Friday, January 14, 2011

Of Sankranti, Tillkoot and the Rest

So this day today when most parts of the nation celebrates as the harvest festival i was beginning to question why i am so irritable since morning. Not that it is a rare occasion for me feeling that way but then shouldn't i be getting all pepped up to have my some obeisance to the Sun God and then have for breakfast/ lunch what i am supposed to have.
The fact of the matter being that generally of all the people present at home it is me who is ever so enthusiastic about our Indian festivals and all the works associated with it.
At first i thought maybe because the Sun moves from my star sign ie the Saggitarius to enter into Capricorn, the planetary movement is creating mess with my nerves.

"Sankranti is the Sanskrit word, which refers to the transmigration of the Sun from one Rāshi(zodiac in Indian astrology) to the other. There are 12 such sankrantis in all. The Sankranti festival usually refers to Makara Sankaranti, or the transition of the Sun fro m Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn)."
But wasn't i thinking silly because i don't even believe in what the stars foretell and here i am having some funny notions about the celebration commemorating the winter solstice to be the culprit of my not so even temperament.
Maybe it is some hormones messing up but whatever i am irritable.
So here i am blogging and once again going down memory lane to home and what happened on this day.
Still snug in our rajais (quilt) and blissfully enjoying the slumber that is typical of winters we would be jolted out of bed and perforce made to have our bath before we could stuff ourselves with the specials for the day. There was no choice we had to eat what was offered before we could be off for games with friends. During these games of seven stones, hopscotch and even kabaddi almost all of us would be seen munching into either Tilkoot or Laaiyee. i guess then these were to a certain extent what we as kids favoured among all those specials avaiable this day which in Bihar is also known as Makar Sankranti and to the locals hailing from the Bhagalpur district of Bihar as TILASANKRANTI
It is really funny how we shrivelled and scowled at the mention of those specials. Shrivelled at the thought of that early morning bath and scowled at what we considered to be some vague stuff being pushed into our gullets. Specials hardly!! we grumbled between our shivering breath. Shivering more with the thought of the bath to be followed by the so called specials.
Sure we never enjoyed much the breakfast which consisted of Dahi Choora.  Followed by sesame seeds laddoos and another refined version of sesame seeds called tilkoot.
Dahi- Fresh Yoghurt
Chooda- (Beaten rice also called Aval/poha)
Ladoos- balls (sesame seeds marble sized balls made with sesame seeds and jaggery)
Tilkoot- Sesame seeds crushed coarsely and prepared into flat crunchy cakes prepared in a mill and bought from the market.These were of two types ie those made with sugar looking off white and those made with jaggery looking somewhat light brown in colour. Elsewhere in India known as Gajak but to Biharis the very special TILLKOOT.
Breakfast was followed later with Kitchdree for lunch . Kitchdree made with freshly harvested rice and dal. The side dishes would be chokha, papad, ghee, acchaar and dahi.
Kitchdree- a hot salty porridge 
Dal- lentils
Chokha- seasoned mashed potatoes / aubergines
Papad- crackers
Ghee- clarified butter
Dahi- as given earlier nothing but fresh plain yoghurt .
"Kichdree ke hain ye paanch yaar...ghee,  papad, chokha, dahi,  acchar", thus the adage. Translated it means kitchdree has five friends...clarified butter, crackers, mashed seasoned potatoes, yoghurt and pickles.
Then in between the most interesting ritual.
Ma would come with a bowl of  sweetened -with-jaggery sesame seeds and drop it into our palms reciting, " Tillay tillay bahava na?'' It was supposed to be a question she asked to all her kids. And to her recitation we were supposed to answer while accepting the sesame seeds with a joyous, ''Yes!, yes!, yes !". Strange that yes had to be said three times. As if just saying yes  thrice sufficed for everything that we were supposed to do so far as service to our mother was concerned.
The recitation and the gift of sesame seeds was like a covenant that we were signing with her. What that recitation meant was as follows- just like the tiny sesame seeds we will be with her forever taking care of her through thick and thin.
Finally as i reminisce all this and more as to how we enjoyed that extra winter holiday after the schools reopened to a new semester, playing outside with our friends munching laiyee , i begin to miss home and all the comforts that i had. i begin to think about whether we stayed true to our promise that was made to Ma each year on Sankranti day when we were kids.  i sort of start to crib and crave for the old days...the morning excitement, the fervor, the hustle bustle, the smell of fresh Katarni Chooda, and the delicious aroma of the Katarni Chawal Kitchdree and most importantly felt the absence of Ma. If she was walking on the earth still i would've called her at least to ask her the association of sesame seeds to that covenant that we signed.
 Oh ! thank God some good soul in the family got me Tilkoot/Gajak to eat on this day at Chennai but i do miss all that paraphernalia of yesteryears Sankranti. i hate the idea of all that going extinct as we continue with our lives minus these.
Katarni Chooda- a special aromatic variety of small grained paddy which is proccesed to make beaten rice. Prepared exclusively in that Bhagalpur district of Bihar.
Katarni Chawal- Small grained aromatic raw rice. This too cultivated and prepared in Bhagalpur.

