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

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 youngsters of the spouse and children, telling them to “take this tilgul sweet, and talk as sweetly.” This was her very first Sankranti festival celebration following relationship. The white beads she wore, while, weren’t pearls. As a substitute, the little spiked spheres threaded all around her neck were being the same candies that she passed out to her spouse and children.

Tilgul are similar to the sugar balls that are normally distributed in temples all-around the calendar year all throughout the nation. But in the western Indian condition of Maharashtra, they are also utilised to put together distinctive jewelry. Halwa dagine is commonly worn by newlyweds to rejoice their extremely initially Sankranti pageant as a couple, and by newborns on their first Sankranti after start. Pregnant gals also occasionally indulge in the jewellery for their baby showers.

Sankranti is celebrated in January all across India, marking the northward movement of the sunlight and the begin of harvest year. Sweets built with sesame seed and jaggery are frequent. Due to the fact Sankranti is a pageant of abundance, Maharashtra’s halwa dagine symbolizes the wearer’s hope for long term blessings.

In olden days, the women of each and every home produced the beads for halwa dagine at property, if possible in the early mornings before the working day turned warmer. The cooler temperature permitted the spikes to form on the surface of each individual candy. My mother, Asha Bhagwat, a septuagenarian gynecologist, fondly remembers her mother-in-legislation producing halwa. “Then we knotted and strung the beads to make jewellery for me,” she states. “As a child, I also observed my aunt put on halwa dagine all through her being pregnant.”

In her working day, preparations for the festivities started out perfectly right before January. All girls of the house gathered to make ornaments like bangles, necklaces, waistbands, and armlets.

The system is straightforward but time-consuming. Cooks pour spoonfuls of sugar syrup above sesame seeds in a large-bottomed pan on low heat. The coated seeds are vigorously stirred to keep them separate. According to my mom, it can take five to 7 times to make a bead. “The upcoming layer of sugar syrup can only be included after the past a person hardens,” she points out. It takes a cup of sugar to address just two tablespoons of sesame seeds. For bigger beads, females utilised sago pearls or pumpkin seeds as a substitute of sesame.

A set of halwa dagine, ready to wear.
A set of halwa dagine, prepared to wear. Dinodia Photos / Alamy

Then, the women of all ages would thoroughly retail outlet concluded halwa beads absent from dampness to keep them from softening. Due to the fact the beads deficiency a gap for string, these artisans patiently knotted them with thread into intricate layouts.

The process of building halwa beads is comparable to how Portuguese confeito and Japanese konpeito confections are produced. Konpeito are standard gifts for weddings and childbirths, and confeito almonds are also distributed throughout baptism and marriage celebrations in quite a few European international locations. Nonetheless, sugar-ball jewellery is a uniquely Marathi custom.

Sugar sweets day back again to historical India. With sugarcane a native crop of the subcontinent, Indians started out generating sugar, identified as sakkara in Sanskrit, as early as the 5th century. The technique of earning crystallized sugar was called khanda. The English phrase “candy,” in reality, is derived from the Sanskrit khanda.

Sakkara soon travelled as a luxury commodity by using trade routes to the rest of the earth, turning out to be shakkar in Persian, sucre in French and, later on, sugar in English. But whilst the heritage of crystallized sugar is traceable, it is unclear when sugar balls commenced to be used for jewelry in western India. Some historians believe that they may perhaps have been a stand-in for a lot more expensive pearls, but their accurate origin is mysterious.

In this vintage photo, Asha and Sudhir Bhagwat wear halwa dagine for Sankranti.
In this vintage image, Asha and Sudhir Bhagwat use halwa dagine for Sankranti. Shoma Abhyankar

In accordance to meals historian Dr. Mohsina Mukadam, “the custom of producing halwa jewellery is undocumented.” Mukadam has only been capable to follow the tradition of earning halwa jewellery back a century, however it may perhaps be older. “If recollections of 75-year-previous elders from various people are to be believed, then the tradition goes back again to the prior two generations at least,” she states.

Currently, the art is slowly and gradually disappearing from properties, though some girls nevertheless make sugar ornaments them selves. Pushpa Date of Indore City is a smaller-scale entrepreneur who results in tailored halwa jewellery, this kind of as necklaces, bangles and amulets. The demand from customers comes primarily from families in her community. “I designed the beads at house till some time in the past,” she claims. “But now, with my increasing age, I at times purchase the halwa to make jewellery to order.”

In modern times, couple have the patience, time, or the inclination to make possibly halwa beads or the jewelry. Some professional institutions have recognized the want for halwa dagine and stepped up to give a assortment of ornaments and styles. Sonia Patankar, operator of Pune’s well known 50-year-old snack and sweet small business Khauwale Patankar, began providing halwa dagine in the 1990s right after looking at her mom-in-law’s skill in the art of sugar jewellery. Patankar employs neighborhood girls to put together halwa three to 4 months prior to January and sells jewellery for the two females and guys to don from head to toe. A set, which might incorporate a tiara, necklace, nose pin, hair elaborations, waistbands, bangles, toe rings and much more, generally prices 2,500 to 3,000 rupees, or close to 35 to 40 US bucks.

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

The Patankar loved ones also questioned their buyers to send in pictures of household customers decked out in their sweet jewellery. The reaction proved to be far more than enthusiastic. “One of our prospects sent a picture of their daughter-in-legislation, a Japanese female, dressed up in typical Maharashtrian attire full with halwa jewelry,” suggests Patankar.

These times, the basic jewellery of yore looks very diverse. Primarily, it is been streamlined for comfort. Elaborate parts aren’t uncomplicated to make, in numerous conditions having time and fantastic skill to knot the beads with each other. Some of the commercially offered jewellery is produced by sticking halwa beads on models minimize out of cardboard or versatile foam sheets.

But even in this sort, halwa dagine continues to be a treasured component of a special vacation. If stored thoroughly, the ornaments can very last extensive ample to be passed from sibling to sibling as they marry. But for individuals unwilling to go to the difficulties of packing the beads away, the attractive jewelry can constantly be dismantled and eaten with gusto.

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