Bengali sweets have often found a major following everywhere they go. K C Das canned rosogollas and finding a confectioner who doesn’t sell them even today will be a tough task. The tradition of exchanging sweets during the festival season is indeed a sweet tradition. It serves to remind us that not only is there an unfathomable joy in sharing but also that all that is actually worthwhile in our lives are the sweet moments of togetherness.
For children, these times are made even more memorable by the uninhibited supply of sweets along with an unrestricted access to them. Diwali, to my mind, is one festival that the whole country celebrates with the spirit of unity. The various elements of Diwali — sweets (of course!), bursting crackers, donning your best clothes, rangoli — are much the same from the top of the country to the bottom.
So let us look at the five sweets that add that extra special flavour and sweetness to this festival of lights.
Gajar ka halwa: Doesn’t just the mere name of this particular preparation bring to you a delicate aroma that warms your heart? Prepared with carrots in ghee, milk, sugar or jaggery and an assortment of nuts, nothing can beat the home made gajar ka halwa at being a popular favourite.
Kaaju katli: A rich preparation made with generous amounts of ghee and cashew, the kaaju ki barfi, or kaaju katli as it is also known in some parts of the country, is the lovable diamond shaped barfi that is a sinful indulgence for many. This sweet is also often prepared during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. It is also one of the most expensive barfis available.
Gujiya: Diwali and holi are almost incomplete without a fair amount of gujiya hogging. Why I use the word hogging is because you can rarely stop at eating just one of these. Also known as karanji in the state of Maharashtra, ghughra in Gujarat, karachika in Tamil Nadu or kajjikayi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, gujiya is made of flour and is stuffed with sweetened khoya and nuts or in states like Goa with shredded coconut, nuts and jaggery.
Gulab Jamun: Considered to be a popular Diwali sweet, gulab jamuns are made from khoya or concentrated milk solids, refined wheat flour, sugar, chenna or pressed milk curd, rose water and cardamom. The term gulab jamun originates from the Persian word for the flower rose, gulab — as rosewater syrup is often used in the preparation of this sweet — and jambul fruit. Gulab jamun is also a hot favourite during the Muslim festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The sweet offering holds a special place in the menus of the weddings of almost all regions of India.
Puran Poli: The Mahrashtrian delight that is also famous by the name of obbattu in the state of Karnataka is a flat roti that is stuffed with a sweet filling made of coconut, dry fruits and a pinch of turmeric for extra flavour.
Besides these five delicious sweets, which I have not assembled in any particular order, rosogollas, ladoos, Mysore pak, adhirasam are popular and mouthwatering Diwali mithais which are eaten by one and all.
(This post first appeared as a column in The New Indian Express on November 9, 2012. Here is the link to it: http://newindianexpress.com/education/student/article1333577.ece)