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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sankranthi Ellu - Bella / Sankranthi & Sesame Seeds

Happy Sankranthi / Pongal to all of you.

I celebrated only a few Sankranthis in Andhra. I know that there are a lot of beautiful and exciting aspects of the festival. But the few things which pop up whenever I think of it are the eye catching designs of rangolis, the bhogi pallu function and the picnic, we had at the banks of Penna river in Nellore, where my grand parents used to live. People used to gather there to have picnics on Sankranthi.

Sankranthi reminds me the muggulu (rangolis), made in front of the houses decorated with the colors, gobbemmalu and gummadi poolu (flowers from the pumpkin plant). Those beautifully crafted rangolis bring out an unofficial sort of competition among their creators (read young girls). Everybody want their rangolis to be the best in their alleys. I am not talking about the rangolis on the Sankranthi day. Girls start weaving their beautiful designs on the streets, a few weeks earlier. Every day there would be a new pattern and new decorations. My enthusiastic cousins would discuss what they are planning to do the next day. Probably they did not show that much of interest in their studies.

Sankranthi is a three day event in Andhra. The first day is celebrated as bhogi, the second day as sankranthi and the third day as kanuma. On bhogi's evening, an exciting, playful event called 'bhogi pallu poyadam' (pouring the fruits) with little ones is celebrated. Regi pallu, sugar cane pieces and coins are mixed and kept in several small containers. (Regi pallu are sweet & sour, brown colored berries. I have not seen those berries here and don't know their name in English. They are called regi pallu in telugu & elachi hannu in kannada). Infants and toddlers are colorfully dressed, seated and the women & older kids pour the fruit mixture over the little ones' heads. Sometimes neighbors are also invited to participate in the event. I know how much my kids enjoyed during this event during our last visit to India.

Where as when it comes to Sankranthi in Bangalore, it always reminds me the "Sankranthi ellu". Ellu is the kannada word for sesame seeds. Sesame seeds and other goodies are distributed among the neighborhood. Sankranthi , ofcourse is the harvest season and the custom probably started to share their harvest with others. On the festive day, beautifully dressed girls go house to house (known people's) in their neighborhoods distributing ellu, sugarcane, bananas and sankranthi special; sakkare achchu - the tiny sugar models of animals, gods etc. are made using special moulds. Even though our mom used to make plenty of them, it was fun to open the packets given by others just to see which design of sugar achchu we recieved and decide who gets what to eat.

Women prepare ahead, the ellu and the sugar achchus at homes with loads of vigor and enthusiasm. The white colored sesame seeds are slightly fried without browning. The stores sell pale - yellow colored blocks of jaggery, specially meant for the ellu, during the season. The jaggery is bought and cut into small squares. The copra's (dry coconut) black outer layer is scraped and cut into small squares. The peanuts are dry roasted well, skins removed and broken into halves. Roasted chana dal is added. To make it colorful, sugar coated jeera (cumin seeds) are added and are mixed well. My mom takes utmost care when it comes to ellu preparation. She makes sure that the copra is white, the copra and jaggery pieces are cut into uniform squares, peanuts are not roasted black and chanadal added is good. Small quantities of the mixture is put in a small paper bag along with a sugar mould and sealed. When we were young, my sister used to be very eager to go and distribute ellu. My mom learnt to make those sugar moulds for her. It brings me a smile on my face, when I think of it. I made the ellu yesterday for the first time with the ingredients what I could get here, to show my kids. Though my mom would cringe to see her daughter making the ellu which appear to be ready for throwing away.

Enjoy your Sankranthi !!!

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Seema said...

Suma, I had a friend who was from mysore and her mom used to send over Sankranthi Ellu. God I used to love it so much that I used to ask my friends mom to send over the leftovers as well. Just loved the combo so much. Thanx for sharing this recipe. By the way do you have any leftovers ?

Vcuisine said...

Wishing you a very happy pongal too. Nice write up. Enjoyed reading it. Viji

Maheswari said...

Happy Pongal and Sankranthi..
Nice write up.First time here..you have good collection of recipe..i liked your cornmeal veggie dosa especially..

Asha said...

Hi Suma, happy Shankranthi to you!:))

Love reading about B'lore. Enjoy the Ellu.