Thursday, January 10, 2013

Aalayam celebrates Sankranthi!

Sankranthi - The first Hindu festival of the year!

After the festive jubilation of the holiday season and all the giddy excitement dies down, the New Year always begins with a lull and a sense of abeyance that lingers until Sankranthi rolls around. And then, the calm begins to dissipate and the New Year is slowly set into motion, or at least that’s how I perceive things to be.
As with every other Indian festival, Sankranthi has deep-rooted astrological, religious and cultural significance and many regional variations that provide a fascinating look at our heritage. Despite the myriad geographical adaptations, the spirit behind the celebrations is the same – spreading good-will and harmony. I am sure we all have our own festive nostalgia tied to our unique celebrations and exclusive family customs.
 Today, let us recollect some of those gleeful childhood memories associated with Sankranthi.
In my native state of Karnataka, cultural symbolism is centered around “Ellu –beero shastra” or the “practice of distributing a mixture of sesame and jaggery” as a mark of good will. I am remniscent of friends coming over with colorful trays loaded with Sankranthi treats, particularly a piece of sugar cane, a sugary treat moulded into a fun shape (sakkare acchu) and the sesame/jaggery mixture(in a fancy container!). Waiting with eager anticipation for the goody bag seems to be my fondest Sankranthi memory!
For those of you who are not familiar with the sugar syrup treats, here is a great post at justhomemade complete with a photo essay on Sakkare acchu (moulded sugar treats)! 
Image via

 I did try my hand at making the traditional Ellu-bella (sesame–jaggery) mixture two years ago and was rather pleased with how simple it really was to create Ellu which carried Bazaar authenticity! A little victory in itself!  I even found small sugar cane stems at the local store that my guests took home along with little packets of Ellu-bella mixture for a complete ritualistic celebration of Sankranthi that year. 
Sankranthi Ellu (sesame mixture)!
 Whether I make Ellu or not, I almost always make Pongal and that is my simplified way of marking the harvest festival. 
Decorating is a big part of celebrating any festival for me even though it is not a cultural or a religious mandate. I do it anyway! It helps me get in to the spirit of things. This year, I made a rangoli with various daals (pulses) - after all, the festival ascribes to a bountiful harvest and I wanted to assimilate that in my own depiction. 
Harvest pot rangoli made with pulses - fun and easy!
Sankranthi, also marks the cosmic passage of the Sun and I decided to include a brass Sun – a tiny symbol of divinity, into my festive décor! Again, the idea is to use objects around the house and creatively generate a festive decorscape!
Deepada Malli (lamp bearers) paired with a brass Sun for a festive rendering!
In the Indian context, this festival marks the end of the cold winter months and heralds the onset of the harvest season. It is still very cold in my neck of the woods and the days are still very short and in no way, will Makar Sankranthi change this anytime soon here in North America  - I do believe, however, that it is never irrelevant to pay tribute to Mother Nature and spread some good cheer and teach my little one something about our culture. As I grow older, I have a deeper understanding of who I am. I make an earnest effort to preserve some of what is known to us and pass it along to my little one and it is in this spirit that I celebrate Sankranthi!  
How about yourself? Do you celebrate Sankranthi  or Lohri or Bihu or Pongal or Maghi ? If so, we wish you much Joy and Happiness and would love to hear about your unique traditions and observances. Write to us at
p.s: Thank you Radhika of justhomemade for letting me use your lovely sakkare acchu picture as well as allowing me to link to your post.  Justhomemade is a great read!
The other images for this post were taken at our home by my patient husband!


  1. I make ellu also at home and always try to find decorative containers to put them in to share with friends. I even attempted sakkare acchu one or twice as I have all the good old moulds from my mom when she used to live in North America. She left them for me before moving back to India. I must say I haven't got guaranteed sugar syrup recipe to get consistent results. Your decorations and pics are beautiful. I celebrate all festivals (especially Dasara in a huge way) to make sure that my son knows all about our traditions. Sorry for the long post :)

  2. rkramadh : Thanks for the comment! blogging is fun only if it interactive. I really appreciate your thoughts. Of course, celebrating festivals is a surefire way of teaching our li'l ones a thing or two about our traditions. i decorate to get into the spirit of things :) and we would love it if you would like to guest author for us or share pics of your own celebration of a festival.