(I am a bit late in writing this post coz Makar Sankranti has long gone..but nevertheless, please read it :D)
As you know mid of January is the time for celebrations all over India. Between 13th Jan to 16th Jan, numerous festivals like Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Pongal, Magh Bihu, Uttarayan, etc. are celebrated all over India by various communities. Since India is primarily an agricultural country, many of its festivals coincide with important dates of sowing and harvesting. Mid of Jan marks the end of winter and beginning of spring in most of the Indian calendars (different from the Gregorian Calender). Now like all festivals around the world which mean food, family and more food, these festivals too are heavy of food and emphasise family unions. For 2 consecutive years, I have had the privilege of being in Purulia, Ma and Baba’s hometown, during Makar Sankranti which enabled me to gorge on loads and loads of different varieties of Pithas, the traditional dish for this festival and understand the family rituals around it!! In Indian states like Assam, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand, sweet and savory versions of Pithas are a common sight in most households on this day.
At home in Delhi, Baba and Ma try to make some every year but in small quantities; so when I was at my relatives’ the sheer amount of stuff being made startled me!! Choto Mamima (Ma’s younger brother’s wife) says that on an average in a family of four, 4-5 kgs of Parboiled and Normal Rice is used along with 3-4 kgs of Jaggery, 3-4 fresh Coconuts and 1-2 kgs of Sesame Seeds for making sweet pithas during this time. There are also savory pithas made of Lau (bottle gourd), Seem (flat beans) and cabbage. In joint-families the amounts simply double as there are more hands for moulding the pithas. Sometimes, if relatives are not around, friends and neighbours extend helping hands to each other to create massive mounds of Pithas!! Hence in every way the festival is an opportunity to meet, gossip and bond over food.
The sweet varieties like Sheddo Pitha, Puli Pitha, Gokul Pitha, Moong Puli are awesome but I have never tried making them (maybe next year!); so I made the most easy one – the Pati Shapta. For savories, I made the Lau Soru Chokli and I tell you, they were yuuummm!!