Makar Sankranti Food Traditions
This article is authored by Bonny Shah. Bonny is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator.
Festivals are always time for joy and celebration. Most festivals celebrated in India, along with traditions that accompany these festivals, are rooted in ancient wisdom and natural phenomenon. Mid-January sees many festivals being celebrated across India at the same time - Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri, etc. All of these either welcome the season of spring or celebrate harvest season. Whether it is flying kites or eating til-gud ladoos, each custom holds its unique significance. And so do the dishes traditionally consumed at this time of the year.
These festivals address the weather change through customs and culinary creations. Makar Sankranti has kids and adults flying kites, under direct sunlight. While all of us snack on homemade til ladoos. This helps us get adequate amount of Vitamin D, which is made by our bodies with the help of sunlight. Our bodies are capable of storing this vitamin for a long time, while the ladoos made from sesame seeds are high calcium. Making this one-day festival an ideal celebration to help achieve good bone health.
Lohri is celebrated in Punjab with beautiful songs and dances around a bonfire. As is Uttarayan in Gujarat, Poush Parbon in West Bengal, while Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu with sweet as well as savoury offerings to the Gods. Assam celebrates Bihu with traditional dances and sweets.
Here’s a list of dishes and food items that are made all over India at the end of winters.
Til Gud Laddoo
While it is made in multiple ways, this laddoo has gud (jaggery), til (sesame seeds), peanuts and coconut as its main ingredients. Making these laddoos involves melting jaggery and adding til to it. While in some regions, sesame seeds and jaggery are also finely ground to make these ladoos. Eating this combination at this time of the year has health benefits as well. Along with having calcium, sesame seeds are potent on fibre and protein. Consuming these seeds may help reduce heart disease risk factors, including elevated triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels.
An exceedingly popular flatbread stuffed with sweet dal filling, puran poli is made at most special occasions and festivals. Originating in Maharashtra, puran poli is loved by people all over the country. The puran or the filling is made with a mixture of mashed lentils cooked with jaggery or sugar. This dish is at once sweet and savoury. Opt for moong dal, chana dal or toor dal to make a nutritious filling. The puran also has a dash of cardamom and a tinge of nutmeg. Make sure you pick unpolished dals for your filling from the Tata Sampann range to get all the nutritional benefits. As a complete nutrient powerhouse, dals are an excellent way to slip in heaps of nutrition in delicious way.
This sweet dish is made in Odisha. It is a blend of freshly harvested ingredients such as rice, jaggery, milk, chhena (paneer), banana, and sugarcane. This dish celebrates end of a successful harvest season while being extremely nutritious. Chhena, also known as Paneer, is of great value in the Indian vegetarian diet. It contains fairly high level of fat and proteins as well as some minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus. It is also a good source of fat-soluble vitamins A and D. While milk, too, is a good source of high-quality protein and many vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12, calcium, riboflavin and phosphorus.
This is a signature dish made during this time of year in Bengal. Payesh is made from thickened rice and milk. It uses date palm jaggery or khejur gur which is available only at this time of the year. As compared to sugar, palm jaggery is a nutritious sweetener. Aromatic spices such as cardamom and bay leaves are used to add sublime flavour to this simple dish.
North Indian households make many special dishes and pinni is one such sweet which is specifically made during Lohri. It is made with cashews, jaggery, wheat flour and ghee. Almonds are highly nutritious and rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This dish is specifically made during winters as its ingredients can help provide warmth and an immunity boost.
The patishapta is a stuffed sweet crêpe from Bengal. In fact, the celebrations of Makar Sankranti in Bengal are incomplete without this dish. The crêpes are stuffed with mava, coconut and date palm jaggery. This recipe is a winning combination of protein, fibre and vitamins.
In South India, the end of harvest season is celebrated with Pongal. This harvest festival and the signature dish made on this day are namesakes as they share the name ‘Pongal’. This dish is also prepared with newly harvested rice and jaggery.
As all of these dishes help in boosting immunity, it is essential to use ingredients and spices that are pure and naturally rich. Choose from the Tata Sampann range of dals, pulses and spices to make authentic versions of these dishes.
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