Food To Savour During Harvest Festival In January
Harvest Festival in India in the month of January are Pongal, Lohri, Magh Bihu, and Makar Sakranti when we thank nature for the bounty of the harvest. Each region on the subcontinent has its own climate and time of harvesting crops that differ from community to community.
Harvesting festival is just not about celebrating the bounty of harvest but also to mark the important astronomical event of the solar system, it is the first day of the Sun’s movement to Capricorn known as Makara which further marks the end of short winter days. This period is considered auspicious for celebration and prayers. Despite the difference, the basic ritual of offering the food to gods first and then consuming remains the same in hope of a plentiful harvest.
Lohri is the harvest festival of Punjab and heralds the new agricultural season and passing of the long winter nights. It is celebrated with a bonfire, dance, music, and feasting. Sugarcane is the main crop harvested in January and feasting Gurh or Jaggery is a must. Gur is used to preparing many sweet treats for the festival.
Gajak is one such sweet which is a brittle candy made using molten jaggery and sesame seeds. Another sweet prepared is Chikki which is made with molten jaggery and peanuts and set into squares. It is a part of the Lohri ritual to offer jaggery, gajak, chikki, popcorn, and sesame seeds to the bonfire, as a symbol of showing gratitude for plenty harvest and the atonement of sins.
Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival celebrated in many other states of India with the ritual of eating Ladoos (Ball-shaped Sweets) made of sesame seeds, and jaggery. Gazak is eaten on this day it is only delicious to eat but also gives great warmth in the winter.
Yellow rice (Khichdi) is specially made for this festival. Some green vegetables are also added to rice for good taste. It is first offered to the Sun God. After that people divide it among themselves. Khichdi is celebrated everywhere on Makar Sankranti, because of which this festival is also known as Khichdi. Til Ke Laddoo and Til Ki Chikki are enjoyed at this festival. There is a tradition of flying kites on this day.
Pongal is the harvest festival of south India celebrated for four days. These four days have their own different significance and beliefs during the Pongal festival. In this special harvest festival dedicated to God and nature, people mainly worship the sun god, special offerings are made to the sun god at home, which is called Pagal.
Making a special kind of kheer (Payasam) is very important in this festival that is made of rice and jaggery. The main dishes enjoyed are Sakkarai Pongal (sweet dish) made on the second day, Ven Pongal or Khara Pongal is a salty and spicy variety of the later, and Payasam.
In Gujarat, the festival is called Uttarayan and there is a tradition of buying dozens of kites as a mark of the festival. One of the most popular dishes during this time is Undhiyu, eaten with puri and jalebi. All households prepare sweet dish Chikki, made out of jaggery and peanuts or sesame seeds or even dry fruits.
Chikki is hugely popular as people keep snacking on it while flying kites. Another popular preparation is Khichda — which is something like Khichdi, but instead of rice, broken wheat is used with several lentils.
Magh Bihu is another name of the festival celebrated in Assam when traditional dishes like Pitha, Laru, doi-sira, and Khaar are enjoyed. In fact, pitha is such an essential tradition of Bihu that Bihu and pitha are often synonymous. Laru is also one of the delicacies that are very famous during Magh Bihu. It is basically laddu made out of different ingredients like sesame (til laru), coconut, murmura or puffed rice (muri laru), and rice flour (gura laru).
Other food items that assume significance during the festival include coconut, jaggery, rice, sesame, milk, and milk products. A few communities indulge in brewing fresh rice beer and cooking meat. It is the spirit of bhog or feasting that rules this yearly rendezvous in the month of Magh.