Ghughutiya ‘The Mouth-Watering Festival of Kumaon’

Makar Sankranti or Ghughutiya festival is celebrated with great gusto in the entire Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. This joyful festival falls on January 15 of each year. Though Makar Sankranti is observed by flying kites, taking a holy dip and donating and eating khichdi (a mixture of rice and lentils cooked together) but Uttarakhand has its unique way of celebrating the fest. This auspicious festival celebrates the welcoming of birds from winter migration. Uttarayani, which marks the beginning of the northward journey of the sun is noted as the returning period of the migratory birds to the distant hills of Uttarakhand.

To celebrate the festival with fervor and gaiety, the locals prepare deep-fried sweets called ghughute from sweetened flour and jaggery that are shaped like drums, pomegranates, knives, and swords. These sweets are then tied into a string and are garlanded around the children’s neck. The children adorn these necklaces and in order to attract the ‘kale kauve’ or the black crows, they chant “Kale kauwa kale, ghughuti mala khale” (O black crow, eat this garland made out of ghughute), offering them the sweets from their garland and seeking blessings from them. After sharing the sweets with the crows the children munch the leftover from the garland.
If you have ever celebrated this festival during your childhood then you must have remembered these lines-
काले कव्वे काले, घुगुती माला खा ले |
Black crow (a symbol of ancestors/god) come, eat this garland of ‘ghughut’…

काले कव्वे आ, लगड़ बड़ा खा |
Black crow come, eat ‘lagad‘ (poori the puffed Indian flat bread)’ and ‘badaa‘ (Urad daal i.e. Lentils balls deep fried in oil)…

काले कौवा का का, पुसे रोटी माघै खा|
Black crow come, eat ‘Paush‘ month (January) ‘Roti‘ (flat bread) in ‘Maagh‘ (February). (Paush & Maagh are Hindu calendar months; this is symbolically requesting the ancestors to come and eat what couldn’t be offered to them when they were alive i.e. during their life)

ले कव्वा बड़ो, मैं कें दे सुनाक घड़ो |
Crow take this lentil ball & give me a gold pitcher (blessings)…

ले कव्वा ढाल, मैं कें दे सुनाक थाल |
Crow take this shield (made of kneaded flour) & give me a gold plate (blessings)…

ले कव्वा तलवार, मैं कें दे ठुलो घरबार |
Crow take this sword (made of kneaded flour) & give me prosperity (blessings)…

There is a local legend associated with the celebration of this festival which states that once upon a time there was a king who had a minister called Ghughutiya. The minister who was shrewd by nature conspired to murder the king and take control over his possession. But while executing his treacherous plan the evil minister failed miserably as a crow warned the king about his ill intentions thereby, gifting him the boon of life. After which the king punished the minister and asked the entire kingdom to prepare sweetmeats and delicacies to offer to the crow in respect of the aid he has given to him. Since then Ghughuti is celebrated with great joy. The locals believe that the offerings to the crows are done in order to pay homage to the departed souls of the ancestors. After feeding the sweets to the crows, the children happily show their garlands to each other and wear it around their necks, munching each bit happily the entire day. The thread of Ghughta garland is made from the Bheemal or Bhikua tree. The branches of the Bheemal tree are kept in the water and a soft thread called ‘Lwhaita’ is prepared ou of it. This thread is also used for making a mala called Lwhaita.