Puran poli – the long story

puran poli spread for Champa Shashthi

Have you heard of Champa Shashthi?  In my Maharashtrian side of the family it is associated with a ceremonial pooja the beginnings of which are somewhat obscure.  This winter I was visiting friends who celebrate this day with special prayers.  In their family, the day of the pooja marks the end of a period of abstaining from certain foods such as eggs and meat, and brinjals (eggplant).  Minor ceremonies are observed on the two days preceding Shashthi as well.

The celebration of this festival in our family has an interesting story.  This festival is not traditional to the Konkanasth Brahmin community to which my husband’s family belongs.  A long time ago, and I mean a really long time ago, traveling was an activity associated with uncertainty, hardship, and unknown risks, undertaken only for essential business or pilgrimage.  At such a time, a family embarking on one such pilgrimage handed over the Champa Shashthi Puja to their neighbour and friend in the village, V’s ancestor, like a precious thing for safekeeping.  They never returned to claim it back, and that is how we have this untraditional ritual as our heritage.  Our family continues to fulfill a promise made a very long time ago.  I remember my mother-in-law asking me if she should perform the udyapan, a special puja to mark the end, but I assured her I wanted it to continue.  How could I not want to be part of this beautiful legend, our very own legend!

We, my husband, son, and I,  are hardly religious people but I do believe that without religion, you may end up distancing yourself from what is your culture.  Food is very strongly tied to culture and religion.  One day, several years back, I realised we had not cooked sabudana khichdi in a very long time (years!). Since my mother-in-law’s passing no one in the family was observing any fasts anymore!  We brought back the Janmashtami fast and now observe it as a family.  The much loved sabudana khichdi is on the menu at least once a year.

puran poli spread for Champa Shashthi

Champa Shashthi falls on the sixth day of the bright half of the Hindu month of Margashirsha, usually coinciding with the first half of December.  Coincidentally, this day is also my Dad’s birthday!  Since I married into the family, he has become the guest of honour at the ceremonial lunch.  There is a set menu for lunch on this day: sada varan-bhat, bharit (raita made with pumpkin, or sometimes with eggplant), cabbage pakoras (surely my MIL’s contribution?), a bit of puran, puran poli,  katachi amti, and potato bhaji.  The first thing put on the thali, starting from the left, is a pinch of salt.  Also placed on this side is coconut chutney, bharit, and a wedge of lime with the pakoras also adjusted somewhere there.  In the front part of the thali is served a small mound of steamed rice topped with hot sada varan and a spoon of ghee.  At the top center of the thali is placed a katori of katachi amti, with the potato bhaji to the right of it.  There is another interesting ritual to the serving.  Three thalis are prepared as an offering: the first with one serving of each of the items on the menu, the second with two of each, and the third with three of each!  After offering prasad to the Gods, the first thali is served to the head of the household, the second thali to the invited Brahmin, and the third thali (with the three servings) is meant for the house-help.

As with any puja, the food is cooked fresh.  This means an early start to the day.   Making puran poli is the most elaborate element in this traditional meal.  I soak the dal for the puran the night before and it is the first thing I cook in the morning.   After this initial cooking, the dal is put back on the fire with sugar added.  This is cooked down till thick and then passed through a food-mill to give a smooth paste.  These days I use an immersion blender to puree the mix but the results from a food-mill are definitely superior.  The cooled paste is formed into small balls of puran that become the stuffing for puran poli.  Bits of dal caught in the mesh of the food-mill and the rinse water from washing the food-mill and the puran pan is used to make the absolutely divine katachi amti, an intensely sweet, soupy, spicy accompaniment to this traditional meal.


Making puran poli requires a little skill (comes with practice!), and needs time and patience.  You are a very lucky person if you have someone who can make it for you or if you can purchase it from home-cooks, as you can in Bombay and Pune.  This recipe makes 30 puran polis; if you are making this for the first time, I suggest you halve the recipe so that the process goes faster and you are less inclined to throw in the towel. If an opportunity presents, watch someone making these; that will demystify the steps. The slideshow should help too. If you are adept at making stuffed paranthas, then this is just a teeny step up.

Puran poli is the traditional sweet on Holi in many Maharashtrian homes, and this post comes well in time for that. Karnataka and Andhra have their own variations.  Some recipes use jaggery in place of sugar, and the spicing can be different.  I make it just like my mother-in-law did.

