The city is soaked in the colours of Sankranti. The festival is all about being thankful to Nature for the season’s bounty. Every household has a unique style of celebrating the festival. Food forms a major part of the festivities: a host of traditional delicacies are prepared for the season. In Andhra Pradesh, the festival is spread over three days — Bhogi, Sankranti and Kanuma.
Farmers, who harvest various crops including rice and sugarcane, incorporate rice flour and jaggery in several dishes, both of which are freshly available during the season. In the villages of Andhra Pradesh, newly-harvested rice is cooked and offered to the Gods.
Kalagaya kura (mixed vegetable curry) is a common Sankranti preparation. Thota Sarada, a farmer from Gullepalle village of K Kotapadu mandal near Visakhapatnam says, “We also make kalagaya pulusu or teepi pulusu, which is mixed vegetables cooked in jaggery and tamarind. The sweet dishes might differ based on the customs followed by each household.“ Most of these dishes are prepared on a three-stone stove using wood as the fuel, as they are made in large quantities to be distributed among relatives. “We also save some to be consumed later. The entire household, including children, are involved in the preparations,” she says, adding: “This is a festival during which we worship Nature and pay our respects to our ancestors.”
In Andhra, sweets like boorelu, ariselu, kajjikayalu, bobbatulu and sunnundalu are an intrinsic part of the celebrations, according to NSR Prabhakar Varma, director of Sarvani Sweets. One of the oldest sweet stores in Visakhapatnam, Sarvani Sweets has dished out about 15 Sankranti specials at all its outlets, which are made at its 4,000 sq ft. home foods section in Seethammadhara.
In coastal Andhra Pradesh, Sankranti dishes take on slight variations. “The chakkara pongali, for instance, is made with milk, chana and moong daal and rice that is mixed with sugar and dry fruits. The same dish is prepared with water and jaggery instead of sugar and milk in other parts of Andhra Pradesh,” says Kusumlata Dantu, a resident of Visakhapatnam. Recalling her childhood in Garividi in Vizianagaram district and Rajam in Srikakulam district, she says the preparations would begin two weeks ahead of the festival. “We would collect wood and prepare cow-dung cakes for the Bhogi Mantalu. Telugu households in Andhra Pradesh make bobattlu and pulihora on Bhogi. On Sankranti, tharpanam is offered to express gratitude to our ancestors and seek their blessings. At our place, the tharpanam consists of vada with nuvulu pachdi (sesame pickle), moong dal and amla chutney and payasam.
The Maharashtrian families in Visakhapatnam associate Bhogi with a dish called bhakri made of bajra, which is mixed with sesame seeds and teamed with baigan bharta (eggplant preparation). “In every Marathi household, sesame seeds and jaggery are symbolic of Sankranti celebrations. Here in Visakhapatnam, we have a community of Marathi families whom we greet with sweets during the festival. One of the special dishes we make is tilgul, a sweet dish made with sesame seeds and jaggery, which we distribute among family and friends. I also make puran poli (commonly known as bobatlu in Telugu) at home every Sankranti,” says Priti Patil, who has been staying in Visakhapatnam from the past six years.
For Bengali families, Sankranti can never be complete without the patali gur. Be it patishapta, doodhpuli or gokulpithe, this tender Bengali crepe remains one of the top favourites. “I got my a slab of patali through an online order two weeks ago. From Saturday, I will start making the patishapta with it. We have a family get-together of a few Bengali families to reminisce our days in Kolkata and also to introduce the culture and tradition to our children living away from the State,” says Sushmita Mukherjee, a resident of Visakhapatnam.