Diwali mithais apart from crunchy savouries like chivda, chakli, sev, bhujia, laddoos, halwas, katlis and barfis are the blanket terms used but with different ingredients in each region in India. The most common being besan, sooji, coconut, mawa, atta, kaju, pista, or dryfruits. While tender mohanthal, half-moon gujiyas, creamy basundi tempt from Gujarat, Maharashtra boasts of coconut-sugar-poppy seeds filled karanji, and rava laddoo; hard textured sohan halwa and ghevar from Rajasthan, multi-layered khaja and kaju barfi tease the palate from Bihar. In Madhya Pradesh, the mithai platter brims with goodies inspired from their neighbouring States - gujiyas, shakker pare, balushahi and mawa bati khoya jalebis. Goa puts forth Nevri, a crisp karanji-like dumpling of refined flour stuffed with grated coconut, poppy seeds, almond slivers and sugar is deep-fried to a golden hue. Jain resort to fasting to pay respect to their saint Lord Mahavir who attained moksh on this day. The Kashmiri Pundits prepare one Diwali specialty shufta – a homogeneous mix of dry fruits, spices and sugar.
Punjab & Haryana: It is observed as Bandi Chod/chhor Diwas by Sikhs to mark their struggle for freedom. Devotees pray at temples and Gurudwaras to express gratitude. The traditional pinni, Punjabi pooda, panjiri, gond ke ladoo and kada prasad are prepared on this day. Diwali being a winter fest and season of carrots, gajar ka halwa with a generous topping of dry fruits is common.
Odisha: Following the significance of victory of good over evil, Odisha has one distinct ritual called Bada Badua Daka. They invoke the forefathers and pay homage to seek their blessings. Chhena poda, the favourite of Lord Jagannath, a baked cottage cheese sweet dish is prepared. Khirasagar akin to rasmalai, rasagola and chena jhili are other mithais served on Diwali.
West Bengal: With the basic concept of victory of good over evil, Diwali coincides with Kali Puja who vanquished Narakasura. She is worshipped in pandals and homes. Bhapa Doi or sweetened condensed curd is offered as bhog. Bengal sweets like a variety of sandesh, rasagola, payesh, rajbhog are relished as festive mithais.
Andhra Pradesh & Telangana: Shahi Tukda comes from Hyderabad, the city of Nawabs. Fried bread slices covered with sugary syrup is dunked in condensed milk or rabri and garnished with dry fruits. Khubani ka meetha is a delectable sweet of dried apricot and cream. Pootharekulu, also known as paper sweet, is a unique sweet with powdered sugar and rice batter which requires highly skilled practices to make.
Jharkhand: People start the festivities with honouring Dhanvantari, the Physician of Gods. The unmissable mithais are anarsa - deep fried elongated balls of sesame seeds with cashewnuts to add an extra crunch. And dudhauri consists of balls of rice fried and cooked in milk to finally drip with sugar syrup.
Tamil Nadu: The day starts at the crack of dawn with an oil bath ritual, new clothes, binging on Diwali bakshanams like jhangri (type of jalebi), laddoo, badushah, mysorepak and savouries with hot filter kaapi! It ends with bursting crackers and fireworks.
Chattisgarh: It is celebrated as Diyari in which a ceremonious marriage takes place between agricultural crops with Lord Narayana’s idol. A ritual is conducted where houses are filled with food grains. Sweets like khurmi made of ghee, jaggery, atta, are similar to shankarpara and rice discs in chashni called dehrori is native to Chhattisgarh.
Uttarakhand: Diwali is observed differently in Garhwal. It is celebrated with Lakshmi Puja on Kartik Krishna Amavasya. To the beats of local instruments like mukabin and dhol damau, people perform Bhela dance. In the interiors, Budhi Diwali is celebrated a month after main Diwali by dancing around bonfires to commemorate Shri Rama’s return to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravan. Millet laden Jhangora ki kheer, a fudge-like sweet called bal mithai and singori (roasted khoya wrapped in timula leaves) from Kumaon are famous.
Northeast: Obeisance to nature and mythology take precedence here. Known as Festival of Tihar, people pray to birds, animals and plants. It is not big on sweets but each region has its own festive specialties. Inspired by Assamese pitha, Nagaland’s sweet is called amzu in which soaked rice is ground into a paste and rolled with sesame seeds, and naap naang is black rice pudding. If Sel roti (fried sweet bread) and shir sewaiyan are from Sikkim and Meghalaya respectively, awan bangwi (sticky rice pudding) belongs to Tripura. Manipur is known for a besan dumpling called Madhurjan and Mizoram has its Chhangban leh kurtai - a combo of steamed rice flour and jaggery. Kali Puja is observed in some States like West Bengal and Assam. Bora chaulor payas is Assamese sticky rice with milk and bayleaves; Pitha or dumpling stuffed with sesame seeds and sugar is one more offering. Manipuri Vaisnavism observes Diwali one day after the rest of the world. Black rice kheer and kabok (ladoos) of puffed rice are their festive sweets.
Karnataka: Deepavali wears a festive spirit on Narak Chaturdashi, Amavasya and Bali Padyami. Ghee-drenched, cardamom flavoured Mysorepak is a hugely popular Diwali sweet. Holige, a flatbread type poli with coconut-jaggery-cardamom filling is another festive treat.