The many kinds of pitha, laru and jolpaan to feast on this Magh Bihu
The festive vibes are in the air yet again. Magh Bihu, one of the most anticipated festivals in Assam, is finally here. The enthusiasm and fervour associated with Magh Bihu are truly infectious.
Magh Bihu, also called Bhogali Bihu, is a festival which marks the end of the harvesting season. Since the granaries are full, it is only natural that there is a lot of feasting during this period. Magh Bihu also has quite a few ritualistic traditions associated with it. Community worship and feast (Uruka bhoj) are both integral part of the celebrations.
On the first day of Magh Bihu or Uruka, men and women prepare food items like – chira, pitha, laru, curd for the following day of celebrations. Young people go to the fields and build makeshift huts, or bhelaghar, using bamboo, leaves and thatch.
A meji or bonfire is lit early in the morning of Bihu and prayers are offered to the gods.
Next day, the huts are burnt down, people take bath early in the morning and traditional Assamese games like tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking), buffalo fight, cockfight and egg fights are held. Feasting and enjoyment go on for about a week.
Here’re some pithas, larus, jolpan and other types of munchies for you to feast on to feel the true essence of the festival.
A mini meal containing several rice forms, such as soaked kumol saul, bora saul, chira, sunga saul, or crisp muri and sandoh guri, and teamed up with home-made curd or cream, and jaggery (liquid and chunks). Some even prefer to have it with hot milk. No Bihu celebration is complete without a bowlful of this goodness.
Rice flour, preferably bora rice, baked on an open surface (tawa made of cast iron) steamed as rolled cylinders with a delicious stuffing of til (sesame) mixed with jaggery or sugar syrup.
Kachi pitha, a pan baked pancake made from bora saul and filled with sesame seeds, ground coconut, dried orange rind, and jaggery. The sickle is known as "kachi" in Assamese and hence the name.
Similar to Til Pitha with the filling of til inside the pitha replaced by a sweeter mix of grated coconut mixed with sugar syrup.
Plain rice flour mixed with jaggery/ sugar/ coconut packed inside cloth pockets and steamed in an earthenware pot or a kettle set on a hearth.
The name comes from its shape – ghila – which means knee-cap in Assamese. A deep fried pitha made from bora saul and jaggery. Salt can also be used instead of jaggery for a savory variant.
A special pitha made with both xaali saul and bora saul, which are mixed with water and jaggery and churned thoroughly before being placed in a young bamboo hollow corked with banana leaf and roasted in fire. The resulting tube-shaped cake is then cut into pieces and served with hot milk.
Kholasapori Pitha is prepared with plain watery rice flour shallow fried on both faces in just a bit of oil. Goes well with pickle and jaggery.
Fried grated coconut mixed with sugar and shaped into balls is not only savoured during Bihu but also prepared regularly in Assamese households.
Fried sesame seeds (til) mixed with jaggery and shaped into small balls.
Muri or puffed rice bound together with sticky jaggery syrup
Rice flour mixed with jaggery or sugar syrup
Soaked black sesame seeds, bora saul, gram or maah, boot (chana) fried and flavoured with mustard oil, ginger, salt. Laze around by the bonfire with a handful of this crunchy delight and soak up the festive vibes.