India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions, and one of the most celebrated festivals in the country is Uttarayan, also known as Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Bihu, and Bhogi Panduga in different regions. This festival marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn, and the onset of longer and warmer days. It is also a time to rejoice over the new harvest and share the joy with friends and family.
One of the most distinctive features of Uttarayan is the flying of colourful kites in the sky, accompanied by the shouts of ‘Kai Po Che’, meaning ‘I have cut the string’. People gather on the rooftops and terraces to compete with each other in cutting the strings of rival kites, using a special thread coated with glass powder. The sky becomes a canvas of vibrant hues and shapes, creating a spectacle for the eyes.
Another highlight of Uttarayan is the variety of food and sweets prepared and consumed during the festival. Each region has its own special delicacies, made with seasonal ingredients and local flavours. Some of the most popular dishes are:
- Undhiyu: A mixed vegetable dish from Gujarat, made with potatoes, yam, brinjal, banana, and green beans, cooked in a spicy gravy with coconut and coriander.
- Jalebi: A spiral-shaped sweet from North India, made with deep-fried flour batter soaked in sugar syrup.
- Chikki: A crunchy snack from Maharashtra, made with peanuts, sesame seeds, or dry fruits, and jaggery or sugar.
- Khichda: A wholesome dish from Gujarat and Maharashtra, made with wheat, rice, lentils, and meat, cooked with spices and herbs.
- Puran Poli: A sweet flatbread from Maharashtra, stuffed with a mixture of cooked split yellow gram and jaggery, flavoured with cardamom and nutmeg.
- Sakkarai Pongal: A sweet rice dish from Tamil Nadu, cooked with jaggery, milk, ghee, cashews, and raisins, and offered to the sun god as a thanksgiving.
- Medu Vada: A savoury doughnut from South India, made with ground urad dal, fried in oil, and served with coconut chutney and sambar.
- Pitha: A type of rice cake from Assam, made with rice flour, coconut, jaggery, sesame seeds, or other fillings, and steamed, fried, or baked.
- Bobbatlu: A sweet flatbread from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, stuffed with a paste of cooked chana dal and jaggery, and fried in ghee.
- Ariselu: A sweet from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, made with rice flour, jaggery, and ghee, and deep-fried in oil.
- Ellu Bella: A mixture of sesame seeds, jaggery, coconut, and peanuts, distributed among friends and relatives in Karnataka as a symbol of goodwill and harmony.
- Sarson da Saag: A green leafy dish from Punjab, made with mustard leaves, spinach, and other greens, cooked with ginger, garlic, and spices, and served with butter and cornbread.
- Makara Chaula: A sweet dish from Odisha, made with freshly harvested rice, jaggery, milk, cheese, banana, and sugarcane, and offered to the goddess Lakshmi.
These are just some of the mouth-watering dishes that are enjoyed during Uttarayan, along with fresh fruits like bor, sherd, singoda, and jamfal. Uttarayan is a festival of food and kites, of romance and friendship, of gratitude and happiness. It is a festival that celebrates the richness of life.