New Delhi: Makar Sankranti, which will be celebrated on January 14, is a festival that coincides with several harvest festivals from across the country during the same time with unique regional variations.
Be it Punjab’s Lohri, Tamil Nadu’s Pongal, or Assam’s Bhogali Bihu, these all are harvest festivals that mark significant seasonal shifts around this time.
The festival of Makar Sankranti gets its name from the fact that it marks the Sun’s transit northwards from Sagittarius (Dhanu) to Capricorn (Makar), and although different states have their unique way of celebrating it, the spirit and the core remain the same.
Moreover, just like most festivals in India, Makar Sankranti also has a host of signature delicacies made exclusively to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Some of the most integral ingredients used in delicacies during the festival are Til (sesame) and Gur (jaggery).
The combo of Til and Gur actually comes from the Maharasthian phrase ‘Til, gud ghya ni god god bola’. This is a common expression used to greet family and guests in Marathi households during Sankranti celebrations. The expression literally means ‘Eat til and gur and speak sweet’.
Both of these ingredients have quite a long shelf life, hence sweets made using them last longer. This is why one can easily store Til laddoos, Gajak and Chikki for a longer time without worrying about them going bad. In fact, Til and Gur are much more than just festive ingredients because they hold a strong cultural and significant link with Makar Sankranti celebrations.
In Ayurveda, they are referred to as two of the most winter-perfect foods that help keep the body warm and also increase immunity at the same time. The oil present in Til helps in generating body heat, which keeps the internal body temperature from dipping down too much. On the other hand, the iron and vitamin C content in Gur has also been used as a traditional remedy for respiratory and throat disorders.
Further, according to religious beliefs, sesame seeds are said to be blessed by Lord Yama (God of Death) and are hence referred to as the seeds of immortality. It’s also believed to be the vehicle or the food of the departed souls. Hence, black sesame seeds are used while performing Tarpan, a ritual meant to pay ode to dead ancestors.
Til is also significant because it is known for its myriad health benefits. It’s packed with calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B-6, Iron, dietary fibre, protein and several other nutrients.
So, from Til Poli to the classic Til Laddoos or Gajak or Tilkut, there are a plethora of options to try this festive season. Here’s wishing all of you a very happy Makar Sankranti.