Makar Sankranti (as it is called in Western India) marks the transition of the sun towards Makar (Capricorn) and it is a way of paying respect to the Sun God. In a primarily agrarian economy and culture, the Sun which influences all our seasons and ultimately the harvests, holds a special importance. Although most Hindu festivals come on a different day every year, according to the Lunar cycle; Makar Sankranti is always celebrated on 14th January every year (15th when the year has a Adhik maas, or an extra month added to the Lunar calendar every 3 years) as it is celebrated according to the Solar calendar.
Makar Sankranti; also called as Lohri, Bihu, Pongal, Khichari (this was new to me also) and Ugadi in other Indian states; is really a harvest festival that celebrates all the winter produce and it is a way to thank Mother Nature for this blessing.
In Maharashtra, this is the time when winter is about to be over soon, but the January days still have that chill in the air. At this time, the body requires food that gives it warmth from within, that is foods that have high calorific value and produce enough heat for the body to survive the winters. It is thus customary to exchange sweets made out of til (sesame) and gud (jaggery), both of which are foods generating heat. Sesame seeds are also a good source of Omega-6 fatty acids and several micronutrients like copper, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and Vitamins A, E, Thiamine and Niacin.
When tilgul is exchanged in Maharashtra, we say ‘tilgul ghya, goad goad bola’ to each other; through which request each other to accept this til sweet, forget our past bitterness and let sweetness fill our relationships. On this note, sharing a quick and easy Tilgul recipe with everyone…
3 cups roasted and roughly crushed Sesame seeds (Til);
1 cup roasted and crushed peanuts (Shengdane/Moongphali);
2 cups chopped jaggery (gul/gud);
½ tbsp Water;
1 tbsp grated dried coconut (khobra);
½ tsp cardamom powder,
1 tbsp clarified butter (ghee).