Tilgul is an Indian sweet made from sesame (til) seeds and jaggery (gul). It is popularly shared during Makar Sankranti, a festival that celebrates the commencement of the harvest period. On this day, Maharashtrians greet each other with a tilgul and the phrase, ‘Tilgul ghya ani god god bola’. Literally translated, it means take this sweet (tilgul) and say sweet things. Metaphorically, it means leave all your grudges in the past and start anew.
The significance of the phrase traces back to the millennia-old practice of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic texts like the Charaka Samhita emphasises on the mouth, where most diseases of the body and mind originate. Eating unhealthy food and constantly talking negative can make you more vulnerable and susceptible to these diseases.
As is the case with most Indian traditions, the custom of eating tilgul has a logical reason behind its inception too.
Makar Sankranti falls at a time when winter is at its peak. Together, sesame seeds and jaggery provide enough calories to keep the body warm. Additionally, jaggery is a rich source of iron, magnesium and zinc. It purifies blood, increases haemoglobin, relieves joint pain, protects the body against harmful diseases and aids digestion.
Sesame seeds are rich in fibre, calcium and vitamin B complex. Eating sesame seeds or sesame oil lowers cholesterol, aids digestion, strengthens bones, lowers blood pressure, prevents free-radical damage, strengthens the immune system, soothes joint pain, improves thyroid function and can remedy the hormonal imbalance. So effective is the concoction that Sushruta, the father of Indian surgery and medicine, used it as an antiseptic to treat his patients.
Different Names Across Different States
Across India, tilgul is prepared and shared during the same time under different names. For example, in Rajasthan, the sweet is called gajak; in Uttar Pradesh, it’s tillava; and in Karnataka, it is called ellu-bella.