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Makar Sankranti, celebrated on January 14th and 15th every year, marks a significant transition in the Hindu calendar - the sun's entry into Capricorn (Makara Rashi). It marks the end of winter and the onset of a new harvest season.
It's a time imbued with great auspiciousness, celebrated across India. Integral to this festival's spirit is the delightful array of traditional sweets, each region of India offering its unique culinary treasures. While celebrating Makar Sankranti, it’s time to explore the diversity of Indian culture through its desserts.
This year, for Makar Sankranti 2024, here's a curated selection of seven traditional recipes from various parts of the country - Gokul Pithe, Lai, Chhena Poda, Ariselu, Makara Chaula, Puran Poli, and Til Gul Poli. Dishes hailing from regions like Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, and Maharashtra, not only tantalise the taste buds but also reflect the diverse cultural tapestry of India.
Makar Sankranti 2024: Top 7 Sweets You Must Try Making At Home
1. Gokul Pithe
A Bengali delicacy, Gokul Pithe is an essential part of Makar Sankranti celebrations, marking the end of the winter solstice and honoring the Sun God. Prepared on the last day of Poush in the Bengali calendar, this special sweet represents the festive spirit. Gokul Pithe is a delightful fried sweet made from khoya and maida, dipped in sugar syrup. Its unique appeal lies in the contrast between its crunchy exterior and the soft, sweetened khoya within, making it a cherished treat during the festival.
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2. Lai (Tilwa)
Lai, a traditional laddu from North India, holds a special place in the Makar Sankranti festivities of Bihar. It's a delightful mix of puffed rice, sesame seeds, and molten jaggery, rolled into balls. This Bihari Sankranti delicacy is known for its simple yet flavourful composition. Alongside Lai, other regional favorites like dahi chura, khichdi, and litti chokha are also enjoyed. The crispy texture of Lai, preserved in an airtight container, continues to resonate with the festive mood long after the celebration ends.
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3. Chhena Poda
Chhena Poda, literally translating to 'roasted cheese,' is a celebrated sweet dish from Odisha, integral to Makar Sankranti celebrations. Made with chenna (fresh paneer), sugar, and various flavourings, this dessert is traditionally baked over a chulha, giving it a unique flavour. Sometimes likened to a paneer cake due to its texture, Chhena Poda holds a special place in Odia culture and is even considered a favorite of Lord Jagannath. This dessert exemplifies the simple yet profound culinary traditions of Odisha.
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Ariselu, a traditional sweet from South India, is synonymous with the Makar Sankranti celebrations in states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Made with rice flour, jaggery, and sesame seeds, it's a high-protein treat that encapsulates the essence of the festival. Known by various names like Kajjaaya in Kannada, Anarsa in Marathi, and Adhirasam in Tamil, this dessert is a favorite across age groups. The simple preparation of Ariselu, involving jaggery syrup and rice flour, garnished with sesame seeds, makes it a must-try for the festival.
5. Makara Chaula
Celebrated with great enthusiasm, particularly by the tribal population of Odisha, Makara Chaula is a traditional dish made on Makar Sankranti. This delightful mix of freshly harvested rice, jaggery, milk, chhena, banana, and sugarcane captures the essence of the festival. Initially offered to the gods, Makara Chaula is then shared among everyone, symbolising unity and joy. The use of freshly harvested rice adds a unique flavour, making it a staple in Odia households during the festival.
6. Puran Poli
The Maharashtrian Style Puran Poli is a festive staple, especially for Makar Sankranti. This sweet flatbread, filled with a lentil mixture, marks the beginning of the year's festival season. Different from its counterparts due to the use of whole wheat flour, this version of Puran Poli is a speciality for Pongal/Makar Sankranti. Its preparation is a tradition in Tamil Nadu during the Boghi festival, the day before Pongal, showcasing the diverse culinary practices of India during festive times.
7. Til Gul Poli
Til Gul Poli, a sweet flatbread stuffed with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and jaggery, is traditionally made for Makar Sankranti. This festival, celebrated in January, is marked by longer days and the onset of spring. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, Til Gul Poli is a delicacy and also an offering to the gods. The making of sesame laddoo, another ritual of this festival, adds to the communal joy, symbolising new beginnings and the harvest season.
These traditional dishes from various corners of India offer a taste of the country's rich cultural and culinary diversity. From the crunchy sweetness of Gokul Pithe to the wholesome goodness of Puran Poli, these recipes delight the palate while keeping you closer to India's heritage. This Makar Sankranti, let's indulge in these delectable treats and revel in the flavours of tradition.