Pana Sankranti is similar to the New Year festivals observed elsewhere in India such as Baisakhi (Punjab), Bihu (Assam), Naba Barsha (Bengal), Bisu Parba (Tulu Nadu region in Karnataka), Vishu (Kerala), and Puthandu (Tamil Nadu).
Pana Sankranti, this day is named after ‘Pana’, the main drink offering specially prepared on this occasion. The Oriya New Year starts from this day. There are specific reasons as to why the Visuva Sankranti is considered as the first day of the solar year. It is only on two occasions i.e. ‘Mesha Sankranti’ and ‘Tula Sankranti’ that the Sun fully rests on the equator and on these two dates the length of days and nights remain equal. After Mesha Sankranti the Sun moves in the northern direction to our side as our country is situated to the north of the equator.
People use a small pot filled with “pana” or a sweet drink of Mishri and water is hung on a basil (Tulsi) plant. There is a hole at the bottom of this pot which allows the water to fall from the pot, representing rain. The flour of horse gram chhatua, along with banana and curd, is consumed by the people of Odisha after offering it to the Tulsi plant, along with Bela Pana.
With this festival comes in two most distinct foods the Odiya Denizens: Bela aka Bael, Stone or Wood Apple and Chatua or Sattu.
Bael or the Bengal Quince is full of tannins, flavonoids and coumarins. This helps in controlling inflammation, asthma, diarrhoea and other bronchial challenges. Sattu or Chatua is prepared wherein the grains or grams are roasted in sand then sieved and grinded into a fine flour. Per 100 gms of Chatua we get around 320 calories it is a store house of high protein food, with iron, manganese, magnesium calcium and vitamins. It’s high in insoluble fiber which makes it good for intestines, and is low on glycemic index, making it safe, and in fact beneficial for diabetes.
Bael can be taken as sarbhat along with black pepper, jaggery or sugar. At times it is very exotic when we add cottage cheese, cashew and nuts. A simple variant is more beneficial to health.
Chatua or Sattu can be taken as sharbat or in semi-solid form, to make the sharbat, which can either be sweet or salted; you will need some powdered jaggery, lemon juice and chilled water. Mix the jaggery powder and Chatua or Sattu together, and then blend the two together with some water till it forms a smooth paste. To make it salted, omit the jaggery and use some black or rock salt in it. If you’re using plain salt, a pinch of chaat masala might help to enhance the flavour. The lemon juice adds to the taste. Add chopped mint leaves or coriander, and one chopped chilli (for that extra bite) to spike it up. It’s exceptionally good for beating the heat..
From both the food we get, a good amount of protein. It keeps us hydrated as it is nutrient dense and high in fiber. This helps us going in the scorching heat. It eases out constipation, bloating, acidity and irritation & burning in the stomach. It regulates blood sugar as it is low in the glycaemic index and checks cholesterol levels. Excellent for women: during menstruation and a booster for bone health.