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.
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 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.