Pongal, Sankranti, Lohri… known by many more names, the harvest festival was celebrated last weekend by Indians across the globe. A few of our expat readers share how they celebrate the festival as they reinvoke their childhood memories of the celebration.

Divya Hegde

“I come from the beautiful coastal part of Karnataka but have always been in ‘My-Bangalore’. My mother tongue is Konkani. But as a family, we speak Kannada, Marathi, English and Hindi, too. Each festival has its own charm, warmth and beauty and each one carries a unique and a strong religious and mythological value.

Photo of Sakkare AcchuWhat I remember making during Sankranti is ‘Ellu beerodu’ – a beautiful mix of sesame seeds, perfectly cut-square shaped jaggery pieces and dry Coconut pieces, along with roasted chana dal (putani bele). This yummy mix is given to all the near and dear ones.

We used to carry around a plate to the neighbors, which usually had a piece of sugarcane (harvest season), the ‘Ellu-Bella’ mix and ‘Sakkare acchu’ (figurines made out of sugar in traditional wooden molds). My granny used to make these out of sugar – and how I would wait for it! She’s 74 now and still makes them with sugar syrup, curd/yoghurt and colours, if needed. My mum however always made ‘Ubbati’ (‘Puran Poli)’ on this day. I’ve managed to continue that practice so far. Celebrations of sanctity!! Happy Sankranti, Happy Lohri. Happy Pongal!”
(Photo credit: https://www.justhomemade.net/sakkare-acchu/ )

Renuka Sankaran

“In Maharashtra, we celebrate ‘Makar Sankranti’. As the weather is still cold, ’til-gul’ (jaggery and sesame seeds) in form of laddus and/or poli remain a common fixture across various communities and regions (of Maharashtra).

Photo of haldi kumkumAnother joyous aspect of Makar Sankranti, especially for Marathi women, is ‘Haldi- kunku’. From Makar Sankranti to ‘Rathasaptami’, married women visit each other’s places for ‘Haldi kunku’ and exchange ‘vaan’. ‘Vaan’ is a useful household item (new), which is given as a gift. It is truly an occasion for women to socialize in a traditional way. You can also dress in black on the festival of Makkar Sankranti – which is a rarity Indian festivals. Especially for the newly wed women. This festival is very special for the first year of a bride and first birthday for kids.

As a child, I used to accompany my mom for ‘Haldi kunku’ and was always excited to be dressed in traditional and festive outfits, and collect different coloured Sankranti ‘halwa’ also known as ‘kateri halwa’ made of sesame seeds and sugar. We would then make ‘Halwayache Dagine’, that is jewelry, watches, etc. and enjoy festive craft time! Newly married women and first year babies are gifted with ‘Halwayache Dagine’.

This is what I made for my daughter’s first birthday- Toys out of ‘til-gul’.”
(Photo credit: Renuka sankaran)

Nayana Bhattacharya

Photo of Nayana's grandma“In Bengal, the beginning of the longer days is celebrated as ‘Poush Sankranti’ or ‘Poush Parbon’. This is celebrated by feasting on special sweetmeats, known collectively as ‘pithe-puli’. As ‘Poush Sankranti’ is the day that new rice is harvested, the sweetmeats are also prepared with rice and date palm jaggery (the famous ‘Nolen Gur’). When it comes to ‘pithe-puli,’ there are many different options such as ‘Gokul Pithe’, ‘Malpua’, ‘Nolen Gurer Payesh’ and ‘Patishapta’. Everyone has their favorite and mine is ‘Gokul Pithe’. I still have fond memories of my great aunt making it for the family and hiding away some extra ‘Gokul Pithe’ for me!

I would like to share this picture from the festive celebrations in India. This is my aunt-in-law who battles her incredibly poor health each year to make ‘pithe-puli’f or her children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and neighbours.”
(Photo credit: Nayana Bhattacharya)