Being one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse nations in the world, India has some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. A variety of cultural groups within the country give us an extensive number of festivals that we all love to celebrate. The first major Hindu festival of the calendar year is Makar Sankranti. This occasion is celebrated throughout the country in the name of their deity Surya, to celebrate the harvest, the victory over our demons, and to start the new year by leaving all grudges behind and by simply forgiving everyone!

Makar Sankranti is widely celebrated throughout India and is marked by feasts and bonfires. The first day is known as ‘Bhogi’ where we worship the sun god and step out of our houses to fly kites! The second day is called Sankranti, which has created a tradition for married women to dress up in traditional Indian attire and have a get-together event called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’. This event involves an exchange of gifts of personal adornment and delicacies.

It is impossible not to think about food and delicacies when we talk about celebrations and festivals. No matter where we come from, food plays a very important role in any celebration. Food always helps to maintain a common identity among a group of people. This effect is even more compounded during festivities and celebratory occasions. Irrespective of culture and religion, food is a great binding factor that brings people together and sets the tone for any celebration and creates long-lasting fond memories.

While many Makar-Sankranti traditions are followed throughout India, two specifically popular Makar Sankranti food items that are served and enjoyed on this day among the people from the state of Maharashtra are Til Ladoos/Polis and Gud Polis. It is impossible to imagine a Makar Sankranti celebration without Sankranti snacks which everyone loves, Til Ladoos, Gulaachi Poli, and Puran Poli. The names of these delicacies are enough to induce a sudden rush of happiness! The innate sense of satisfaction that follows relishing these dishes made from jaggery (gud), gram flour, and sesame seeds with dollops of ghee can barely be expressed in words!

Any festival in India is incomplete without Halwa! The flavorful Badam and Suji Halwa are also a part of the important dishes of Makar Sankranti. The goodness of semolina and almonds kick in the festive mood for all of us. Tilwale Paneer is another such delicacy, when perfectly cooked, is a great appetizer to nibble while enjoying the kite-flying season, which is a great alternative for people who don’t prefer dishes with sesame seeds and look for gluten-free authentic delicacies.

Our ancestors have upheld the best of tradition and hid the health benefits in the food items made during specific occasions. The benefit of consuming til and gud can be seen in the multitude of long term and short-term advantages it offers. Not only is it prized as two of the most winter-perfect foods that help to keep our body warm, but it also increases our immunity, which is something we all need after surviving through a pandemic.  The oil present in the sesame seeds generate body heat and keeps the internal body temperature from dipping.  On the other hand, Jaggery’s (gud) iron and vitamin C content has also been used as a traditional remedy for respiratory disorders and throat problems.

We all know that reading about such healthy dishes and their traditional authentic recipes can be mouth-watering. It is not something we need, but something we all deserve after a tough year!

This festive season, we have helped families all across the US enjoy the taste of authentic regional snacks like Gud Poli and Til Wadi as part of our Sankranti specials. We also offer Maharashtrian food through our weekly tiffin menu which features a range of curries, dals, sweet and savory items. And, if you are looking for an Indian restaurant in New Jersey for a delectable and safe dine-in experience, we are open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 3.30 pm and 5 pm to 9.30 pm.