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Showing posts with label FESTIVALS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FESTIVALS. Show all posts

Friday, November 5, 2010


I Wish All My Readers A Very Happy & Prosperous Deepawali

Also known as Kopra Paak in Maharashtra
I absolutely adore this wonderful sweet and it used to be my favorite sweet during my childhood and I would happily indulge in it without a care in this world. Nowadays health is a priority and sweet coconut indulgences are a definite no-no, but this Diwali I was remembering my younger, carefree days and decided to make this coconut delight to refresh the fond memories of my childhood when food was associated with smell, taste and indulgent pleasures without a care for health.  Here is a very easy recipe to help you prepare this delicious fudge which you can indulge in….at least during festive times.


Coconut - 2 cups grated
Sugar – 1 cup
Cardamom (elaichi) powder – ¼ tsp
Ghee – 2 tbsps
Saffron (kesar) strands – a pinch
Grate the coconut (don’t grate until the shell, else your barfi won’t be nice and white in color).
In a wok, Take one tablespoon of ghee and lightly roast the grated coconut on a low heat
Add cardamom and mix well. Prepare one-string syrup by dissolving sugar in the water.
Now stir the coconut mixture into the syrup. Keep stirring until it mixes well and leaves the sides of the pan. Add, a few strands of saffron to the mixture. Add a tablespoon of ghee and mix well. The mixture gets rounded like a ball and looks a bit dry at this point turn off the flame.
Grease a plate with ghee. Spread the prepared mixture evenly over the plate and allow it to cool. Cut it into square / diamond shapes with a knife while it is warm. Don’t try to cut it when it’s hot. Nariyal ka burfi is ready to be served.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


from me to all my readers with love....
Glimpses of Navaratri Festival in Singapore....
The temple at my home

Beautiful Marapaachi dolls, wooden dolls decorated by me. Please click on link wooden dolls to learn how I decorated it @ my blog Sukanya's hobbies and crafts.

Beautiful ombodhu padhi(9 steps) golu at Siva Durga Temple @ Potong Pasir, Singapore.

Dandiya Raas at the Swimming complex, organized by the Gujarati mandal, Singapore

Konda Kadalai Sundal gets its name because it has a dome on top representing a kondai(a knot). Every chana or kadalai should have distinctive name so this was equated to a hair knot tied by women. It is made during the Navaratri festival. It is also distributed as Prasad in temples.

Konda Kadalai - 250 grams
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Udad dal - 1 tsp
Green chillies – 3-4
Red chillies – 1-2 broken into 2 halves
Turmeric -1/4 tsp
Asafetida (Hing) - a small pinch
Freshly grated Coconut – 1-2 tbsps
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp
Salt as per taste.
Curry leaves – a sprig
Coriander leaves for garnish
Soak the Konda Kadalai in water overnight. In the morning rinse out well, add some turmeric powder and a cup of water and pressure cook it for about 3-4 whistles. Don’t throw the water in which the chana has been boiled as it contains a lot of nutrients. Keep the boiled chana aside.
In a Kadhai (wok), Add oil, when it is hot, Add the mustard seeds and when they begin to crackle, Add udad dal and the red chillies, when the udad dal becomes slightly pink, add the green chillies and the curry leaves and fry well, now add in the boiled Konda kadalai and turmeric, asafetida and salt. Mix well. Cover the kadhai with a lid. Don’t add water, The boiled chana already has some water, so let it cook. Once all the water is soaked up Add freshly grated coconut and some coriander leaves and mix well.
Serve hot with Rice and Rasam or enjoy it as it is.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


