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Punjab’s Ultimate Festival Food Guide

Punjab, a city of Gurdwaras and Temples is well known for hosting various festivals in its own peculiar way. May it be Lohri, Baisakhi, Vasant Panchami, Diwali or Bhai Dooj, every festival is celebrated with great zeal and zest in the city. A new excitement floods the city and its people in these colors of festivals. Since the city is famous as the Culinary Capital of Punjab, it occupies a special position when it comes to the season of festivities. Just like each festival has its own rituals and traditions to follow similarly, it has some peculiar food choices which are associated with the same. When the aromatic flavors fuse with the essence of culture, you know it’s time to slip into a festive mood once again! Let’s take a quick review of such foods that engulf the city and the taste buds of its residents and guests on a whole.

1. Lohri Festival

Regarded as the first festival of the year, Lohri is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the state. This bonfire festival is celebrated with great pomp; though it is typical to Punjabis, Lohri is celebrated across the country with great fervor and bears a message that is universal in every sense. Since the festival comes at a peak winter season, so all the delicacies related to it are either made of dry-fruits or certain things that are regarded as suitable for the weather. Being well-known as the harvest festival of India, so items like Sesame seeds, jaggery, radish, mustard, and spinach are also harvested, so they became the primary attractions of the festivity. 

A dessert made of jaggery and sesame seeds

In this season, the amount of vata (air) and Kapha (ether) increases in the body due to severe and harsh cold, so people were recommended by the Ayurvedic Shastras to consume items made of sesame and jaggery to keep their body warmer and brace the cold winter.  People make sweets called revari and gajak, and staples such as Sarso ka Saag with Makki ki roti. Radish is one of the attractions of the feast and is also included in it. Other food items that are peculiar to the festival are Sesame seeds, ghee, khoya, and sugar are all that you need to create some delightful magic in making desserts and other sweet dishes of the season. Falling on January 13 the city is gilded with all the decorative materials and food items.

2. Makara Sankranti

It’s time to adorn the sky with colorful kites in vibrant hues of pink, yellow and red. It’s time to bid goodbye to bone-chilling wintery days and welcome the warmer days that are to come. Regarded as one of the biggest festivals of the country, Makar Sankranti is celebrated across the country, with several local and region-specific traditions of course. Like all Indian festivals, food plays a major role in Makar Sankranti festivities as well. From ghee-laden desserts like chikki and gajak to toothsome savories like khichdi, the eclectic range of Makar Sankranti delicacies is a foodie’s dream come true.

Laddoos made of sesame are peculiar to the festival

The most favorite is Till Laddoo – Sesame laddoo and Pinni. Oodles of ghee, wheat flour, jaggery and almonds, pinni is one indulgent winter treat from Punjab, which is prepared widely during Lohri and Sankranti celebrations. This bite-sized sweetmeat is so densely packed with ghee and nuts that it is also traditionally known to offer protection from various winter-related ailments.

3. Vasanta Panchami

Meethe Chawal is prepared in Punjabi households on certain special occasions, however, the ‘Meethe Chawal’ prepared on Basant Panchami are quite special. Known as a yellow-color festival, where the color yellow that signifies the happy and cheerful moods is flaunted by everyone to portray the happiness of within. Also referred to as the color of prosperity, light, energy, and optimism, children are introduced to reading and writing on this auspicious day. It is considered as a blessed beginning of learning with the goddess of knowledge and wisdom- Saraswati. The traditional delicacies that are prepared on this auspicious occasion are also quite delicious and healthy as well.

Rice pudding adding a flavor to the festive season

Some sweet rice, semolina, and milk-based sweet dish normally called sheera loaded with chunky nuts like almonds and cashews and flavored with an aromatic tinge of saffron and cardamom. Boondi laddoo, Motichoor Laddoo, and Rajbhog are some of the traditional food items related to the festival. One thing which is most peculiar to the food items even is the uniformity of the color.

4. Maha Shivratri

Falling in the Hindu month of Phagun, Maha Shivratri literally means “Great Night of Shiva”. This is the time when people around the country are gearing to please their beloved deity Lord Shiva and seek his divine blessings. Celebrated with great fervor throughout the night the festival marks a special characteristic of fasting for the entire night or the Maha Shivaratri Vrat. Devotees observe the Mahashivratri Vrat and mark their devotion for their beloved deity.

Fruits are the important part of the festival

There are several who opt for the ‘nirjala’ vrat, i.e where people consume no water or food throughout the day. However, not many can pull off this tough form of fasting, hence the majority of the devotees observe a fast where they can have potatoes, fruits, milk and certain vegetables and non-grain items and the different foods made of it make the festival unique in itself.

5. Holi

Truly called a colorful festival or the festival of colors, of smearing each other in bright hues, it is marked as one of the happiest festivals where people mingle with each other. They put colors on each other, have parties with their families and friends and enjoy the time being among every age-group. This year celebrated on March 10, 2020, the most favorite foods of the festival are also very simple. Kheer Sandesh, malpua, gujiya, ras malai, etc. or introduce some original fusion food that can awaken the festive flavor of the people more.

Synonymous to the festive mood – Bhaang Pakodas

This festival of colors is a fun event where people like to relax and rejoice. For this one thing that goes synonymous with the Holi festival is the Bhaang Laddoos. Eating this is also considered auspicious in some parts of the country. Ayurveda describes this herb beneficial for releasing anxiety. With so many specialties you can’t miss out on this traditional holi food. Enlist Bhaang laddoos in your food menu and just witness the increase in the rush.

