India is a land of diverse cultures, and so is the overseas Indian community. No matter in which nation the Indians are, they bring the richness and opulence of their ethnicity along with them. Indians in the USA love to celebrate the enthralling and vibrant Indian festivals like Sankranti, Lohri, and Pongal. It marks the start of longer days and shorter nights in India and signifies a farewell to winter with a winter solstice as a welcoming gesture to the Spring season.
Each of these festivals holds a meaningful significance that takes us back to the stories and legends that are no less than the celebrations themselves.
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Celebrated with much enthusiasm in India’s Northern parts and popularly known as Maghi, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the USA in various cultural forms. If legends are to be believed, Sankranti was a goddess who killed the devil Sankarasur on this day, and thus the celebration came into place. Learned people also say that Bhisma Pitamah breathed his last breath on Uttarayan, in Mahabharath.
Different Indian communities also celebrate this Indian festival with other names.
South Indian Communities
Pongal follows Makar Sankranti, a four-day-long Indian festival that goes on from January 14th to January 17th. It is the harvest festival celebrated by diverse Indian communities. During Pongal, the farmers in the Southern part of India harvest crops like rice, turmeric, and sugarcane. This is also the reason a lot of festive delicacies are prepared around these as primary ingredients. Tamilians celebrate these festivities with much zeal and cook traditional sweets.
The history of Pongal dates back to around 2000 years. It is said to be originated as a Dravidian Harvest festival, which was celebrated as Thai Un and Thai Niradal. A legend goes that Lord Shiva had asked of his bull Basava to be sent to earth and propagate the message amongst the humans that they must have an oil massage and bath every day and eat once a month. Basava made a grave mistake and asked the humans to eat every day and take a bath and oil massage only once a week. This led Shiva into fits of fury, and he cursed Basava to live on earth forever and plow the fields to help people produce the food they wanted to eat every day. And thus, this day is associated with agricultural cattle too.
North Indian Communities
Lohri, a North Indian festival that signifies the end of the sowing season and marks the harvest season’s onset, is celebrated a day before Makar Sankranti. North Indian Punjabi community celebrates with much energy and invigorated spirit. People sing folk songs, and dance around a bonfire, and eat home-cooked delicacies. History speaks about the legend of Dulla Bhatti, a warrior hero who lead a rebellious war against the Mughal empire and was martyred around this season only. All folk songs sung during Lohri festivities mention Dulla Bhatti with great vigor.
The celebrations of Sankranti, Pongal, and Lohri bring along a warm and delicious spread of Indian regional delicacies that sometimes are prepared at home or bought from supermarkets in the USA.
Here are the mouth-watering food preparations that bring the best taste of India to the foreign land:
Til laddoos: Prepared from Til or sesame seeds smeared in jaggery, these are among the most popular and delicious delicacies of the harvest season.
Sakkarai Pongal: A South Indian sweet delicacy made of rice, jaggery, moong dal, and cashews. Rich meal preparation, cooked in dollops of pure ghee, is garnished with cardamom and dry fruits.
Rewari: Rewari is a popular North Indian dish and is a hard candy-like sweet. It is made from sesame seeds coated in sugar or jaggery syrup and is cooked over the flame until hardened.
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Puran Poli: This is a Maharashtrian Indian delicacy that is in flatbread form. Made of gram flour, it is often stuffed with a mix of jaggery powder and sesame seeds and is roasted in pure ghee until golden brown.
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Pinni: A North Indian delicacy prepared during Makar Sankranti and Lohri, this dish is synonymous with extreme richness and oodles of taste. It is prepared with rice flour/wheat flour/crushed moong dal mixed with sugar, and dry fruits roasted in pure ghee and rolled into a handful of balls.
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During the vibrant season of Makar Sankranti, Pongal, and Lohri, the USA’s grocery markets start selling these Indian delicacies and the ingredients to prepare them at home. Indian communities can easily find them at local stores or online grocery marketplace like ebounti groceries, and celebrate the harvest festivals in an authentic Desi style.