The year before last during Diwali a lot of my friends made this sweet. I kept thinking of making it but I didn’t know why the muhurat / muhurtham (the auspicious time) didn’t come for making it. Today was a dull day and I was thinking that making a sweet would cheer up the entire household….ask me how? …We always associate sweets with festivals or celebrations don’t we? If that is not uplifting enough…how about the aroma of melting ghee mixed with sugar that wafts around the house giving it a festive feel. That would uplift the meanest spirits wouldn’t it? Sweets in Indian tradition are associated with good news, happiness, festivities, celebrations and in Hinduism we believe that there are good spirits hovering around us and when there is a sweet cooking there is a happy ambience at home that will garner in good things and bring in good news. So next time we don’t need to have a reason to make a sweet, do we? Ofcourse, the health aspect is there, so mind your calories and sugar levels before you go overboard in your sweet indulgence.
Why is this sweet called 7 cup sweet? As the name suggests-7 cup simply means 7 cups of ingredients are used to make this sweet. Isn’t that sweet?
7 cup sweet is a no-fail recipe and usually turns out quite impressive unless you goof up by becoming impatient during the process of making it. I would like to say that the 7 cup sweet is a marriage between the mysore pak and coconut barfi.
Milk - 1 cup
Gram flour (Besan) - 1 cup
Sugar - 3 cups
Grated coconut - 1 cup
Ghee - 1 cup
In a big flat heavy bottomed wok, Put one cup of ghee, now add in the gram flour and grated coconut and cook till the raw smell goes. Now add in the milk and stir until you see no lumps let it come to a boil and then add in the sugar and stir on a medium low flame. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 20-25 minutes or until the mixture starts to get frothy. At this stage, you have to be hovering around the stove more often, stirring. Keep stirring frequently for another 15-20 minutes. Ensure that it doesn’t catch the bottom and burn. After a while, the whole mixture starts to pull away from the bottom of the pan and starts moving with the spoon, like a dancing doll.
Grease a plate with ghee and pour the mixture onto it and allow it to cool. After, about 15 minutes cut into squares or diamonds. And wait for about an hour before you remove from the plate. You can see neat cakes as in the picture. Enjoy this easy preparation, make it for your family or impress your guests with it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008



This song is from the Hindi movie Shirdi Ke Saibaba, a film based on the life of Saibaba, ‘Deepavali manaye suhani. reminds us of how Saibaba lighted lamps in a poor girl’s house with water for Deepawali, so that she can also light lamps and enjoy the festival.

Here is the video for all of you to enjoy;

Diwali as everyone knows is the Hindu Festival of Lights," where people light small lamps. Lighting the lamps signifies victory of good over the evil within an individual. In Hinduism, across many parts of India and Nepal, it is the homecoming of Lord Ram of Ayodhya, after 14-years of exile in the forest and his victory over the evil demon-king Ravan. In the legend, the people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Ram by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (deepa), thus its name: Deepavali. Over time, this word transformed into Diwali in Hindi and Dipawali in Nepali, but still retained its original form in South and East Indian Languages.

(Some of the Info courtesy – Wikipedia)

Diwali preparations started about a week before with all of us removing cobwebs, washing and wiping the whole house with soap, bleach and water and doing our annual spring cleaning, the old clothes we donated for charity. We also did some shopping for clothes, shoes etc.

Yo put up the serial lights outside the house and inside the mini temple in my house. We also hung 2 lanterns one bought by us from Chaing-Mai(Northern Thailand) and one brought by my parents from India as my little one had demanded from my parents for a lantern(kandeel)from India for Diwali.

This year I was blessed to have my parents with me for Diwali. The fun was doubled, "the more the merrier" I made Ribbon Pakoda, Chocolate malai barfi and plain non-spicy rice chaklis at home. We ordered a few sweets from outside as well, as, during this time the sweets available in the market are usually fresh.

I put color rangoli outside the house and my mom (amma) put maa-kolam (rangoli drawn with rice flour, refer to link on maa-kolam for my article on the same in my blog)

The Maa-kolam was put by amma in the morning and I had put the color rangoli on the eve of Deepavali day. Everyday we put a new rangoli & kolam for 5 days.

In Singapore all the ladies apply Mehendi(Henna Art) for Deepavali, so my little girl wanted mehendi on her hands as well, so I took upon myself the task of drawing mehendi for all at home. We bought some sparklers and some bite-sized bombs which are the only crackers that we can buy here. We bought sparklers with some variation this time. The sparklers spit fire out from inside.The crackers available in Singapore are very safe and boring, but something is better than nothing to reminisce us of our biggest festival. Every evening for about 6 days my daughter had fun bursting crackers though. My little one was also watching it with awe.

I kept all the new clothes on a tray in front of God on the eve of Diwali day.

On the Diwali day, We all got up early in the morning.I lighted small earthern lamps also known as Diyas all over the house.

Amma applied oil for me and I applied for all the others. Oil is usually applied on the head and the body and we must soak for a while and then we took bath with scented hot water, infused with rose water, fresh jasmine flowers and rose petals.

We applied “Utna”which is a scented herbal powder. Amma also had brought Moti sabun(Gulab and Sandal)…..Now my husband Yo always used to take bath on Diwali day with “Moti” soap while in Pune, so he feels very special about using Moti soap….luckily my parents were coming so I asked them to get the soap for him as a surprise. He says it’s a Diwali special soap, so be it, enjoy.