6. Baisakhi

Celebrated on the first day of the ‘Baisakh,’ which happens to be the first month of the Hindu calendar. This day is observed as a thanksgiving day by the farming community. Punjabis around the country are celebrating Baisakhi on 13th April 2020. Baisakhi also holds great significance for the Sikh community. It was on this auspicious day that Guru Gobind Singh ji initiated Khalsa at Kesgarh in Anandpur Sahib in the year 1699.

With a tinge of gold and yellow color is the food of the festival

As the color yellow represents joy and bounty, people dress up in vibrant hues of yellow and orange to celebrate the spirit of rebirth. Not just the clothes and motifs, people also like to add a tinge of gold and yellow in some of their foods. Meethey chawal, kheer, kadhi are specially prepared to keep up with the spirit. As it is the case with any Indian festival, food forms an iconic part of Baisakhi celebrations. Punjabi delicacies like Sarson da saag, chhole bhature, Pindi chane, achari mutton also make it to a traditional Baisakhi feast.

7. Rakhi – Rakshabandhan

The festival is a celebration of the everlasting bond of affection and love between brothers and sisters. The brothers take a vow to protect their sisters from all the evils and sisters, in turn, tie a beaded-thread on their wrist that is believed to be a sacred thread and a protector from all the evil eyes. Married or unmarried, a sister invites her brother for a feast and prepares his favorite dishes, especially sweets. Though there is no specific menu as such for the rakhi festival, brother’s and sister’s favorite dishes are prepared.

Kaju Katli – yummy and tempting

Here sisters prepare all the favorite dishes of their brother and some of them are Carrot pudding, Indian Cashewnut fudge – Kaju katli, besan laddoo, besan burfi, rice pudding, etc. Basically things made up of pure ghee, dry fruits, gram flour, milk, and butter are preferred for the festival.

8. Krishna Janmashtami

The festival is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. since Lord Krishna’s birth has a lot of importance and significance according to Hindu Mythology, the festival is made with great pomp and show. it is said that he was fond of the delicacy, that he would often steal it from the Gopis. Well, this is the reason that Dairy specialties are considered so auspicious when it comes to Janmashtami Food Items. Peda, Makhan Mishri, and Panjeeri are made on the occasion to please the Lord almighty in almost all households.

Different food items on the occasion of Janmashtmi

A special kind of charnamrit made of water, sugar, buttermilk garnished with pistachios and serve ice cold during this festival. Along with this Makhan Mishri – butter mixed in crystallized sugar lumps, milk and honey, Coconut laddoo, Shrikhand, yellow sweet rice, rice pudding, semolina pudding and various types of fruits are the highlights of the festival.

9. Dussehra

Dussehra marks the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana in the Indian epic The Ramayana. It is also known as Vijayadashami, the tenth day of Durga Puja, celebrated as a victory of Goddess Durga over the invincible demon Mahisasura. To commemorate this day, many Hindus across the country prepare scrumptious meals and get together with family and friends and feast after a nine-day long fast. Apart from this, they also burn Ravana idols in order to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Various delicacies of the festival

Since the festival does not have a peculiar kind of food item related to it so dishes made up of lentils, cheese, chickpea, lots of vegetables, and pure ghee are made and enjoyed. For desserts, the use of cinnamon is a must in the recipe along with khoya – a form of milk and cheese, coconut and semolina puddings are made and served. The festival marks the start of Diwali season in Punjab.

10. Diwali – The biggest Festival Of India

Diwali is a five-day celebration that occurs in autumn each year, following the cycle of the moon, in either October or November. India’s Diwali is one of the most interesting and beautiful festivals in the world. The ‘Festival of Lights’ was traditionally a Hindu celebration but is now one that is also celebrated by Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, particularly celebrated in India and Nepal. It is known for the amazing range of candles and lamps, illuminating cities during the festival. Along with the wonderful festivities, there is a delicious traditional Diwali festival food. If you are lucky enough to participate in Diwali you can’t miss these eats.

Variety of sweets on Diwali

Amazing delicacies surround the city like sweets of all kinds like laddoos, barfi in different colors and forms are available in the market. Various vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is available at all the specific eating joints of the city. Hotels and restaurants add-on dishes to their menu list. Snacks and desserts of all kinds are served to bring more happiness and glory in the festival.

11. Christmas

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Indian people cook a variety of foods, including Biryani with chicken or mutton, chicken and mutton curry, followed by cake or sweets like Kheer. Long established Christian communities such as Goan Catholics have pork dishes and beef dishes as part of the main course of their Christmas dinner. The festival is celebrated with great zeal and zest in the places of Christian communities like Kerala and Goa where people actually go from one home to another to celebrate and dance with their family and friends. In Punjab, since the community is not very large still we can see the state mingling in the festival with its pure spirit and a lavish buffet of cakes, puddings, and pastries making big rounds in the market. Nowadays, various hotels and bakeries serve the special plum cake made of rum and various nuts.

Thus in a place or a city which is well known for foodies, you will find a lavish menu for every occasion, every celebration and every festival. Afterall nobody else but “food has the power to bring us all together”.