Gujiya and Thandai : The unbeatable flavours of Holi

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Gujiya and Thandai are the heart & soul of Holi. Since it is a festival of colours as well as flavours. Apart from the vibrant colours flung into the air, white kurtas become canvases for splashes of coloured water and fistfuls of bright-hued powder. Several delicacies are prepared in the Indian kitchen during the celebration of colours. But Holi is complete with Gujiyas and Thandai; we cannot imagine Holi without them. 

Gujiya and Thandai : The unbeatable flavours of Holi

Whenever I think about Holi, the first delicacy that comes to mind is Gujiya – one of the famous and traditional North Indians. A crisp, flaky pastry filled with sweet khoya (evaporated milk solids) and dry fruit stuffing. It is just so yummy! And a Thandai made with a mix of nuts like almonds & cashew, fragrant spices like poppy seeds, fennel, pepper and cardamom with milk and sugar. And, of course, often laced with bhang- for a signature kick. Moreover, Thandai is the season’s flavour whenever you think of Holi.

Gujiya and Thandai : The unbeatable flavours of Holi
Gujiya & Thandai

However, all this sweetness may not result from one person’s creativity, as historians suggest a Turkish connection to the delicacy that Indians have relished for ages. It dates back to the 13th century when a layered, buttery, flaky dessert soaked in honey and sugar was made. This puff pastry is filled with tender pistachios stuffed between layers of dough, known as Turkey’s Baklava. Moreover, the Turks considered Baklava a dessert for the wealthy, and the Sultan considered it a special gift.

Gujiya and Thandai : The unbeatable flavours of Holi
Flaky Gujiya

On the other hand, some say it is one of the offshoots of sambuca, which gave us samosa; it reached India through the Middle East. However, it continues further. An indigenous concept from Bundelkhand that dates back to the 17th century, yet another philosophy claims it to be a modern interpretation of the ancient apupa (rice cake), giving the similarity in the frying process and use of sweet thus making it a sweet of the Sangam period.

Making in process

All the above theories ring true if I look at the Gujiya, moon-shaped, deep-fried delicacies with sweet stuffing. Much like the sambuca, Gujiya, too, is a deep friend with stuffing inside. Although, the benchmark of a well-done Gujiya is the flaky pastry or covering. This little fact has also linked this Holi essential to Turkish Baklava. Pinning where Gujiya originated is as easy as finding that one theory that dominates the rest.

Moon Shaped Gujiyas

Now if we talk about Thandai, the second most crucial flavour of Holi, it dates back to 1000 BC, making it one of the oldest drinks in the country, if not the world. During these months, the temperature gets relatively high in the country’s northern states. Hence, to soothe one’s body temperature while playing in March heat, bhang is sometimes added to drinks like Thandai. The human immune system is believed to weaken during such seasonal transition periods. Not only does Thandai have fewer calories than regular milkshakes, but it’s also a healthier option for alcohol. It helps cool the body and improves gut health in general.

Gujiya and Thandai : The unbeatable flavours of Holi
Holi Thandai

Moreover, mythologically its believed that Lord Shiva consumed bhang to deepen his inner focus and use his divine powers to better the world. Cannabis also finds a place in the Hindu text Atharva Veda, where it is named one of the five most sacred plants on earth and referred to as a ‘liberator’.

In the process of making Thandai

Therefore if Thandai is the soul of Holi, then the crispy, mouth-watering Gujiya is considered the heart of it. And for food lovers across the country, this combination is nothing short of a divine union. And why not? No Holi celebration is complete without gulping down a few of these delightfully sweet fried dumplings called Gujiyas and finishing off in style with a few glasses of soothing Thandai. 

A soothing glass of Thandai

Irrespective of the vagaries of time, India’s fascination with Thandai and Gujiya doesn’t have waned the least. The sweetness of Gujiya and the coolness of Thandai is an unbeatable combo that continues to be celebrated and savoured by generation after generation with equal enthusiasm.



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