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Makar Sankranti: Fly kites and enjoy pitheys
Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat in the form of the kite festival, in Maharashtra it is the ‘til-gur’ festival and in Bengal, it is Pous Parban and the time to pamper the sweet toothed Bengalis with pitheys.
MAKAR SANKRANTI is a festival in different parts of India and goes by different names. It is to welcome spring on the occasion of the ’ascent’ of the sun to the north (Uttarayana). Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat in the form of the kite festival, in Maharashtra it is the ‘til-gur’ festival and in Bengal, it is Pous Parban and the time to pamper the sweet toothed Bengalis with ‘pithey-patisapta’.
 
The Maharashtrians use this opportunity to pass on the message of goodwill – they offer sweets in the form of til (sesame) cooked in gur (molasses) – the resultant mixture is handed to the recipient with the message ‘til gur gheya, gur gur bol’ which means – ‘please accept the offering of til and gur and talk sweet like the gur.’
 
The Bengalis however, organise pithey festivals or pithey utsab and the hotels, restaurants and the sweet shops go to town to woo the modern generation with the old forgotten goodies and enjoy the delicious pithey. The two most common varieties are the patisapta and the puli. The main ingredient of both is rice flour – the rice chosen is of the fragrant variety.
In the patisapta, the rice is mixed with milk and a paste made. This paste is spread on a frying pan which has been oiled with pure ghee. A filling of coconut cooked in nalen gur is prepared beforehand and kept aside. This filling is placed in the centre of the gradually frying rice paste in the same way as a dosa. (In the case of dosa, the filling is of vegetables, in the case of pithey, it is sweetened coconut). The heady aroma of the frying pitheys forces everyone to make a beeline for the source.
 
The puli pithey is more difficult to prepare- here the rice powder is mixed with milk to form a dough and cut into convenient sized small balls. These balls are filled with the mandatory coconut-nalen gur mixture. Once sufficient numbers are ready, these are gently dropped into a large container of boiling milk. The rice coating cooks in the hot boiling milk. Extreme care has to be taken not to damage the pulis while stirring the boiling milk. The preparation should be allowed to cool to at least room temperature before serving. In case one does not have the will or the patience to wait, he can enjoy it straight from the oven.
 
Yet another variety of puli is the moong puli. Here the shell is made of boiled moong dal that has been well mashed. The filling is the same mixture of coconut cooked in nalen gur. The pulis are deep fried in ghee and can be stored for a few days – however, these seldom remain for more than a few hours because the demands far outnumber the supply.
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