After bath, we all wore our new clothes dabbed with some kumkum on some inconspicuous side for everything to be auspicious. Had sweets, burst some crackers and then went to the temple.

We had a grand lunch and in the evenings all the Indians in our vicinity met at the play area and burst crackers. We exchanged sweets and savories with our neighbours and friends and this marked a joyous celebration for us.


I would like to send this to Priti’s Festive Food Event – Diwali Celebrations

Monday, October 6, 2008


I would like to send this also to LG's Festive Food Event


Navarathri is celebrated for nine days and nine nights followed by Vijayadashami on the tenth day.

This festival is celebrated from the new moon day to the ninth day of Purattasi and is considered as the most auspicious time of the Hindu Calendar. This period is one of the most celebrated time of the year.

Godessess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped for getting courage, wealth and knowledge respectively. Although it has different names in different parts of India, it is celebrated by Hindus from all regions.

In Tamil Nadu, the first three days of the festival are dedicated to Lakshmi, the next three to Durga and the last three to Saraswati.

KAL AAJ AUR KAL (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow)

This was the title of a movie made by the Great Raj Kapoor spanning 3 generations and My composition is a depiction of the Navarathri festival spanning three generations, My grandmother(KAL), my mom(AAJ) and me(TOMORROW). This is an effort on my part to illustrate, how the charm of festivals are fading off our lives? I am afraid that if our generation doesn’t take things into our hands and get serious about our traditions, we will loose our traditions and cultural values. The picture gets grimmer when we migrate to different countries and loose touch of our roots.

I feel that we don’t have as much fun as we used to have back home in Mumbai. Back then we always had the Terminal Exams (half yearly) during the Navarathri festival. The sweet co-incidence was it would always get over in time for us to enjoy the last weekend of the festival. The weekend after the exams was usually marked by full attendance. We got to enjoy the best of everything our style(traditional south indian style) plus playing the Dandiya Raas one of my favorite dances’ just after my Terminal Exams used to get over.

I consider myself as Tomorrow already, as, I don’t know how the Tomorrow after me(my daughter’s generation) is going to be. I am trying my best to go back over to the yesteryears and give my kids the knowledge and sweet memories enjoyed by my amma-amma (Grandma) who used to keep telling us of the Navarathri celebrations they used to have at Parawoor(her hometown) and keep lamenting on those wonderful days…………and the ones I enjoyed in my amma’s (mom’s) house in a sincere attempt to get them in touch with our traditions, values and the spirit of our festivals which not only emphasized on sharing happiness and the virtue of giving but also a social activity for all ages. If this (our tradition) continues no one would be lonely or suffer from stress or depression like we do in this modern age. This is one of the keys to form a happy society.


The Navarathri Atmosphere at Mumbai

The prices of flowers start to rise when the festival approaches. Huge mounds of Marigolds orange and yellow are piled up everywhere in the markets in Mumbai. The Toran (a string made of Mango leaves and marigolds) to decorate the entrance of your house is also available at all flower shops. Huge Pandals get erected from place to place, these pandals come alive in the late evenings. A lot of knick-knacks like earthern lamps, beautiful earthern pots called garba pots, Rangoli powders and many other items are sold at discounts on the street. Nothing can beat the shopping at Mumbai for festivals, the markets are so crowded and full of festive things. We used to go to the market to order for coconuts to be delivered to the house, buy the paaku (betel nut), vettalai(betel leaves), turmeric sticks, kumkum dabbis , blouse pieces and also gifts to be given to the ladies later during vettala paaku.

Navarathri celebrated in a South Indian home

The Navarathri Mornings at home

Being a South-Indian and living in Mumbai gave me the best of both the worlds is what I could easily say, as you see a cultural integration of all communities and get to enjoy the best of everything.

Getting up early in the morning to the sounds of Venketesha Suprabhatam and then M.S. Subbalakshmi’s Lalitha Sahasranamam (1000 names of the Devi). Have a nice oil bath which is usually the practice in my home and then go to the temple. After coming from the temple, there is also pooja at home.The kalasham is kept. A small earthern/brass/copper/silver pot is taken inside which we put some rice, toor dal, Turmeric stick and a dollar coin, indicating the house should be always filled with dhan and dhanyam. A coconut smeared with turmeric powder is placed on top of it as shown in the picture. Kumkumam is applied on 3 sides of the coconut and the tail can be adorned with flowers.

