The festival of Makara Sankranti is observed according to solar cycles, whereas most other festivals are based on lunar cycle of our Hindu Calendar. It therefore falls on the same date each year, around 14th or 15th of January.
The festival marks the onset of longer days and bids adieu to the cold winters. It is also a harvest festival.
It is celebrated all across India in different ways and by different names.
In Uttarakhand it is called makarsankranti, Pushudiya, Uttarayan, Ghugutia and also Kala Kauwaa (black crow)
The sweetmeat called Ghugut or gughute is prepared a day before along with Poori (Indian puffed fried bread) and offered to crows on the sankranti morning.
Legend has it that it was the crows that saved the only child of one of the Chand Kings of Kumaon and hence crows are offered sweetmeat and pooris on this day.
While there are several other stories around offering food to crows on makarsankranti, this one is my favourite.
There was a King who had no child and his Minister thought that when the king dies he would be given the charge of the kingdom. After a lot of prayers the king was blessed with a son, minister’s dream of ruling the kingdom got shelved.
The lovable child was called Ghuguti ( the cuckoo bird ) by his mom. Ghuguti had a pearl necklace around his neck that he adored and never took off. Whenever he did not listen to his mumma she would ask the crow to come n take ghuguti’s mala (garland) “kaale kawwe aaa, ghuguti ki maala khaa” hey black crow, come and eat Ghughuti’s maala.
The crows would come and Ghuguti would feed them some roti, the crows slowly grew fond of Ghuguti.
One day the minister with some of his friends kidnapped Ghuguti and took him to the jungle, one of the crows saw this. The crow called many other crows and they all attacked the minister and his men. One crow picked Ghuguti’ s pearl necklace and took it to the Palace. The men in palace were looking for Ghuguti and they started following the crow. The crow then took them to the jungle where Ghuguti was sitting with other crows guarding him. Ghuguti was taken back to the Palace safely and all in the kingdom rejoiced his return and celebrated by preparing sweetmeats.
The minister and friends were punished for their deeds.
It was then that the queen decided to feed the crows every year on this day and so, the kids adorn these garlands prepared of sweetmeats and offer some to the crows, seek their blessings and spend rest of their day eating from their own mala/garlands.
Here is the recipe to this easy to make sweet snack from Uttarakhand. The kids relish it, at least my son does.
500 gms Wheat Flour
250 gms Jaggery
Little Semolina (Rava/sooji) to offer crunchiness
Oil/ghee to fry and for kneading
1) Melt Jaggery in water.
2) Roast fennel seeds and sesame seeds & add it into Wheat Flour add little ghee/oil and mix well.
3) Add Jaggery water in flour & knead it into semi hard dough as we have for parathas if required add more water or milk.
4) Prepare different shapes, the figure of eight is a signature Ghuguti figure. You can make any shape, I used the molds from my son’s clay kit. childrens.
5) Now you need to deep fry them till light brown. I fry them in ghee for better taste. You can use oil too.
Make a mala/garland of Ghugute and hang them around your child’s neck. Share this or other stories around the festival and it’s relevance, after all festivals are for kids to learn, imbibe the culture and have fun.