It's Poush Sankranti today, time for pithe!

It's Poush Sankranti today, time for pithe!

January 15, 2016

Poush Sankranti, the last day of the Bengali month of Poush, also known as Makar Sankranti, and marks the day of harvest festival in Bengal. According to Hindu philosophy, this day is the beginning of the sun’s northward journey from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer, also called Uttarayan. (it must be opportune to submit here that science says the journey commences on December 22, the day when winter solstice occurs). 

Cow worship during Poush Parbon

Earth and its revolutions apart, Poush Parbon ('Festival of Poush') holds immense importance, specially in rural Bengal, where the first grains of the year are stocked up and nabanna (Naba, ‘new’ + anna, ‘rice’) is worshipped. Notun guud (the season’s first jaggery) and rice form an important part of this festival, and they are also the prime ingredients of the delicious sweet, pithe.

Yummilicious puli pithe

Having grown up in a small town in North Bengal, my childhood was spent witnessing many beautiful rituals which are only archived in the pages of history now. I still remember the early morning hustle-bustle at home, the sudden pain in the stomach which would excuse me from attending school for the day, and thus ensuing day-long festivity. The beginning would be the customary offering of patisapta to Raghunath, the kuul debota of our family. As long as the puja continued, someone would clean the courtyard of our house with water and gobar (cow dung) and make alpona (decorations on the floor) with rice paste. Much to our (that is, the kids') chagrin, a cow used to be brought in, worshipped and fed some pithe.

Lip-smacking patishapta

What followed was day-long merry-making, as the delicious smell of freshly prepared patisapta would fill the air. Maakakimas and jethimas would all toil in the preparation of various forms of pithe – patisaptachitoi pithepuli pithe, etc. In fact, lunch that day would comprise only pithe. And for us kids, a holiday would only mean taking our daily games to the next level. 

Delicious gokul pithe

Parting thought

Times change. The joint family is no more, most family members are scattered all over the country. People would much rather buy pithe from sweet shops than spend an entire day in the kitchen; who has the time for it? Like other festivals, Pithe Parbon has now shifted to Bengali restaurants and on to the sets of TV shows, heavily commercialised. But in one corner of my heart, I still yearn for those days of childhood, wishing that someone weave a magic wand and shoo away the vast void of loneliness in this global village, where everything is just a click away.

Written by: Agnivo Niyogi for

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