This Poush Sankranti, Taste The Richness Of These 5 Bengali Sweet Treats
Image Credit: From nolen gurer payesh to goja, these bengali treats are a must-have during Poush Sankranti.

At first, you may think that a harvest festival is limited to just farmers. Well, if you get a chance to witness the grand celebrations of Makar Sankranti across the country, you would know how this festival cuts across classes and castes. Known by a variety of names in different states, ranging from Uttarayan in Gujarat, Lohri in Punjab to Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh and Poush Sankranti or Poush Parbon in West Bengal and Odisha. The spirit with which this day is celebrated remains constant through all cultures. While the Gujaratis are busy flying kites and preparing goondar pak, the Maharashtrians pray to the Sun god and relish their puran polis. 

South Indians too rejoice with lip-smacking delicacies to commence Pongal. The day marks the beginning of a new harvest season and all the devotees pray to the Sun god for a fruitful harvest with the commencement of spring and sunshine. Gud and til (jaggery and sesame seeds) form a huge part of the celebrations, often because sugarcane is one of the first crops to be harvested in most parts. Several region-specific rituals are performed and traditions are followed. Bengalis welcome their Poush Sankranti with a grand Ganga Sagar Mela organized annually in West Bengal. The point where the holy waters of Ganga merge with Bay of Bengal is where the worshippers take a dip and pray to the Almighty. Rice-based dishes are offered to the Lord as prasad on the day of the festival. 

The movement of the sun in the northward direction and entering Capricorn marks the end of the winter solstice and arrival of brighter and sunny days. During this time, Bengalis, who are known for their sweet tooth, are fully immersed in the preparation of all kinds of pithe and pulis. The Bengali households are filled with sweet aromas with the desserts being prepared in full swing. Here are some of the special festive sweetmeats to try on this day. 

1.  Patishapta 

Have you tried crepes before? Well, this French-style pancake is given a desi makeover with these patishaptas. Made with semolina and maida dough, these Indian crepes are stuffed with all things sweet like khoya and sugar. They are a type of pithe which can be either be filled with coconut or a creamy kheer and fried in oil to give them a crispy exterior. 

2.  Puli Pithe 

Pithe refers to a variety of sweet and savoury treats that are shaped as pancakes or dumplings, to be steamed, fried or baked as per choice. One special pithe that is not just a winter classic in Bengal but also a Poush Sankranti favourite is the puli pithe. White half-moon shaped dumplings made of rice are stuffed with coconut and jaggery mixture and cooked in jaggery mixed milk to give them a sweet flavour and a pure white colour. 

3.  Nolen Gurer Payesh 

Kheer, for the unversed is a creamy rice pudding popular in various parts of North and South India. It is made in diverse ways across the country. The Bengali version of this rice pudding is known as nolen gurer payesh and the specialty of this festive dessert lies in the fact that it is made from date palm jaggery. Payesh or kheer is a very auspicious dish in Bengali culture and what makes it even more special is that date palm jaggery is only available in winters. 

4.  Gokul Pitha 

Another type of pitha which is popular during Poush Sankranti is gokul pitha. This one is different from puli pithe because it is rolled into the shape of a round dumpling and deep-fried in oil. Made from semolina dough, the sweet and crispy dumplings is a double treat since it is filled with jaggery and desiccated coconut and dipped in a thick sugar syrup right after frying. 

5.  Goja 

Taking inspiration from the Bihari and Odia dish Khaja, sweet balls of maida are deep-fried in ghee and dipped in oodles of sugar syrup before being served. Cardamom powder is added to the dough for a strong aroma and distinct taste while baking powder is added to hold the dough.