The Indian culture since the time of it’s beginning or the beginning of time associates happiness and celebration with sweets. Although every community in this diverse land, celebrates their festivals in their own way, one can’t deny the fact that the occasion is always incomplete without sweets. It is almost a ritual to start any work by offering something sweet, dahi-cheeni (sugar and Curd) is supposed to make the day auspicious. But somewhere, it is also true that in the modern society and the new generation, Dahi-Cheeni and the traditional sweets are being replaced and chocolates are considered the new “sweets”.
“Kuch meetha ho jaye” reminds us of Cadbury Dairy Milk, “Jo khae Kho jaye” 5 star, and there are many other chocolates, say Bournville, Bounty, Temptation, Munch, Gems, Silk, etc. all with their brilliant sweet taglines are in a fight to replace the sweets at a ‘halwai’ in the process of satiating your taste buds. And I am sure by now you are craving some chocolate.
But before you leave the store to buy some, let’s remember the sweets from your childhood just for a moment – Barfani toda, Cham Cham, Chenna Murki, Chenna poda, Chiki, gajrela, Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, Kheer, Ladoo, Malpoa, Rasgulla, Rasmalai, any of these ring a bell? And I am pretty sure that all of us are aware of most of the chocolates being sold in India, but how many of us actually know the types of sweets that have been a part of our culture and the rich traditions of Indian history? Not only teenagers, even elders these days enjoy any occasion by greeting relatives and friends with chocolates, instead of a box of ladoos. This may be an example of the power of advertising in today’s era which actually holds the capability to rule the minds of the customers.
Chocolate boxes are packed in such a fancy manner for every occasion; it seems as if it is the coolest gift ever, but is it really? Do we even know that more than half of the amount that we pay is for the advertising and never mind the fact that all the revenue goes to the companies that are already billionaires, not to the poor Halwais at the corner of the street trying to earn a modest living so that his family can also celebrate the festival or occasion. Even if you don’t care about this, step back and think do chocolates really represent the essence of the celebration or are they just eatable showpieces that look good but doesn’t really do anything.
None of us are aware of the traditional relation of the sweets with various festivals. Let’s take the example of ‘Dusshera’, we have Jalebi (also called Shashkuli) and Milk, but do we know its significance? The reason is that as per Scriptures, Lord Rama loved the sweet called Shashkuli and since that time, we have been following this tradition, trying to impress him by offering the sweet he loved in the puja. Since we are talking about sweets, how can we forget the mouth-watering ‘Rosogulla’ or ‘Roshogulla’? It has been traditionally offered as ‘Bhog’ to Goddess Lakshmi in Jagannath Temple, but why?
Because, according to a legend, 300 years ago, Lakshmi got upset when her husband Lord Jagannath (Vishnu) went on a nine days ‘Rath Yatra’ without her consent and so she locked the temple gates and prevented his convoy from re-entering the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. To appease her, Lord Jagganath offered her ‘Rosogullas’ and since then, this ritual of offering Rosogulla to Goddess Lakshmi is known as ‘Bachanika’ which means “arrival of God” marks the return of the deities to the temple after ‘Rath Yatra’. In Holi, there is ‘Gujia’ and ‘thandai’, in Durga Puja there is ‘Sandesh’, Janmashtmi has ‘kesar badam ka halwa’, during Ganesh Chaturthi it’s ‘Modak’ and Guruparab has ‘Suji and ghee ka halwa’, Eid-ul-fitr has ‘Sewai kheer’, Maha Shivratri has ‘Lauki ka Halwa’ while Hanuman Jayanti just has ‘sago Kheer’ and the list can just go on and on.Every sweet has its own importance.
A major concern right now, is that somewhere the traditional importance of sweets is deteriorating at a very fast pace. The art of making sweets “sweet” is vanishing, the charisma of sweets is getting dimmer and with that people are forgetting anything related to their traditions related to sweets. And it’s not just the fault of your local ‘Halwai’ for adulteration of the sweets, it’s partially our fault for not telling the next generation why sweets are much sweeter than the bitter chocolates and why they really feel like celebrations and not just a work on a packet of paper. It’s our fault because we have stopped making these sweets at home blaming the lack of time and so the next generation will never know. The real sweetness of festive seasons is always with the sweets made of milk, khoya, several fruits and nuts and a lot of love.
So this Holi, think out of the box of chocolates and bring home some old favorites. And if you don’t know which sweet, visit your local halwai or stay tuned we will bring along a list of sweets for every festival for you to enjoy with your loved ones. We may throw in a recipe or two for you to make them at home.