Uttarayan to Magh Bihu: What does the mini-India of Guwahati feast on?
It won’t be wrong to say that India is a land of festivals. 15 days into 2021 and the first festival of the year is here.
Assam is all set to celebrate Magh or Bhogali Bihu. Bhogali is the key word here derived from the word ‘Bhog.’ Bhogali Bihu is a harvest festival celebrated in mid-January, at the commencement of the Assamese month of ‘Magh.’
While Assam celebrates Bihu, this day is also celebrated across the country in different ways and the cultural significance of the festival varies geographically as we move from one state to another.
Makara Sankranti, as it is also called in various parts of India, is dedicated to the Lord Surya (Sun) according to the Hindu calendar. It marks the first day of the sun's transit into Makara (Capricorn) marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days. Every state celebrates and welcomes the new season of harvest in their own indigenous manner.
Having said that, we do know that with various cultures and traditions, each festival also brings with it a huge range of mouth-watering dishes, making festivals and food synonymous. Hence, Guwahati being a mini-India, G Plus spoke to various Guwahatians from various communities to know what they devour on the occasion of Makar Sankranti/Bihu.
Starting with Magh Bihu, we spoke to who told us how she and her family celebrates the festival. Speaking to G Plus Munmi Bhuyan said, “Magh Bihu is all about food and celebrations. The morning of Uruka begins with shopping for various ingredients. We purchase various types of meat which always includes fish and duck. At night we come together with our family and friends for log bhaat. During log bhaat we eat the food which is prepared throughout the day. Among other dishes which are prepared along with bhaat (rice) the most loved ones are duck and fish dishes. There is a saying in Assamese which explains one's love for duck. ‘Hahe mahe tate rohun’ means you don't need anything else when you have the combination of duck meat, black dal and garlic.”
This is also the peak season to consume duck, she said.
Speaking about the second day she said, “Bhela ghor is lit in the morning following which we eat Jolpan. Jolpan includes chira (flattened rice), doi (curd), bora saul (sticky rice), pitha and gur (jaggery) among other dishes.”
“After this delicious breakfast, for lunch we have Maghiponta. Maghiponta means eating the food made last night. Also meat is always tastier the next day,” she added.
Jayshree Sinha who belongs to the Bishnupriya Manipuri community told G Plus that, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with utmost fervour by her community.
Speaking about the food she said, “The celebration marks the end of the harvesting season and we prepare a variety of sweetened and salted snacks. The prime ingredient of the snacks is the sticky rice; pulao, laru, pitha etc are made out of it. However, the most delicious and traditional item made is ‘Utong Chak’. It is made of sticky rice cooked in bamboo.
Speaking about food, PD Sharma who hails from Rajasthan said, “It is mandatory to consume til based sweets like til ladoo or til barfi. Apart from that we also prepare khichdi with seasonal vegetables. To mark the auspicious occasion various types of fritters/pakoras and other snacks are made. A special sweet fritter is prepared on this day called gulgula. Gulgulas are fritters made of jaggery, wheat flour and saunf (fennel seeds).”
Further she added, “We also distribute dry khichdi mix along with vegetables and sweets to people.”
PP Singh from the Punjabi community spoke to G Plus and shared information on the food consumed by them during this festival. He said, “Sweets like til ladoo, mungfali (peanut), gachak (a sweet dish made of jaggery and peanut), til revri, phulliyaan aka popcorn is offered in the fire. Later we consume these foods and begin the celebration. At night a special kheer is made of sugarcane juice which is consumed the next day. There is a saying in Punjabi which says porunimaghkhadi. It means this kheer is made in the month of Posh (Hindu month) and consumed in the month of Magh (Hindu month). Consumption of makki di roti and sarson da saag is very common in Punjabi households during this day.”
Anita Yammiyavar, a professor from Guwahati who hails from Karnataka told G Plus, “On the first day called Bhogi, we make jawar roti and being the harvest season we prepare varieties of vegetarian dishes to accompany the roti. On the second day i.e Sankranti we prepare sweet pongal, which is made with rice, moong dal, jaggery, ghee and dry fruits. Along with the sweet pongal we also prepare masala rice, papad, raita, mixed dal vada with methi or dil leaves,” she said.
Further she added, “We also distribute ellu, sugar candies, bananas, sugarcane, betel nuts and betel leaves. Ellu is a mixture of white til, jaggery, fried dal, roasted halved peanuts and dry chopped coconuts. Sugar candies are made of sugar syrup which is poured in moulds of different shapes and sizes. Shapes like Tulsi, coconut are quite popular.”
Shobhan Vyas who hails from Gujarat told G Plus about the food of his community during Uttarayan, “Til ladoos and peanut laddus are widely popular among people.”
Ranjanbehn Vyas told G Plus, “We prepare a 7 grain khichda on the day of Uttarayan. This dish is made of rice, jawar, bajra, chana, wheat, matar and moong. These grains are cooked along with ghee, dry fruits, with undhiyu. Undhiyu is a Gujarati mixed vegetable dish. On the day of Vasi Uttarayan (second day) we make kheer and puri.”
Amrita Mishra who hails from Bihar said, “During Makar Sankranti for breakfast we have chirwa (flattened rice) and Dahi (curd). Along with it we also have tikwa: til laddu, churla: chirwa laddu, lai: muri laddu. Some people also make bagiya, which can be sweet or salty. Further she added, “For dinner we have khichdi which is made with seasonal vegetables and ghee. Tomato chutney, tarwa / fried papad and brinjal / potato fritters are also prepared to go with the khichdi.”
Here’s wishing all our readers happy feasting during Magh Bihu/Makar Sankranti!