As the Sun transits into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) on its celestial path, change of season and it’s time for the new harvest.  it signifies the beginning or the arrival of spring. Celebrated as Makar Sankranti each kitchen in Bengal sees a sugar rush of Pithe Puli and more. Bengal, known for their variety of sweetmeats and Poush Sankranti or Poush Parbon can’t be any exception. Notun gud (jaggery) and Notun chal (new rice) are the prime ingredients of the delicious Pitha (or Pithe as ghotis call it). The kitchen is filled with aromas of Notun gud (jaggery) and Notun chal (new rice) as its Pithe Puli time

Rita Khanna, author, nutritionist, FnB consultant says “the new harvest is more gluttonous and sticky in nature which helps in the making of these pithe dumplings much easier. This agrarian festival which is mostly about grains sees rice is the base and lentils are used occasionally”. 

Poush parbon is one big example of culinary diversity seen across regions. The freshly harvested paddy along with date-palm jaggery (Khejurer Gur) and date-palm molasses (jhola gur) packed in earthen pots are brought to prepare variety of pithe- a type of very traditional Bengali sweets made with rice flour, coconut, milk and ‘khejurer gur’ (date palm jiggery). Deblina who runs her home kitchen making some delicious pithe puli says, a retro-style restaurant holds this season of pithes close to heart. “We are serving this very interesting sweet called Saatpuri, which is originally from Medinipur. It’s sent to the groom’s house on Saatpuri Amavasya(New moon) as a token of love from the bride's house. It is an old tradition that has been continuing for hundreds of years and we have brought it to the table so everyone to savour” says the bright restaurateur. 

The aroma of these freshly prepared patisapta’s and pithe’s grace the kitchen during this season. Winter special nolen gur undoubtedly gives these delicacies a facelift, making them richer in fragrance and flavours. For any Bengali, winter is almost synonymous with pithe puli and payesh. From ages these Pithe’s have been fine example of craftsmanship and also much attention to these traditions. The much innovative mix of fresh ingredients as well as leftover ingredients is a fine culinary example. 

The tradition of making pithe and puli is seen in both side of Bengal (Bangal from East and the Ghotis from the West). Mitasree who owns an eatery says that serves both Bangladeshi & Bengali cuisines is doing Puli Pithe this season says “Puli Pithe is the only pithe which is extremely popular in Bangladesh. They make Puli pithe’s as dessert. Also, in various places like Noakhali, Mymensingh and Barisal district Puli Pithe is a popular dessert. So, the Bangladeshi diners of Ichamotee can easily connect with it”.

Age old sweet shops like Mouchak, Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick, Pithe Bilashi, Banchharam make Narekl gur er patishapta, Kheer patishapta, Dudhpuli, Roshbhora, Gokul Pithe and more which has made access to these pitha much easier. They taste nothing less than home. Most homes are now losing on the art of making them and are turning to restaurants to pack some of their favourites, but the charm to create them yourself is also about owing to those simpler times when we revered soil and its bounty, and did not take it for granted. Swapno Roy, Food writer and blogger is of the view “the harvest this season taste much better and the noeln gur adds that extra needed punch to the pithe’s. Not that easy to make and also due to our busy schedule we are turning to sweetshops to satisfy our cravings. The new age Patishapta be it the Gondharaj Fish or Prawn Malai Curry works good for me as long as they taste well”

Call it Makar Sankranti or Poush Parbon or another name festivals like these gives you a flashback to remember one’s original background that is rooted in the land. With our super busy life, it’s celebrations like these which celebrates the new harvest and is all about d pitha and payesh for once makes us at least think about the people who are making it all happen.