The house will be fragrant with lots of flowers, incense and dhoopam. The pictures of the deities dressed in flower garlands. Amma puts a huge ma-kolam outside the house and in front of our mini temple and we tie a Toran too at the entrance of our home. All of us sit together to chant the Lalitha Sahasranamam (1000 names of the devi), followed my Mahishasuramardhini strotram and all the devi stothrams, followed by a mini bhajan session,

(Above is a picture of Lalithambaal)

Appa always insisted that I should sing the bhajans, usually devi bhajans. A grand lunch used to be prepared by my mom, while chanting simultaneously as she doesn’t have the luxury of sitting with us doing pooja, since she has to finish cooking.

The Navarathri Lunch Menu

The Navarathri menu is pretty special,

Payasam (Pal Payasam)

Dal vadai (only paruppu vadai is prepared), usually ulundhu vadai (popularly known as medhu vadai (doughnut vadai) is not prepared for festivals since ulundhu vadai is made during shraddhams)

Hot Rice

Steamed Toor dal (Paruppu)





Thuvaran (dry vegetable) usually cabbage or beans with coconut is made.

Thayir Pachadi (Yogurt with cucumbers or tomatoes)

Chips (Banana, Chenai Chips) or Vadaams


Chundal / Sundal is usually prepared in the evening.

Sundal Menu

The types of sundal to be prepared on each of the navarathri days is given below:

•Day1: Moong dal (Green gram )

•Day2: Sweet Puttu /Red beans (can be made sweet or spicy)

•Day3: Peanut

•Day4: Kabuli Chana

•Day5: Bengal Gram dal (Chana da)l (kadalai paruppu) Yellow split

•Day6: Black eyed beans (Lobia) (can make it sweet or spicy)

•Day7: White peas /Green peas (pattaani)

•Day8: Field beans(mochai) /Karamani Chundal

•Day9: Konda kadalai (channa dal)

•Day10: Payasam / Chakara Pongal

Navarathri Evenings

At home

Evenings are a time when the ladies visit each other for Vettala Paaku. The ladies usually get dressed for the occasion, girls in pattu-paavadais, teenage girls in Daavanis and married ladies in their Kanjeevaram sarees or their best traditional clothes. Vettala Paaku used to be given everyday during the evenings after lighting the evening lamp in yesteryears, but nowadays since women are working and busy, they stipulate one evening during the Navarathri festival and on that day they prepare everything, call all the people they know and offer vettala paaku. There is no harm in doing that as long as people don’t stop this practice altogether. The token gifts that used to be given in the yesteryears have been replaced with special gifts given in bags. Every year, women like to offer a different gift. It’s almost become like a competition where women vie against each other to be the best as far as choosing the most thoughtful and useful gift is concerned. The Navaratri evenings were also fun as we

(the group of invited ladies) used to have mini bhajan/sthotra chanting sessions on weekends or marked days like Tuesdays or Fridays which are considered auspicious days for the Devi.

In the colony(a group of apartments forming a society)

Every year, in our colony, the residents have the Navarathri celebrations. All the people living in the colony contribute towards the celebrations. A huge pandal is erected in the centre of the ground. On Day 1 of the Navarathri celebrations, the pujari does the staapana of the idol of Goddess Durga and lighting of the akhand jyot (the lamp which cannot be let to extinguish). Residents take turns to ensure that the akhand jyot doesn’t get extinguished. Every morning and evening aarti is conducted with great devotion. After the aarti and Prasad distribution in the night, all the residents would dance garba, followed by daandia raas for the goddess.

We live in a cosmopolitan neighborhood, One particular year, the committee of residents who organize events in our society decided that we should have a Unity in Diversity theme and to emphasize that each day the aarti was conducted by the different communities of people residing in our society. So we had the Maharashtrian Aarti, Gujarati aarti (ours is a predominatly Gujarati neighborhood- so every year we used to have the traditional Gujarati Aarti ), south Indian aarti and so on and so forth. It was a really good experience as we got to get a glimpse of the aartis performed by different communities for the Goddess. Since I am a south – Indian, we formed a group and decided to chant the “Mahishasuramardhini stothram”. We started practicing every day in the evenings till we all perfected the art of singing in unison. The day it was the turn of the South Indians, all of us came together and recited the stothram and believe me it was the first time this had happened in our building, almost everybody i.e. the south-indians and the non-south Indians, some of whom had never heard it before were so impressed with the stotram, due to its alliteration and the very catchy rhythm that they wanted copies of the Stotra and wanted to learn it from us. India is a country with so many states and every state has its own way of celebrating festivals and what bonds each one of us is the fact that we are all human beings living close to each other. No matter what language we speak and which state we belong to, we are all one in the eyes of God (Our creator)

Navarathri in the yesteryears as told to me by my grandma. (Kal – Yesterday)

Shimmering lamps and fragrant flowers touch up homes in cities and towns commanding unflattering reverence. The ladies usually get dressed for the occasion, girls in pattu-paavadais, teenage girls in Daavanis and married ladies in their Kanjeevaram sarees.

