Story Behind Gujiya

Tracing the history and legends around the origins of our favourite festive Holi snack, the gujiya
A bowl of gujiya with Holi colours. Credits Shutterstock
A bowl of gujiya with Holi colours. Credits Shutterstock

While some people delight in the bash of colours, there are also those who wait for the sweet half-moon dumplings called &ldquogujiya.&rdquo Stuffed into the bags of Holi guests, this sweet Indian snack is beloved by Indian households. It fits right in with other signature Holi snacks like pakoras and samosas. It comes in wide varieties and, like a dialect, improvises in taste as you move from region to region. They are popularly known as pedakiya in Bihar, ghughra in Gujarat, and karanji in Maharashtra, kajjikayi and nevri further down in the South.

Gifting Gujiyas

There are many stories about the origin of gujiya. If you&rsquore curious about the tradition of gifting gujiyas on Holi, history might have the answer.

Gujiya is an old recipe that has survived the centuries. The first mention dates back to the 13th century. At that time, these were consumed after sun-drying (one can say, it is a great way to cut calories). Some historians also believe that the Turkish baklava inspired the dish. This is not surprising since the recipes are very similar. Baklava is a buttery, flaky dessert that has many layers. It is soaked in honey and sugar. This puff pastry is filled with tender pistachios stuffed between layers of dough. On the other hand, Gujiya consists of a mixture of mawa (also known as khoya or condensed milk), pistachios, almonds and coconut. While the dough is not flaky, the outer covering is quite similar.

The legend goes that baklava was reserved for the royal offering. It was a precious gift that was meant for the elites in the royal family and the Sultan himself. If gifting gujiyas were inspired from the same tradition of gifting baklava, consider yourself a royal this Holi.

Brij ki Gujiya

You might have heard of &ldquoBrij ki Holi.&rdquo Brij ki Gujia, on the other hand, refers to the handpicked varieties of gujias that are available across Vrindavan around the time of Holi. Being the land of Lord Krishna, who is famous for his Holi celebration in Hindu legends, some people also believe that the current form of North Indian khoya gujiyas (which is also one of the most popular varieties) can be attributed to this region. Many visitors make a one-day trip to Vrindavan to secure the best of Indian gujiyas for their families. Among these, Brijwasi Sweets is a famous name. Mastered over time, gujiyas from Vrindavan are quite the delicacy.

Whether home-made or store-bought, gujiya remains one of the most cherished Holi snacks.

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