Jan 15, 2008
Waiting in the puja room for my granddad to finish the ceremony was agonizing; especially when the new dress right in front of me was out of bounds until ‘ellu bella’ was distributed!
This is one the earliest memories of ‘Sankranthi’.‘Sankrathi’/ Pongal is actually a harvest festival important to farmers across Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra where the harvest crops and cows are worshipped, Jaggerry, turmeric and ellu are distributed and grand meal made from the harvest crops (groundnuts, pumpins, etc) are prepared.
However, I think we the city-dwellers have totally materialized it. The most important is ellu distribution (in a silver or plastic container according to your budget!) along with sugarcane, candy made out of sugar (instead of plain old jaggery), fruits.
Even though its commercialized, festival always brings those warm feeling of home, love and fun. Since my grandma was my baby-sitter, I was her helping hand (or I thought so!). So, here goes her meticulous preparation before the d-day as far I can remember:
Each year she calculated her distribution list (usually around 50-100 houses) and ordered the appropriate grocery from the local shop just after the english New Year started.
The jaggery and dried coconut (copra) were cut into small squares (grandma reluctantly allowed the maids cut just the coconut/jaggery since this was sacred!)
Next the Split channa dal, small squares of jaggery, small squares of dried coconut were dried out in bright sunlight for two days.
Groundnut was dry roasted with sand (so that groundnut color remains white even after its roasted!).
And I loved the technique in which my grandma removed the outer pinkish skin of these groundnuts----she put them on a plate, rubbed her hand against them, tossed them a bit blew out the peeled outer sking! The peanuts now looked pearly white!
Now the peanuts were dried in the sunlight while she kept a watch on them (I had to restrain myself from eating these since these had be offered to God before distributing!)
One entire afternoon was dedicated to prepare the sugar candy called ‘Sakara Acchu’ .
One afternoon dedicated to shopping for the latest item (plastic/ceramic plates, bowls, ect which has arrived in market.
I remember distributing sliver items when my sisters and cousin brother were born!
The sugarcane (which will be cut to around 6 inches pieces) is usually bought on the last day.
The day before the festival is packing day----this is huge because we were supposed pack around 50-100 packets or put a handful of ellu-bella mixture in containers and seal them.
Finally on the D-day after the morning bath, prayers and taking the blessing of elders, it was time to freak out!
Dad to drive us around to relatives place (which are visited once a year on this day) all around the Bangalore in our Fiat; I used to love to flaunt the new clothes and jewelry!
And food……I used to be tried of tasting different varieties of Pongal (both spicy and sweet) in a single day!!!!!
The evenings were dedicated to neighbors and friends. We little ones tagged with neighborhood older kids to distribute ellu to every house on the street; even to few 3-4 blocks away, although not the everyday neighbors; they were grandma’s friends who had settled in the area back in the 40’s and 50’s.
Well…..that was ‘Sankrathi’ for me back home. Even though we rarely visit the temple to part-take in the festivities here, I usally make it a point to prepare the Ellu Bella, Pongal and the traditional sambar at home (is it to get that warm, cozy,homly feeling?? Or to keep up the tradition/culture?? I don’t know the answer).
1 cup groundnut
1 cup spilt channa
1 cup cut jaggery
1/2 cup cut coconut
¼ cup of sesame seeds.
Dry roast the peanuts in the microvware or on stove. Leave them aside to cool.
Roast the seasem seeds until they stop spluttering around. Leave them aside to cool.
Cut Jaggery into small squares (this is the hardest part).
Cut dry coconut into small squares.
Remove the outer pinkish/red skin on the groundnuts (might take a while) and split the grounduts into halves.