Covid, lockdown and the subsequent curfews have changed the way people live across the globe. Though, initially, it was all horror and scare that permeated our surroundings, the prolonged pandemic forced people to go on with their life.
However, when it came to festivals, people were advised to avoid crowding and the rules were more or less followed in the past two years. But festivals are also the time when an entire family or community come together and celebrate with joy. And sometimes, it is this joy which forces people to crowd places.
But, gradually, as alternate ‘safe’ ways to keep up with the traditions are coming up, people are happily embracing them. The festival of celebrating harvest, Sankranti, is here and people in Bengaluru have found a digital way to distribute the mandatory delicacy – Ellu Bella.
The Ellu Bella and Sakkare Achchu
Ellu-bella translates into sesame and jaggery. A mixture of finely chopped jaggery, copra or dry coconut, finely roasted and peeled groundnut, roasted gram and white sesame, it is a very special delicacy that is prepared for Sankranti in Karnataka and few other parts of Southern India. All the ingredients are sun dried to increase their shelf life. Families painstakingly prepare them days before the festival. Another sugar candy in various shapes of fruits, flowers, animals, birds and every form named ‘Sakkare Achchu’ (Sugar mould) is also prepared for Sankranti.
Every Kannadiga household prepares Ellu-bella and Sakkare Achchu to not just for themselves but to distribute amongst friends, family and neighbors. It’s an act of bonding over sweets. A small piece of sugarcane and a banana with small pouches or boxes filled with Ellu-bella and a piece of Sakkare Achchu is distributed among people.
Little girls and boys, decked up in traditional attire, holding baskets filled with packets of these things and visiting every home they know, is a very common sight in several parts of Karnataka. These kids come back with their basket full even after distributing all that their mother packed and sent because the house they visit would return the favour.
Many families celebrate Sankranti on 15th January, which is Saturday. In Bengaluru, with the weekend curfew is still on, stepping out of one’s house is a complete no this time around.
Online stores to the rescue
Few places that sell homemade Ellu Bella and Sakkare Achchu have turned themselves into distributing agents as well. Kalpavruksha organics in Vidyaranyapura, Bengaluru, began their services last year when the second wave hit. Say, you want to distribute Ellu Bella to 10 friends who live in different parts of Bengaluru, you will have to place order of your desired quantity of each delicacy and provide the address on call. Make your payments through UPI and the neatly packed Ellu Bella reaches your friend’s place via various delivery partners.
Just like how online weddings have become normal, this new facility has become an instant hit with people who don’t want to let go of the traditions. Half a kg of this delicacy costs Rs 150 and the store has already sent across more than 100 kgs until now. There are last minute bookings happening as well.
“We started this last year since we could see how much people missed celebrating Sankranti and distributing Ellu Bella. This became an instant hit and we were sold out in no time. This year we have prepared more quantities compared to last year and looking at the speed of orders, we might just be sold out soon” said Vani Anand, owner, Kalpavruksha Organics.
“I was wondering how to send the Sankranti delicacies to my relatives. I never miss visiting them on festival. Though we all stay in Bengaluru, Covid scenario has made it completely unsafe for us to visit each other. When I learnt about this online Ellu Bella distribution thing, I jumped for the offer. My relatives have already received the package and all are happy that they can enjoy just like earlier time. We have all planned to connect on video call on festival day and hog on to the sweets just like earlier times, together” said Meghana Rohith, a software engineer.
Celebration and togetherness is something all festivals teach. With changing times, newer methods have encouraged people to go with the flow and hold to that thread of tradition in whichever way possible.