In India, a Sweet Custom Calls for Head-To-Toe Sugar Jewellery

Decked out in a black silk saree and pearly white beads, my neighbor’s daughter Medha handed out tilgul and sought blessings from the elders. “Tilgul ghya goad goad bola,” she recurring to the children of the household, telling them to “take this tilgul sweet, and communicate as sweetly.” This was her initially Sankranti pageant celebration just after relationship. The white beads she wore, nevertheless, weren’t pearls. Alternatively, the little spiked spheres threaded all over her neck were the identical candies that she passed out to her spouse and children.

Tilgul are very similar to the sugar balls that are normally dispersed in temples all-around the year all across the country. But in the western Indian condition of Maharashtra, they are also applied to put together specific jewellery. Halwa dagine is generally worn by newlyweds to rejoice their incredibly 1st Sankranti competition as a pair, and by newborns on their initial Sankranti just after start. Pregnant females also sometimes indulge in the jewelry for their little one showers.

Sankranti is celebrated in January all across India, marking the northward motion of the solar and the get started of harvest time. Sweets made with sesame seed and jaggery are prevalent. Since Sankranti is a pageant of abundance, Maharashtra’s halwa dagine symbolizes the wearer’s hope for upcoming blessings.

In olden days, the females of each house built the beads for halwa dagine at house, if possible in the early mornings prior to the day turned hotter. The cooler temperature allowed the spikes to kind on the surface area of each candy. My mom, Asha Bhagwat, a septuagenarian gynecologist, fondly remembers her mom-in-legislation creating halwa. “Then we knotted and strung the beads to make jewellery for me,” she suggests. “As a kid, I also noticed my aunt dress in halwa dagine throughout her pregnancy.”

In her day, preparations for the festivities commenced well in advance of January. All gals of the house gathered to make ornaments like bangles, necklaces, waistbands, and armlets.

The course of action is easy but time-consuming. Cooks pour spoonfuls of sugar syrup above sesame seeds in a weighty-bottomed pan on very low heat. The coated seeds are vigorously stirred to preserve them independent. According to my mom, it usually takes five to seven times to make a bead. “The upcoming layer of sugar syrup can only be added after the preceding a single hardens,” she explains. It requires a cup of sugar to include just two tablespoons of sesame seeds. For larger sized beads, ladies used sago pearls or pumpkin seeds instead of sesame.

A set of halwa dagine, ready to wear.
A set of halwa dagine, ready to dress in. Dinodia Pictures / Alamy Stock Picture

Then, the girls would very carefully keep concluded halwa beads away from moisture to keep them from softening. Considering the fact that the beads lack a hole for string, these artisans patiently knotted them with thread into intricate models.

The method of producing halwa beads is similar to how Portuguese confeito and Japanese konpeito confections are created. Konpeito are classic gifts for weddings and childbirths, and confeito almonds are also distributed all through baptism and marriage celebrations in quite a few European nations around the world. Having said that, sugar-ball jewelry is a uniquely Marathi tradition.

Sugar sweets day back to historic India. With sugarcane a native crop of the subcontinent, Indians commenced building sugar, recognised as sakkara in Sanskrit, as early as the 5th century. The approach of earning crystallized sugar was referred to as khanda. The English term “candy,” in reality, is derived from the Sanskrit khanda.

Sakkara before long travelled as a luxury commodity by way of trade routes to the relaxation of the entire world, becoming shakkar in Persian, sucre in French and, afterwards, sugar in English. But even though the record of crystallized sugar is traceable, it is unclear when sugar balls began to be used for jewellery in western India. Some historians consider that they might have been a stand-in for far more pricey pearls, but their correct origin is unknown.

In this vintage photo, Asha and Sudhir Bhagwat wear halwa dagine for Sankranti.
In this vintage picture, Asha and Sudhir Bhagwat dress in halwa dagine for Sankranti. Shoma Abhyankar

According to foods historian Dr. Mohsina Mukadam, “the tradition of making halwa jewelry is undocumented.” Mukadam has only been able to abide by the tradition of earning halwa jewelry back a century, while it may perhaps be older. “If recollections of 75-12 months-outdated elders from different households are to be thought, then the custom goes back to the earlier two generations at the very least,” she suggests.

Currently, the art is slowly and gradually disappearing from households, although some girls however make sugar ornaments by themselves. Pushpa Date of Indore City is a smaller-scale entrepreneur who generates custom made halwa jewelry, these as necklaces, bangles and amulets. The need arrives largely from people in her community. “I created the beads at house until eventually some time in the past,” she says. “But now, with my growing age, I sometimes purchase the halwa to make jewellery to order.”

In modern day instances, couple have the persistence, time, or the inclination to make either halwa beads or the jewellery. Some professional establishments have recognized the will need for halwa dagine and stepped up to give a wide range of ornaments and layouts. Sonia Patankar, proprietor of Pune’s renowned 50-calendar year-outdated snack and sweet company Khauwale Patankar, commenced promoting halwa dagine in the 1990s following looking at her mom-in-law’s skill in the artwork of sugar jewelry. Patankar employs nearby females to get ready halwa 3 to 4 months right before January and sells jewelry for the two women of all ages and guys to don from head to toe. A set, which may possibly involve a tiara, necklace, nose pin, hair embellishments, waistbands, bangles, toe rings and more, ordinarily expenditures 2,500 to 3,000 rupees, or all over 35 to 40 US bucks.

This modern take on halwa dagine is glued to paper.
This contemporary just take on halwa dagine is glued to paper. supriya.30/Shutterstock

The Patankar relatives also asked their shoppers to send out in images of relatives associates decked out in their sweet jewellery. The reaction proved to be more than enthusiastic. “One of our prospects despatched a photograph of their daughter-in-regulation, a Japanese girl, dressed up in normal Maharashtrian apparel complete with halwa jewelry,” states Patankar.

These days, the easy jewellery of yore appears to be like pretty distinctive. Largely, it’s been streamlined for advantage. Elaborate parts aren’t quick to make, in numerous conditions getting time and terrific talent to knot the beads collectively. Some of the commercially accessible jewelry is made by sticking halwa beads on layouts slice out of cardboard or flexible foam sheets.

But even in this sort, halwa dagine remains a treasured portion of a unique holiday getaway. If saved correctly, the ornaments can last prolonged adequate to be handed from sibling to sibling as they marry. But for those people unwilling to go to the problems of packing the beads away, the attractive jewellery can often be dismantled and eaten with gusto.

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