The festival of Makar Sankranti evokes childhood memories of when it was merely another school holiday for us. On the day of Makar Sankranti, my Grandma would wake up before sunrise, mix a pinch of sesame seeds into her bathing water and bathe for a positive and auspicious start of the day. She would then cook delicious sooji halwa (a sticky sweet made out of semolina) and offer the first portion to God for worship. I recall her telling us about the importance of this Hindu festival while we would be busy playing, paying no heed to her.
As this happened in the verandah, my mother would be in the kitchen busy preparing her renowned khichdi recipe with some sesame seeds and jaggery sweets for all of us. She would drizzle desi ghee over our khichdi and kept emphasizing on its benefits while we licked our fingers.
She would say, "Khichdi ke chaar yaar, ghee, papad, dahi, achar".
It was a family tradition to cook these Makar Sankranti recipes every year and my mother prepared them in large batches to distribute to our relatives. Eventually, we started associating Makar Sankranti with delicious food.
As we grew older we understood the importance of this major harvest festival that signifies the end of winters and the onset of spring. It marks the first day of the Sun's northward transition from the Sagittarius to the Capricorn(makar) zodiac. Makar Sankranti is therefore dedicated to Lord Surya, the Sun God. It is both a seasonal observance and a religious occasion.
The most common way of celebrating Makar Sankranti is flying kites. People, especially in Gujarat, look forward to screaming Kai Po Che to the kites flying in the sky while savoring the lip-smacking sweets on their terrace. Many devotees also take a dip in the river on this day and believe that their sins will be washed away. It is considered a day of peace and prosperity as many spiritual practices are conducted on this day.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated throughout the country with great joy and pomp and this year it will be celebrated on the 14th of January. This Hindu festival is celebrated as Maghi by North Indians, Magh Bihu by Assamese, Pongal by Tamilians, Uttarayan by Gujaratis, and Poush Sankranti by Bengalis.
No festival is complete without we Indians devouring ourselves into special festive delicacies and Makar Sankranti is no exception. Therefore, I have compiled a list of four Makar Sankranti special recipes for you including my Grandma's famous moong dal khichdi. Hoping for you to try these and relish them as much as I do.
My mother always referred to Khichdi as a light and easily digestible food. It prompts the body to prepare for the change in the season whilst providing it with essential nutrients. This Makar Sankranti food is a wholesome one-pot meal that is highly nourishing and incredibly tasty.
- ½ cup moong dal
- ¾ cup basmati rice
- 2 tablespoons desi ghee
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon hing
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili Powder
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 5 cups Water
- Clean, rinse and soak the moong dal and rice in water for 10–15 minutes.
- In a pressure cooker, heat ghee, add cumin seeds, and allow them to splutter.
- Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt, and a dash of garam masala.
- Drain the water from lentils and rice and put it in the pressure cooker and saute.
- Then add 4 cups of water and mix all the ingredients well.
- Pressure cook dal khichdi for 2-3 whistles over medium to low heat.
- Serve hot with a small dollop of ghee, curd, papad, and pickle.
Puran Poli is a Makar Sankranti sweet dish that is extremely popular in Maharashtra and southern India. It is a classic sweet flatbread made with whole wheat flour stuffed with jaggery and chana dal. Some people also add grated coconut and dry fruit powder which adds to its flavor. It is usually served with melted ghee poured over it. This one is my favorite Makar Sankranti sweets.
- 1 cup chana dal
- Dough (made with whole wheat flour, a pinch of salt, and water as required)
- 1 cup jaggery powder
- 1 teaspoon green cardamom powder
- A few strands of saffron
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Pressure cook chana dal with 1 cup water.
- Remove from heat and mash the dal.
- Heat a non-stick pan, add mashed dal and jaggery and mix well.
- Cook it until all the moisture evaporates.
- Add cardamom powder, saffron, sugar, and keep stirring and cooking till the mixture forms a lump.
- Set aside to cool down.
- Divide the dough into equal portions and roll it out into small circles.
- Place a spoonful of dal mixture in the center of each disc, bring the edges together, press to seal, and roll into a ball.
- Press each ball lightly and roll into semi-thick flatbread.
- Heat a non-stick tawa, put the polis, and cook it like a paratha using ghee on both sides.
- Drizzle some ghee on top of each poli and serve hot.
Til ke laddoo
Til laddoo is one of the most important Makar Sankranti sweets and is a must in Maharashtra though it is enjoyed even in other parts of the country. It is not just a delicious sweet but also helps in boosting health and keeping the body warm during the winter chills.
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- ½ cups chopped Nuts
- 2/3 cup jaggery powder
- In a pan dry roast sesame seeds and chopped nuts until they become aromatic.
- In a pan put jaggery powder and water and cook on low flame for 3-5 minutes.
- Cook until the mixture becomes very foamy, you start seeing big bubbles and the syrup reaches a soft ball consistency.
- The syrup will start browning up quickly, so add the sesame seeds and nuts mixture and turn off the flame.
- Start making the Til Laddoo.
- If your hands get sticky dip them in a bowl of cold water and continue.
- Store these Til Ke Laddoo in an airtight container and you enjoy them for weeks.
The sweet pongal recipe is quite popular in South India. It is prepared on Makar Sankranti and other festivals or auspicious occasions as an offering to God. There are many ways of preparing it depending on the customs, traditions, taste, and region. I personally tried and liked this particular style of cooking so decided to share it with you guys too.
- 1 cup white rice
- 1/4 cup yellow moong dal
- 11/2 cups jaggery powder
- 2 to 3 tbsp ghee
- 2 tbsp chopped cashews
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
- 2 cups milk
- Roast the yellow moong dal in a pressure cooker until it turns golden.
- Add rice to the pressure cooker and rinse the dal and rice with water.
- Add fresh water and milk and cook for about 4 to 5 whistles.
- Add jaggery powder and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Check the consistency of the pongal. Accordingly, add water or cook a little more.
- Add the cardamom powder.
- Heat ghee in a pan. Add cashews, raisins and roast them until the cashews turn golden. Add them to the pongal and mix well.
- Serve hot with an extra dollop of ghee.
Try these delicious and healthy Makar Sankranti meals and let us know if you enjoyed them as much as we enjoyed compiling them for you.
Good wishes for prosperity and happiness this Sankranti!