i guess now i know the reason of my irritability. i know that from inside i am cribbing for someone to give me back all that. i hate to do it all by myself now. Sure i have the ingredients for food...Katarni Chooda, Katarni Chawal, Dahi, Papad, Ghee, Acchaar, Tilkoot and Till laddoos too. But who is going to give me Ma, Papa, Siblings, Cousins, Relatives and Friends to enjoy it with. Now is the time when all of us together could've really relished the specials. Sure i know how delicious all these specials are but i have no one to do the works and conjure up that same excitement, the same atmosphere. i miss my own kind to enjoy my festival my way.
Maybe cribbing is not the solution so i should shake the sad and irritable lazy bones and do something about it. i know i hate to do it all alone but i shall make an attempt.Who knows at the end of it all i might not be looking for some silly reasons to defend my irritable self.
Yay !...Dahi Chooda followed by Kitchdree and for dessert it's going to be TILLKOOT. Then for the in between small hunger LAIYEE.
                                              Dahi (Fresh Yoghurt)       Chooda (Beaten Rice)
                                            Kitchdree ( porridge of rice lentils and vegetables)
                                                Potato and  Aubergine Chokha or Bharta  
                                           Sesame seeds balls...this one large... (sizes optional)
                                                Tilkoot/ Gajak...this one made with jaggery

                                Laaiyee...Sweet Balls of puffed rice and beaten rice also made with jaggery
Wish everybody who visits my blog a very Happy Sankranti. Pongal, Lohri, Bihu...As for me i think it is better to soak myself in a larger celebration, the last that i shall be a part of as my stay in Chennai gets over this month. So hearing Pongal 'o' Pongal and enjoying the 4 days of celebration i shall be signing off with this bit of info on Sankranti the Tamil Nadu way.
This bit of what i have learnt and experienced of Pongal in Chennai is from:

Tamil Nadu

It is a four day festival in Tamil Nadu:[citation needed]
  • Day 1st - Bhogi Pandigai (Bhogi) போகி பண்டிகை
  • Day 2nd - Thai Pongal(Perum Pongal) பொங்கல் பண்டிகை
  • Day 3rd - Maattu Pongal மாட்டு பொங்கல்
  • Day 4th - Kaanum Pongal காணும் பொங்கல்
The festival is celebrated four days from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of the Tamil month Thai. The first day of festival is Bhogi. It is celebrated by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials, by setting them on fire, marking the end of the old and the emergence of the new.
The second day of festival is Thai Pongal or simply Pongal. It is the main day of the festival, falling on the first day of the Tamil month Thai. It is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new two pots, which are later topped with ghee, cashew nuts and raisins early in the morning and allowing it to boil and overflow the vessel ( Such overflowing of the foodstuffs from the pot indicates that wealth and wellness will overflow from this occasion - literally the word Pongal means "fullness" - பொங்குதல்). This tradition gives Pongal its name. The moment the rice boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of "Ponggalo Ponggal!" and blowing the sangu (a conch), a custom practiced during the festival to announce it was going to be a year blessed with good tidings.[citation needed] Then New boiled rice is offered to the Nature during sunrise, a gesture which symbolises thanks to the sun and nature for providing prosperity. It is later served to the people present in the house for the ceremony. People also prepare savories and sweets such as vadai, murukku, payasam and sugar cane and visit each other and exchange greetings.
The third day of festival is Maattu Pongal. It is for offering thanks to cattle, as they help farmer in different ways for agriculture. On this day the cattle are decorated with paint, flowers and bells. They are allowed to roam free[citation needed] and fed sweet rice and sugar cane. Some people decorate the horns with gold or other metallic covers. In some places, Jallikattu, or taming the wild bull contest, is the main event of this day and this is mostly seen in the villages.
The fourth day of the festival is Kaanum Pongal (the word kaanum means "to view"). During this day people visit their relatives, friends to enjoy the festive season. This day is a day to thank relatives and friends for their support in the harvest. It started as a farmers festival, called as Uzhavar Thirunaal in Tamil. Kolam decorations are made in front of the house during

Sweet Pongal- Shakkarai Pongal

Dated 13th January 2013
i have questions about this connection of Sesame seeds with many Hindu rituals. i have tried all. Questioned elders, searched the internet but much to my chagrin have been left in the lurch. However when so many years later when Maa is one among the stars now i can close my eyes and finally make that promise to Tiley Tiley Bahava Na. 
Thanks to  and  "Since time immemorial, this festival has been celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country, yet the use of til or sesame, is found everywhere. The til or sesame seed contains a lot of oil and therefore has a quality of softness. Therefore, firstly, the use of til in sweets is good for health and secondly, being soft, their exchange signifies the exchange of love and tender feelings."

To anyone who stumbles on my page pls feel free to enlighten me with more as to how or why of all the seeds in this world it is the sesame seed which is used in most Hindu rituals.
Six types of usage of Til are described. Til is used for Bathing, for Massaging, for Havan (sacred fire ceremony), Tarpan with Til (oblations of water with Til), Til used as food, and Til is donated in charity. 


  1. very informative.dearie u reminded me of ma.this sankranti is a big festival all over jharkhand it is called tusu they do a lot of daan which comprises of till chuda riceand of course some gud.enjoying sankranti with stoned layee.

  2. @Gauri...yeah sis Ma and everybody...remember!!
    WOW...THANKS for letting me know of TUSU PARV.
    See u soon :)

  3. Very nice post. Informative indeed. Here's wishing you and your family a very happy Makar Sankranti.. Pongal... Lohri, Bihu.. too

  4. @Tandarin thank you :).Wish you and your family a very happy Sankranti...Pongal...Lohri,Bihu...too :)

  5. cute!!! what a beautiful post...full of love and life of us Indians!!! aah.. i loved it!!!

  6. @ Flyng high in the sky...thank u Sushmita. Yeah we and our ways...cheers !!

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