On Lohri, how can one not think of gur (jaggery)?
Lohri marks the end of gloomy winters and the onset of spring. On Makar Sankranti, which falls a day after Lohri, some people greet each other with “Til-gul ghya ani gud gud bola” ("Eat jaggery and sesame seeds and speak sweet words”).
Gur/Gud or Jaggery is something that all of us consume, but how many of us have actually seen it being made from scratch? After several months of sugarcane growth, the crop is cut by farmers and put through a crusher (kolooh). Sugarcane juice is then boiled to make gur.
Both sugar and gur are produced on a large scale from sugarcane in India. The traditional method of making gur has sustained despite the advancement of technology. In Uttar Pradesh, from Meerut to Bahraich and Purvanchal, farmers use manual labour to crush sugarcane. The juice produced is then poured into big containers, boiled and cooled to produce gur.
After cutting sugarcane, we separate its leaves. The juice that is produced after crushing sugarcane, is made to boil for several hours in huge containers. When it becomes thick, it is decanted and small balls are made which are called bheli.Tejan, Jamka Village, Barabanki
In villages, including Jamka in Barabanki's Suratganj Block, you can smell the freshly made gur from miles away. Sarsanda Gram Panchayat's Jamka Village has several sugar mills and crushers. This village lies on the border of Bahraich and Barabanki. Tejan, a villager from Jamka, has two pairs of oxen which are used for the crushing of sugarcane.
Tejan sells the prepared gur in nearby Bahraich's Kesarganj village and in Barabanki's Suratganj. This is his livelihood.
A woman called Rukhmani Devi, 35-years-old, puts the sugarcane in the crusher and explains, "Our entire family is involved in this work. I am putting the sugarcane in the crusher and my son is operating it. My husband has lit the fire to boil the juice. This way, by evening, we will have a few containers worth of gur."
It takes time to operate the crusher with the help of oxen, but the installation of engine-driven crushers requires a good investment and remains unaffordable for small farmers.
In UP, gur is produced on a large scale in its Western parts. Meerut, Bijnor, and Muzaffarpur have the most number of crushers. According to statistics, in Western UP there are about 3,500 crushers. This time, gur being sold is more expensive than sugar.
(This story has been taken from the Gaon Connection website)