Happy Holi, everyone!

puran poli
Puran Poli
(makes 30-35)

For the puran:
2 C chana dal, soaked for at least 3 hours
2 C sugar
1 t powdered cardamom seeds

Dough for the poli:
2 C very fine atta, or all purpose flour (or a mix of the two)
2 T oil
rice flour for dusting

Making puran:
Cover the dal with half-inch of water and cook in the pressure cooker till tender, about 15min. Drain the cooked dal to remove any extra water. Transfer the dal to a heavy bottom pan, add sugar, and put the mixture back on the fire. Cook stirring continuously till the paste has thickened and will hold shape on cooling. The mixture splatters a lot as it bubbles, so take care to protect your hand as you stir. Mix in the powdered cardamom. Once the mixture has cooled a little, pass it through a food-mill. When the paste has cooled completely, form into balls about 1″ across. Clean and rinse the food-mill and the puran pan, reserving all the washing liquid and any undercooked dal caught in the food-mill to make katachi amti (recipe to follow). Puran may be prepared a day ahead.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Preparing the dough:
Mix the oil into the flour and using water make a very soft and stretchy dough. The dough is much softer than that for regular roti which makes it easy to roll very thin. Let rest 20 minutes. Knead a little, adding more water if required to get the right consistency – it is stretchy without being sticky. Smear the dough with a little oil and place about a teaspoon full of salt on the side.

Making puran poli:
Dip your fingers into oil, and then into the salt, and pinch of a small piece of the dough, about the size that you do for a small roti. Press it into the rice flour and make a depression into the ball, spreading it a little as you go, between your thumbs and fingers. Place a ball of puran into the depression and coax the dough over, and around to enclose the puran. This is where having a very soft dough helps – it stretches and gives easily to wrap around the ball of puran. Press flat. Dust the board liberally and gently roll the poli, turning it slightly as you roll. Roll as thin as you can, the dough ends up making an almost translucent covering for the sweet dal stuffing. Brush off any extra flour from the poli. Gently transfer the poli to a medium-hot tava (griddle), using the rolling pin as a support if needed. Cook for a minute till the poli develops golden spots. Flip and cook on the other side. The poli will usually puff up. Using a soft cloth brush off any flour that might be on the poli. Fold over and remove to cool on kitchen paper. Brush off any flour that may have found its way to the tava before cooking the next poli. You might need to adjust the heat up or down to cook the polis just right: they should have golden spots not black. Store the cooled polis in an airtight container. They can stay at room temperature for two days. Refrigerate if you are planning to eat them over the week.

Puran poli

To serve, spread a spoonful or more of melted ghee and enjoy! Some people like to dip them in cold milk, but soaked in ghee is my preferred way.

Puran poli brings up the 200th post on the blog!  Slow…but steady. 🙂


Published by Anita

A self professed urban ecologist!

25 thoughts on “Puran poli – the long story

  1. *love*

    From the “untraditional ritual” to the puran poli! It truly is an art to make puran polis!

    I never cared for puran polis earlier and now I long for them! My problem was mainly with the flavor of nutmeg, which is no longer a problem. I noticed that you use only elaichi. I also love that you do not roll them thick or cook them with fat on the tava, like parathas. Those ones, I still do not care for!

    Wasn’t there another puja for which you set out thalis with 1-2-3 of each item on the menu? Or was it this same one?

    I knew I will have your approval! 😉 Yes, no frying on the tava. But I have been guilty of reheating with ghee on the tava once; just the once though.

    Isn’t this an interesting story! It is this puja that I mentioned earlier and posted a picture of – the pictures are very old (most of them from Dec 2007!)

    I think Aai’s family had their specific recipes – only nutmeg in shrikhand, and only elachi in puran poli. Do you also make katachi amti?

    1. I’ve never made puran polis, only helped. But yes, my mother would make katachi amti. I’ll have to ask my aunt for the recipe.

      It is about time you made your first! Katachi amti is my fave amti!

  2. What a beautiful post laced with so many beautiful anecdotes. It always feel good to learn about rituals that are sadly slowly getting lost into oblivion. When compared to my mom, I do so much less and always wish I could do more. She makes such amazing Puran Polis (Bobbatlu as we call in Telugu) and Sojjappalu (filling is Rava Kesari). Not sure if I will be able to make them myself :-).

    Don’t say you can’t till you have attempted your mom’s recipes! The truth is that you will get nostalgic about them and make them one day!

  3. Delightful post Anita, Yes I love the traditions and rituals as I get older more than the religion.

    We make these with coconut and jaggery yes flavored with cardamom and is called obbattu.

    I have had those! The coconut is such a nice combination with sweetened chana-dal!

  4. I feel like this an on-demand post – I asked you about puran polis and two days later, here they are. Lovely story to go with it and I totally agree with your point re: religion and culture. Intriguing to note that you use sugar and not jaggery in the puran. I have never used sugar in my puran. Thanks again.

    It does seem like that, doesn’t it? 🙂 I hope it was in time for you to try it!

    1. Unfortunately, I logged in much later. I’ll try making them with sugar next year. Where I come from, Puran polis are always made with jaggery and eaten with sweetened coconut milk, but being married into a maharashtrian family means coconut milk has been shown the door and replaced with copious amounts of ghee.

      In many recipes I substitute whole wehat for refined flour, and sometimes, jaggery for sugar, but in this one, for some reason, I continue to use sugar! Coconut milk would be so good with it! I have been told that they would serve it with milk sometimes but have only seen it being eaten with the oodles of ghee that you mention!