If the interiors of a home bristle with women singing hymns and songs, children attired as various gods and goddesses prancing around add to the joyful cacophony. The air, thick with the fragrance of agarbatti and flowers, makes the entry to the house equally attractive. Traditional designs or rangolis made with various colored powders and flower petals are always an enticing sight.

While the impressive arrangement of artifacts at Golu (kolu) sets the tone of the festival, what takes the cake is the delicious concoction called `sundal', made from chickpeas, bean sprouts and coconut. Housewives get busy making and exchanging sundal and special sweets for the occasion.

This festival of nine nights epitomizes the social and cultural aspirations of people. It coincides with the rainy season, associated with sowing and sprouting of seeds — a sign of prosperity and abundance. The feminine equivalent of Hindu Holy Trinity — Durga embodying Shakti, Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and Saraswathi the goddess of learning and arts are invoked as part of the religious celebration.

Each day of the function starts with reciting the stothrams (prayer songs) on Godesses such as Lalitha Sahasranamam, Devi Bhagawatham etc. In the evening, they light the Kuthuvilakku and offer flowers, fruits etc. to the golu. They invite the neighbors, friends and relatives to receive thamboolam(vettalai paaku). Every day, a different kolam is drawn in front of the golu. The Devi Mahatmiyam and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are recited.

In the end, they do the "mangala aarathi" (In a plate they mix some turmeric powder, and kumkum with water, and show to the Gods and finally pour it outside the house.) They assemble at every house daily to exercise their vocal chords. ‘Navavaranam’, (sung in praise of Devi) which is a rigorous musical exercise, is rendered most often by the congregation.

The house is charged with the energy of bhakti(devotion) and divinity. The women, after singing to their hearts’ content, are given hot milk (to soothe their throat) and snacks.

Vettrilai pakku(Shen Tamil)/Vettalai paaku(colloquial tamil) (betel leaves) is usually accompanied by many other items that women use to adorn themselves as mentioned below.

Each day, a type of sundal is prepared as offering to God. In the evening, people invite the neighbours and offer Thamboolam (vettala paaku) with the sundal, clothes, coconut or some token gifts.


There was a time when people used to visit their friends and relatives and call them for vettala-paaku and now is the time when people just call them over the phone. Of course the charm of all the festivals are slowly fading away, as nowadays people decide upon a date and call all the people on that date for vettala paaku. It’s no more like how it used to be in the yesteryears. But living in India and living abroad does make a difference in the festive ambience. Thanks, to my mother I am still aware of our rituals, our rich tradition and culture. With 2 kids she always strived hard to do everything and celebrated all festivals with gaiety and fervor. My grandmother had told her, “Celebrating festivals reaps good things/happenings/events, it spreads positive energy and brings about cheer. My grandma used to say the only people in whose house there has been a death, don’t celebrate festivals, so naranjya veetula (full house – meaning endowed with happiness & prosperity) where there hasn’t been any tragedy we shouldn’t act like we are mourning or be lazy to celebrate”. So my amma religiously celebrates all the festivals, but credit also goes to my appa who is equally enthusiastic and gives her his full co-operation and support helping her in everything, sincerely conducting the poojas and making the atmosphere so pious and festive. As of todays generation, you even call them, they don't have time to come for vettala paaku and hardly there are people left who call people of vettala paaku, time constraints and deadlines have made people anti-social and people dont want to visit each other for vettala paaku thinking of social obligations.

What constitutes the Vettala Paaku

Vettalai – Betel Leaves

Paaku – Betel


Manjal - Turmeric

Kumkumam – Bindi or the traditional ku

mkum powder

Manja Cheradu (Yellow thread)





Blouse piece





A gift – something in plastic or steel as per the convenience, financial status and likes of the person.

Out of these, Vettalai, Paaku, Manjal Kumkumam are the most important, the rest are upto one's own convenience and budget.


