Today is Makara Sankranti which is a Hindu festival celebrated for various reasons like any other Hindu festival in India. When I think about it almost all Hindu festivals have umpteen number of stories behind them for being celebrated. No, am not going to list out the reasons, why it’s celebrated but I would surely want to tell you the differences that I found in how the festival is celebrated in two different states in India. India being a diverse country, the customs and traditions keep changing from region to region within the state too. I think that is how we have so many stories behind every festival being celebrated.
Sankranti is a festival which is celebrated for about three days in Andhra Pradesh. On the eve of Makara Sankranti back home we traditionally have a seven course meal on a banana leaf (yes, we South Indians on special occasions have our food on banana leaves and eat a lot of food, seven is the minimum number, it can go up to eleven or twelve courses too) and fly lot of kites. There are kite wars going on especially today. This time I missed the festival, it is one of my favorite festivals. I like festivals only for one reason, that is food. I was cribbing about how I had to go to work today and how am away from home in a different city in Maharashtra, how people here don’t celebrate it the way that we do it back home, so on and so forth. I started comparing. I started texting every other person back home saying how I had to work today while they all got to enjoy the delicious food and fly kites! Then I decided that I would make not everything but some of the items that we prepare on this day. So, I made Pongali (it is a sweet made out of rice, jaggery and milk) and Pulihora (lemon rice). I decided to take Pongali to office and get everyone taste it since they haven’t had it before. This was the first time I was cooking these and I was pretty excited about it. The outcome was delicious and people at my office liked it.
Then I learnt from them, how Maharashtrians celebrate the festival. Basically it’s not celebrated with pomp as it is celebrated in the other states of the country. I heard this phrase a lot today, “til gul gaya ani gode gode bola” which I clearly didn’t understand. I asked one of my colleagues what it meant. Then she told me that phrase when translated into English means “take til gul and talk all sweet” which is more like asking for forgiveness and people usually give a til gul while saying this. Til gul is this delicious sweet which is very simple to make. It is a round ball of powdered jaggery which is known as gul in Marathi and sesame seeds which are known as til. I also got to eat an other Maharashtrian sweet called Gul poli which is again powdered jaggery stuffed in bread. By the end of the day I wasn’t that sad about celebrating the festival at home as I got to eat some new variety of food and a lot of til gul 😛