Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival that falls on January 14 every year and is known by different names all across India. In Tamil Nadu, it’s Pongal, in Punjab it’s Maghi (a day after Lohri), in Assam, Bhogali Bihu, and Uttarayana in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The festival is celebrated by flying kites, and is also quite popular in Nepal and Sri Lanka. In Uttar Pradesh, the occasion is marked with the Kumbha Mela. Food is a big part of the festival and many different kinds of sweets are prepared on the occasion across India.
According to Hindu astrology, Makar Sankranti marks the day when the Sun enters the zodiac Makar (capricorn). It also marks the ends of winter and the beginning of spring and summer. The nights become shorter and the days become longer. In Punjab, the festival also marks a new financial year. While in the Northern regions, people offer prayers and sweets to the Sun God, in coastal regions, the festival is dedicated to Lord Indra. ALSO READ: Here’s how to make traditional Sweet Pongal to celebrate the harvest festival
The celebrations vary from state to state and so does the food and food preparations. The Maha Kumbha Mela marks the festival in Prayag, Madhya Pradesh, bull fights are a part of Bihu celebrations in Assam, Huge Kite Festivals are held in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the til-gul ritual is held in Maharashtra, the traditional Pongali and Pongal are prepared in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu respectively, and so on. ALSO READ: Lohri Recipes: How to make yummy Palak Paneer Paratha and Corn Dhoklas with moong dal
Here’s all the traditional sweets that are prepared as a part of the festival on the day of Makar Sankranti, in different parts of the country:
1. Til-Gul Laddoo, Gulachi Poli and Murmura Chikki in Maharashtra
Among Maharashtrians, there is a saying that goes something like this: “Til-gul ghya ani gud gud bola” (Eat sesame seeds and jaggery and speak sweet words). The til-gul laddoos are prepared and distributed among neighbours in Maharashtra on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. They also prepare Gulachi Poli or jaggery rotis and murmura chikkis or sweets made of puffed rice.
2. Paatishaapta and Puli Pitha in West Bengal
Bengalis celebrate Makar Sankranti by gathering in large numbers on the confluence of the Ganges and the Sea of a ritual cleansing bathe and then eat to their heart’s content. Paatishaapta, that is a like crepe or a pancake made of rice and stuffed with a mixture of khoa, coconut and gur or jaggery, is traditionally prepare in Bengal. Puli Pitha is also a Bengali Makar Sankranti preparation that involves dunking a sweet dumpling into a spice-infused milk and topped with dried fruits and nuts. ALSO READ: The complete traditional Punjabi feast prepared during the Lohri!
3. Til Chikki in Gujarat
Gujaratis also celebrate Makar Sankranti by preparing chikkis of sesame seeds and flying kites to their heart’s content. Huge International Kite Flying Festivals are organised all across the state and people compete against each other in the events to win. The festival, that is called Uttarayan in Gujarat is marked by a two-day public holiday in the state.
4. Pheni in Rajasthan
Rajasthan’s Desert Kite Flying Festival is complimented with their traditional sweet called Pheni. The sweet dish is made from vermicelli that is prepared at home and then served with warm sweet milk and topped with almonds, cashews and pistachios. Some pheni is sweetened by dunking it in sugar syrup. ALSO READ: Kite Flying Festival: Everything you need to know about Uttarayan
5. Rewari and Pinni in Punjab
Rewari is a sweet dish which is again prepared with sesame seeds and sugar is even offered to the ritualistic bonfire that is lighted on the night of Lohri. It’s typically round and tastes like hard candy. Warm sweet laddoos made from flour, deshi ghee and nuts called pinnis are also prepared in Punjab around the time of Sankranti.
6. Gajak in Madhya Pradesh
Gajak is a dry sweet dish, that originated in Morena in Madhya Pradesh and is prepared from sesame seeds, ground nuts and jaggery. The sweet is extremely time consuming to prepare and it takes some 15 to 18 hours to prepare around five to eight Kg of gajak! ALSO READ: 7 facts you should know about Gujarat’s Makar Sankranti
7. Til Pitha in Assam
Til Pitha is a traditional Assamese sweet, prepared during the time of Sankranti or Bhogali Bihu. It’s a pancake made from sticky rice and stuffed with sesame seeds and jaggery. ALSO READ: 11 pictures of India celebrating Makar Sankranti
8. Makara Chaula in Orissa
Credits: Wikimedia Commons
This Odiya speciality sweet dish is a milk pudding prepared with freshly harvested rice, banana, coconut, sesame seeds and jaggery and is one among some of the most underrated desserts of India.