Goja is made with thicker layered dough and originates in the state of Odisha. Goja is prepared with a wheat flour dough that is layered thickly, deep-fried and then dunked in sugar syrup. Both sweet snacks are available easily and consumed across the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and even Andhra Pradesh. 

The two sweets are technically similar, but the biggest difference is that Khaja is more refined because of its thin layers, while Goja is thicker, sturdier like butch cookies. Both, however, are equally relished by people in Shantiniketan and other parts of these Eastern states during Holi and Dol Purnima celebrations. If you are looking to participate in the essence of Shantiniketan’s Basant Utsav and want to try your hand at making Khaja at home, here’s the recipe. 


For the dough

1 cup refined flour 

2 tbsp ghee 

¼ cup water 

Oil, for deep frying 

For sugar syrup

1.5 cups sugar 

½ cup water 

¼ tsp cardamom powder 

½ tsp lemon juice 


1. To make the syrup, place the sugar, water, cardamom powder and bring it to a boil. 

2. Once the syrup forms, switch off the flame and add the lemon juice. Mix well and set aside. 

3. To make the dough, place the refined flour in a large bowl with the ghee. 

4. Mix well to get a crumb-like texture. 

5. Now add water gradually to make a soft, smooth dough. 

6. Knead the dough, then roll it out as thinly as possible with refined flour dust. 

7. Cut the sides of the rolled dough to make a rectangle or square. 

8. Dust the surface of the rolled dough with more refined flour dust more generously, then start rolling it tightly from one side. 

9. Roll the entire dough tightly to make a long cylinder. 

10. Use a sharp knife to chop the cylindrical dough into 1-inch pieces. Flatten the dough roll slightly. 

11. Heat oil in a wok, then fry the Khajas until they turn golden brown and immediately dunk them in the syrup. 

12. Keep each fried Khaja in the syrup for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  

13. Once completely cooled, you can serve the Khaja or store it in an airtight container for 10-15 days.