Fly high this Makar Sankranti
Indulge in some traditional treats to light up your festivities.
It’s the first major Hindu festival of the year, celebrated with as much fervor in the north of the country as it is in the south. Pongal or Makar Sankranti represents the end of darkness and negativity and the start of an era of light and truth. On the day—celebrated on January 14 this year—the sun enters the northern hemisphere. It also commemorates the precious relationship between a father and his children. Lore has it that the Sun God visits his son Shanidev on Makar Sankranti. Symbolically, on this day children seek the blessings of their fathers and elders. The festival also marks the onset of harvest season, with farmers offering prayers for a good harvest and prosperity.
In South India Tamilians and Kannadigas celebrate pedda paadunya, a four-day festival to mark Makar Sankranti. The month following the festival is also considered very auspicious and is marked by singing devotional songs and decorating homes with rangolis of beautiful floral designs drawn with rice powder, a fine limestone powder and marigold flowers. In Maharashtra people exchange multi colored sugar and sweets made from til (sesame seed) and jaggery. Cries of “Til gul ghya, god god bola” can be heard as young children fly intricately designed, multicolored kites. Til is an intrinsic part of the celebrations. Read on for two easy-to-make til-based recipes to try out this Makar Sankranti.
Til poli, a crispy traditional treat
- 2 cups cleaned white or black sesame seeds;
- 2 cups grated jaggery (Try and use natural sulfur-free jaggery);
- ¼ tsp salt;
- 2 tsp powdered cardamoms;
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder;
- 1 1/2 cups white flour;
- ¼ cup oil for kneading flour; and
- Vegetable oil for shallow frying.
- Add oil and salt to the flour and knead the dough. Cover it with a clean damp muslin cloth.
- Dry roast the sesame seeds till they release an aroma and become golden brown. Keep stirring while roasting so that the seeds don’t burn.
- Cool sesame seeds and coarsely grind.
- Add the grated jaggery and knead together.
- Now add cardamom and nutmeg to the mixture and mix well.
- Remove the muslin cloth and make balls of the dough.
- Slightly flatten the balls and fill the center with the sesame seed mixture.
- Pull up the sides to seal the sesame mixture completely.
- Spray some oil on a rolling board and press the balls gently to flatten.
- Finally shallow fry the til poli till crisp and golden. Enjoy!
Til ladoos, an intrinsic part of Makar Sankranti
- 3 cups black or white sesame (til) seeds;
- ¼ cup water;
- ¼ cup grated jaggery; and
- ¾ cup fresh coconut grated.
- In a thick bottomed saucepan boil the water and jaggery together to make a thick syrup;
- Add the grated coconut to the syrup;
- Meanwhile dry roast the sesame seeds in another saucepan till golden brown;
- Add the sesame seeds to the syrup mixture.
- Let it cool for five minutes and then make small balls
Tip: If you allow the mixture to get cold, it will be impossible to make the ladoos. It’s best to work with the still warm mixture.