The celebrations of Sankranti in Belagavi begin a day before, known as Bhogi. On this day, women worship earthen pots, called Budkula (Sugad), which are filled with rice and decorated as a symbol of prosperity and good luck. The traditional Bhog consists of bajri bhakri, mixed vegetables with brinjal, malida, groundnut chutni, til chutni, phutana chatni, garlic chutni, and curd rice. This delicious feast is shared among households, and as children, we used to eagerly await the bhakri from our mothers’ friends, who always made sure we had more than enough of their love.
The Sajji Roti is a heartier version of the traditional one and is absolutely delicious when paired with brinjal. In India, it is customary for women to carry rotis and visit friends, exchanging food and ensuring that no one goes hungry. This is the true spirit of India, where food and love are meant to be shared, not kept to oneself.
Unfortunately, modern times have taken away this practice of communal sharing, and we have become more and more isolated, relying on social media for our socialization. Although Sajji Rotis are available in the market, they can never replicate the taste of those lovingly prepared by our beloved aunties. Once you’ve tasted these traditional favorites, you just can’t stop eating them! And then, just when you think you can’t eat another bite, Sankrantri arrives, bringing with it a host of traditions and customs.
The hero of the day is the Tilgul, a traditional Indian sweet made of sesame and jaggery. Sesame, an indigenous crop of India, is drought-resistant and has been shown to reduce blood pressure in some studies. It is also rich in oil, making it a great choice for this season. Jaggery, the only sweetener available before sugars, is a specialty of Belagavi and Kolhapur. It is so sweet that if someone is described as being as sweet as Kolhapuri jaggery, it is a great compliment! Not only is jaggery high in iron and highly nutritious, but it also adds a unique flavor to the Tilgul.
Tilgul comes in many varieties, from the traditional laddoo to the white ones made of sugar syrup. There are also versions with groundnuts or cashews at the center. The jaggery ones come in two types: hard, like Revdi, and soft, which melt in your mouth. The white ones are more common, but the best ones are small with sharp thorns. Unfortunately, these are becoming increasingly difficult to find as they are only made by a few people.
Tilgul is like the hero of a Bollywood blockbuster, beloved by all. It is a sweet treat that is sure to tantalize the taste buds and bring joy to the festival.
There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for jaggery tilgul; each household has its own unique version. Some add more jaggery, some add poppy seeds for a nutty flavor, and some even add ghee for a richer taste. But no matter how it’s made or where it’s made, what matters is that it’s shared. Traditionally, tilgul was made at home, but now it can be found in almost every street, from Ganpat Galli to Nargundkar Chowk.