Today various parts of India are celebrating Uttarayana or Makar Sankranti or Lohri or Pongal.
Makar Sankranti (also known as Makara Sankranti or Maghi) refers both to a specific solar day in the Hindu calendar and an Indian festival in reference to deity Surya (sun) that is observed in January every year on this day. It marks the first day of sun’s transit into the Makara (Capricorn), marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days. (Wikipedia)
In Uttar Pradesh, Sankranti is called ‘Khichiri’. Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious. A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar.
In Bengal every year a very big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath. In Maharashtra, on the Sankranti day, people exchange multi-colored til guds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery.
In Gujarat, there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event.(1)
Eating Chikki in India especially in Western and northern parts during this festival is a tradition, rather a healthy tradition.
Chikki is mainly made up of jaggery (also known as Gur, Gud, Guda) and groundnut. However, there are many variants which include but not limited to, til (sesame) cashew nut, coconut, dry fruit, mumra.
Today we are discussing the common ingredient Jaggery which is a healthier sugar substitute. Winter is the time to eat sweets made up of ghee and jaggery.
Jaggery is made from the juice of sugarcane, which is heated to produce thick crystals. It contains sugar in sucrose form and is used in many food products as a sweetening agent. For the curious souls, here is a video on how to make Jaggery.
Nutrition Value of Jaggery:
In 10 grams of Jaggery, we could found 38.3 calories, 0.4 grams of moisture, 9.8 grams of carbohydrate and 9.7 grams of sugars. It also contains 7.54% of carbohydrate, 3.81% of magnesium, 3.75% of iron, 0.80% of calcium, 0.57% of phosphorus, 0.43% of manganese, 0.31% of Vitamin B6, 0.28% of potassium, 0.22% of selenium, 0.20% of sodium, 0.20% of Vitamin B5, 0.07% of niacin, 0.04% of choline and 0.03% of protein. (2)
Also read: Ghee for good health – An eye-opener.
Ayurveda and Jaggery:
According to APFPEDA, India, Jaggery is popularly known as the “medicinal sugar” and is nutritionally comparable with honey. It has been used as a sweetener in Ayurvedic Medicine for 3000 years. Indian Ayurvedic medicine considers jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections. While refined sugar mainly consists of glucose and fructose, jaggery contains glucose and sucrose. But jaggery also has minerals and vitamins which lacks in the refined sugar.
The mineral content of jaggery includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron and traces of zinc and copper. The vitamin content includes folic acid and B-complex vitamins. Thus, other than that it is a good source of energy, it also prevents rheumatic afflictions; prevents disorders of bile; helps in relieving fatigue, relaxation of muscles, nerves and blood vessels; maintains blood pressure and reduces water retention; increases hemoglobin level and prevents anemia
According to Indian Ayurveda texts like Charaka Samhita, Nighantu and Sushrut Samhita there are enormous health benefits of jaggery.
- Cleanse bladder and good for urinary tract disease
- Purified blood, cleanse the respiratory tract, liver, and lungs.
- Balances Vata
- Decrease Pitta. Jains drink Jaggery water (Gud sharbat) to break their fasting. This has a cooling effect on the stomach. Relieve excess heat in the body.
- Cleanse stomach, good for digestive system, relieve constipation. Eating small quantity of jaggery after lunch is considered healthy for digestion.
- Loaded with antioxidant, jaggery is good in treating anemia, detoxify the body
- Increase qualities of marrow.
- Increases fat and muscles.
- Good for heart, Considered cardiac tonic.
- Promotes tastes and good for digestion.
- Magnesium content in Jaggery helps in intestine health.
Eat pure jaggery in moderate quantity to reap the benefits. Sesame (til), Groundnut/peanut and dry fruits all are healthy food. Jaggery Chikkis made of these are healthy food option specialty during the winter. Jaggery Chikkis are a better substitute for the chocolate bar throughout the year.
Eat jaggery Chikki during Makar-Sankranti and enjoy the festival.
Wishing all our readers the seasons’ greetings for the festivals.
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