Sweet As Sugar Can Be – Making Gur in India

Photgraphing India – The Rural One

The sweet journey of Gur

Photos from 2007

All stories must have a beginning.

As you come out of the Shivalik ranges that form the southern bastion of Dehradun and head for the dust fields of Delhi, you pass through quaint rugged settlements populated by a rustic breed of farmers, tillers, cattle keepers, cut throats and other remanants of the Huns that invaded the country many centuries ago.

Chhutmalpur is one such sleepy place where in the season they crush sugarcane and make “gur”. From my early childhood days I remember seeing open fire pits blazing away in the night and workers silhouetted in the flames. The sweet heady aroma of raw sugar cane juice being boiled in large cast iron pans and the leftover acrid tingle of molasses was a smell that one grew up in the valley of Dehradun. It still has the same overpowering presence that it had back then.

I was passing Chhutmalpur enroute to Dehradun after photographing the Pushkar Cattle Fair. It was a good time to stop. There were no other passengers with me and this was like Childhood Revisited.

I am reminded of a book ” Rerun at Rialto ” written with great finesse by Tom Alter, where he writes of this very place in one of his stories. A book worth reading for its simple easy narrative and some unexpected twists that make the stories so much more endearing. That was ages ago. I once read voraciously but rarely read fiction now. This book is a treat and along with books of Ruskin Bond, a beautiful easy read.

Here are 11 photos that make this sweet essay on the making of gur.

This is highway58 and you can see the traditional cow patties that have worked the Indian hearths for ages. Some of it still does apparently. It is the season for sugarcane and you can see a buffalo drawn cart carrying sugar cane

The Indian Highways - Purkaji 17 kms Away

A traditional first look at the quaint gur factory with its old ramshackle engine which seems to drive everything here. It is diesel fired

The Quaint Gur FActory

Lots of sugar cane and an old hand feeds the cane crusher.

The crushing of sugar cane

The view of the cane crusher from the back with the flow channel for the juice to take it for heating.

The Pathway for the sugar cane Juice

And here we have a worker playing golden hues with the molten colors of the sugar cane juice in a stairway of heaven

Sugar Cane Juice in the Hot Pans

The sugar cane juice bubbles away merrily and acquires a red color with the addition of a food dye.

Jucice in the vat boils vigorously

The sugar can juice is reduced by boiling it over and over to this sticky chunk of red which is hot and hence tossed around with long ladles.

Jaggery is almost ready

A portrait of the man working the gooey sweet toffee gur.

Kneading the Mound of Gur

The whole family here sits down and makes smaller balls of gur while smoke and steam rise up in the air.

Jaggery Balls in the Process

And to conclude, the end product is just lumpy balls of gur and that is how it reaches the market.

Gur making in Chhutmalpur, India

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. Rashi Gupta says:

    love the vibrant orange gur

    1. ezee123 says:

      Thanks for loving the vibrancy

  2. Ginza/Thoma says:

    I like this very much. One of those significant, relevant, and attractive photo essays on an Indian homemaker’s favorite kitchen additive. Kudos!

    1. ezee123 says:

      Thanks for being here.!

  3. NIce story.. I have seen this same process in the making in Tamilnadu too…

    1. ezee123 says:

      I guess it remains the same from region to region. It is dwindling away though, is it not ?

  4. Henry G L says:

    Wow, u r such a blessed photographer, lovely narration, brilliant shots and unique perspective. Keep it up.

    Thank you for visiting my blog 🙂

    1. ezee123 says:

      Thanks Henry for your lovely words.

      Hope to be able to churn out work that fits the bill

  5. stevejw says:

    Amazing work Anoop!
    Would look great in a National Geographic or other photo journalism media.

    1. ezee123 says:

      STeve many thanks for your visit and your kind words.

      NG would be great but I am not too happy with their policies. Other than that, off and on photos do appear in the print / other media.

  6. ladyfi says:

    Brilliant shots! How does the gur taste – is it delicious?

    1. ezee123 says:

      The gur is divine. It has a rough texture and a deep taste that lingers on the palate.
      Yesterday I was having some Thai curry and It requires some palm sugar which is similar. I substituted it with sugarcane gur bought from a nearby store. It made the curry divine.

    2. Anoop Negi says:

      Fiona, Thanks for your kind words. Gur is earthy, punchy, very sweet and smooth.

  7. Rajendra Pareek says:

    इन चित्रों को साझा करने के लिए धन्‍यवाद अनूप नेगी जी ……

    1. Anoop Negi says:

      RAjendra ji, Dhanyavaad.

  8. Deeba Rajpal says:

    That’s a lot of work for gur. What an eye opener. Such a beautiful picture story.

    1. Anoop Negi says:

      Thanks Deeba for dropping by. It is tough indeed for the people employed in gur making. Bad wages, bad work timings and horrible work conditions.

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