  5. Your posts are always a wonderful read Anita, I’m constantly learning something new 🙂 And I agree that rituals and traditions help us stay connected. I am not a very religious person but love to follow the traditions at least on those certain days as they take me back to the celebrations at home. We use jaggery instead of sugar, a little fresh grated coconut, elaichi powder with a few pinches of dry ginger powder (for the channa dal?) as flavoring for the poli. I tried it at home a few times bit mine usually tear and never puff up as beautifully as yours have 😦 Need a lot more practice. Dipping fingers in salt is a new trick that I’ll have to try this time. My favorite way of having them which I got from my dad is – poli, with a smear of ghee, tiny sprinkling of coarse sugar and warm milk…yummm 🙂

    Yes, practice is key! Also, the trick is in the puran – if you use the food mill then the puran will be very smooth and not tear through. I think the salt is primarily to enhance the sweetness of puran – just like salt in ice cream, or in some chocolate desserts! But, for some reason, the recipe doesn’t call for the salt to be mixed into the puran or kneaded into the dough.

  6. Lovely post Anita. I do not know anyone who celebrates Champa Shashthi. So this was all new for me even though I am a Maharashtrian!! Religions their food habits and and festivals vary a lot in India.
    I am not great fan of sugar puran polis I make with jaggery. It surely takes time to learn and make but its a skill! I love making them and of course enjoy eating.

    I follow my mother-in-law’s recipes for all the Maharashtrain food I cook – she was my teacher! I have eaten jaggery puranpolis and I like them but I seem to want to stick to this recipe – it is not as if I have not experimented with my MIL’s recipes. I find this story behind our celebration of this non-tradition puja so fascinating myself!

  7. I have heard of Champa shashti ritual from my mom – but my mom (kokanastha) doesn’t celebrate it. Yes Katachi amti is a must with puran poli. Your poli looks yummy. Good job!

    Thanks, AA – I have had a lot of practice!

  8. wonderful! the story and the poli…Yes you are right, religion brings festivities and that brings hidden stories, traditions, rituals, food and culture…I am still to come in terms with how much religious I want to be but as a mother I definitely want to handover certain bong rituals/food/stories and many non bong rituals/food/stories (which I have picked and still continuing to pick through my journey in different parts of the world) to my daughter…
    Happy Holi!

    Our religion is the starting point for so much of what we celebrate even when we stop being that religious, and it is all fine!I think these things become even more important when we are in an ‘alien’ land and need an anchor. What is good is that, we can pick and chose what traditions to follow and which ones to change!

    1. Lovely post Anita. Now after having two boys I make it a point to celebrate festivals big and small so they know their heritage. Still answering all their question about why and how of the rituals is sometimes a challenge.

      Raising A toast for the 200 posts and 200 more to come.

      Thanks, Rameshwari! To traditions!

  9. My friend told me a lovely story about her family, a tradition now carried on by her brother. They live in the sugar belt of Maharashtra and own a large number of shares in sugarcane farms and factories. They get paid in bags and bags of sugar. Anyone who visits them always leaves with a bag of sugar. The poor villagers in their area make it a point to drop in when they run out of sugar. The family donates sugar to the local temple and for any community gatherings and festivals. Because of this surplus, they tend to use sugar instead of jaggery in most of their sweets, including puran poli. I heard somewhere that it isn’t quite puran poli if you don’t use jaggery. Here, however, is a very sweet example of why sugar, not jaggery, and how traditions change based on the present environment and circumstances. I’d certainly feel honored to eat at their table.

    I am sure jaggery is the traditional preference and have no idea how my mother-in-law’s recipe came to use sugar. She also used to make gur-poli which I thought was harder to make. Alas, I didn’t learn that and now the chance is gone. Jaggery in puran poli will definitely result in a different flavour but I am used to refined sugar now. I make it just once a year, and, as you say, it is what is traditional for us now!

  10. I love these! We had a wonderfully intrepid maushi going to various homes to make these for Holi. I loved eating them with my mom’s homemade toop. *sigh* and now I’m totally missing my childhood.

    Traditions and customs! If we had those Maharashtrian women who cook door to door, I would get to eat these more frequently! If you are missing it enough, then making them yourself is the only way!

  11. Loved the poignant story of how your family is continuing the tradition handed over for temporary safekeeping. Such an honorable and noble thing to do.
    I love your blog which I’ve been following for may years, enjoy your unique recipes and thought provoking views.
    Best, Sandhya.

    Thanks, Sandhya! I will be checking out your blog too!

  12. Your posts are so warm and welcoming Anita. Loving those thalis.
    Puran poli is a favorite and we love it with jaggery more than sugar and I can roll them thin 🙂
    Apolina (another blogger) suggested to have it with coconut milk when I had posted the recipe. Yet to try with it.

    In our place, we sometimes serve it with milk, but now that I cook it just this once, ghee is the preferred way! I can see it would work well with the rich sweetness of coconut milk too.

  13. Nice, I am married in to a family that very religiously celebrates champa shasthi! Had not heard of it before marriage. Recently learned puran polis from mil…all set for next champa shashthi ..:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: