A Haldi Kumkum Celebration & Recipe for Til Laddus

The artisans at SHARE celebrated Makarsankranti, the winter solstice, on 15th January 2010. We decided to celebrate by having a Haldi (turmeric) Kumkum party. It was really just an excuse to get together and have some fun. The student social workers from SNDT College, who are working with SHARE as part of their college field work, organized the party and came up with lots of fun games for everyone.

Kumkum is a red powder made from either turmeric or saffron (with a bit of slaked lime which makes it red) and is used by Hindus for auspicious decorative or religious markings.  Married women in all parts of India will apply red kumkum every morning. A woman will put it along her hair part or as a dot on the forehead for what is called in Hindi sindoor.  Worshippers, including men, women, and children, also apply a dot on the forehead when visiting a temple or performing a puja, or worship ceremony. A hostess may offer kumkum to women guests when they are leaving, a gracious and respectful act.

Haldi Kumkum celebrations developed as women-only parties, without any serious religious or historical significance. Women organize these get-togethers mainly for fun and relaxation. Such parties do, however, go back hundreds of years. Palaces in Maharashtra during the 17 th and 18 th Centuries were built to include areas dedicated to these celebrations, with stone troughs built to hold the kumkum powders.

At 2:00 pm forty women and the SHARE staff gathered at Hanuman Tekri, which is our community centre right in the middle of the Golibar Slum community where the SHARE office is located. All the women dressed up in their good sarees and were welcomed with a dot of kumkum on their forehead.

Special sweets (til gud laddus, or sesame seed balls) were prepared as they are an important ingredient of any Makarsankranti celebration.

The women participated with enthusiasm in all the different games that were planned. We had a paper dress pattern making competition, and the winners were very happy to have their artwork appreciated. In the paper dancing game, the women got together in pairs and tried their best to balance on a small piece of paper. The best dancers were awarded small boxes in which to keep their kumkum.

It was a day to remember…
-Nooreen Dossa, Assistant Director of SHARE, Mumbai

Recipe For Til Laddus or Sesame Balls

Ingredients:
1 cup Til (Sesame seeds)
2 cups Jaggery (Palm sugar)*
1/2 cup Peanuts, raw and unsalted (or unsalted dry roasted)
4 tsp Ghee (Clarified butter)*
1/2 cup Water

* Jaggery or gur can be found at Indian groceries. Brown sugar may be used as a substitute, but it will not taste quite the same.

* Ghee, Indian-style clarified butter, can be bought at Indian markets. Or you can make your own with the recipe below. Or you can substitute regular unsalted butter.

Preparation of Laddus:

  1. Roast the til in a dry pan until it turns slightly brown. Remove from the pan. Using the same pan, dry roast the peanuts. (If you are using store-bought dry-roasted peanuts, skip this step.)
  1. Make a powder of both ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  1. Heat a medium-sized sauce pan until hot.
  1. Put jaggery and water into the hot sauce pan and stir until it is all melted.
  1. Now add ghee and the sesame-peanut powder. Mix well.
  1. Using greased palms, roll the mixture immediately into 1-inch-sized balls.
  1. Til laddus are ready.

Preparation of Ghee:
Put unsalted butter into a heavy saucepan over very low heat. When the butter has melted, skim off and discard the foam from the top. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the milk solids to settle on the bottom. Leaving the deposit at the bottom, pour the clear yellow liquid carefully through cheesecloth into another pan. Reheat the clarified butter and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes to develop a slightly nutty flavor.

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