Golu is one of the cutest part of Navarathri, this is what interests the young children to visit houses with their mothers for vettala paaku. Golu means placing idols of Gods and dolls on a wooden staircase. Not everyone keeps Golu at home. It depends on family lineage. We don’t have the practice of keeping Golu at home, but as a kid I used to love to see the Golu at other homes during Navarathri. Early on Golu was meant to display stories of our Gods. Stories from the Ramayanam, Mahabharatham and Shiva puranam were displayed using dolls and idols of Gods, but as we have started to emancipate as a society modern themes have started entering our golus. Traditionally dolls and idols of Gods are arranged in steps like a staircase. On the top most step idols of Gods are placed followed by the other dolls on other steps. People decorate the steps with garlands of fresh flowers, nowadays people also decorate with art papers, festoons, balloons, lights etc. This is also an opportunity for women to exhibit the arts and crafts made by them on the steps. Though all family members get involved in the festivity, golu is traditionally a women's festival.

9th day

Saraswathi Pooja

Goddess Saraswathi is the wife of Lord Brahma(Creator of the Universe). Goddess Sarawathi is usually seen with books and musical instruments. My amma will make us read from our books

first before wrapping them neatly in an unused cloth(usually

silk) and then praying to Goddess Sarawathi to bless us with knowledge. On this day people make young children to learn to write. They usually teach the children to write”Om” followed by alphabets on sand.

Ayudha Poojai (Praying to the tools/equipments) is also done on this day. People pray to their tools on this day.

A musical concert of reputed classical singers is held every evening for nine days at Navarathri Mandapam of Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum.

Period: October/December every year.

10th day


This day is the last day of this festival. Dassera or Vijayadashmi is considered as the second biggest festival after Deepavali. This is a special day for attaining victory in anything and everything. Vijayam means victory. Therefore, this day is celebrated as an auspicious day for starting any new work. People start new activities like learning music, dance etc on this day. Those who play musical instruments or learn music, usually visit their Gurus with Thamboolam(Vettala, Paaku, Poo(Flowers), Pazham(Banana), Prostrate before their Guru, seeking his/her blessings and take atleast one lesson with their

Guru on that day marking sweet beginnings to their journey of learning. Those who keep Golu will change the position of one doll in the golu, marking the end and the next day the golu is removed. The entrance of the house is decorated

with a Thoranam made with Mango leaves and Marigolds.(You can see the entrance of my home decorated with Thoranam prepared by my husband)

You can also see a picture of the Maa-Kolam I drew outside my house on Dasera day.


The musical soirees during the Navarathri festival is a feast for the eye and intellect. Many temples organize music concerts in the evenings. Eminent musicians perform in the presence of the deity. Since religion and culture are interlinked, we have a delightful fusion of golu at home and kutcheri in the temples.


Kummi is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances of Tamilnadu. It originated when there were no musical instruments, with the participants clapping their hands to keep time. This is performed by women; many varieties of Kummi, such as, Poonthatti Kummi, Deepa Kummi, Kulavai Kummi, Kadir Kummi, Mulaipari Kummi etc are known. The women stand in a circle and dance clapping their hands rhythmically. This dance is usually performed during temple festivals, Pongal, the harvest festival, family functions like the one to celebrate the coming of age (onset of puberty) of the girl-child etc. The first line of the song is sung by the leading lady, which the others repeat.

People dance around the deity clapping rhythmically. At every step they gracefully bend sideways, the arms coming together in sweeping gestures, up and down, left and right, each movement ending in clap.

Kai Silambu Attam

This dance is performed in temples during Amman festivals or Navaratri festival. The dancers wear ankle-bells and hold anklets or silambu in their hands, which make noise when shaken. They perform various stepping styles jumps. The dance is in praise of all female deities, the most preferred being the powerful angry goddess - Kali or Durga.


Kolaattam is an ancient village art. This is mentioned in Kanchipuram as 'Cheivaikiyar Kolattam', which proves its antiquity. This is performed by women only, with two sticks held in each hand, beaten to make a rhythmic noise. Pinnal Kolaattam is danced with ropes which the women hold in their hands, the other of which are tied to a tall pole. With planned steps, the women skip over each other, which forms intricate lace-like patterns in the ropes. As coloured ropes are used, this lace looks extremely attractive. Again, they unravel this lace reversing the dance steps. This is performed for ten days, starting with the Amavasi or Newmoon night after Deepavali.

Originated as devotional Garba dances, which were performed in Durga's honor, this dance form is actually the staging of a mock-fight between the Goddess and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king, and is nicknamed "The Sword Dance". The sticks of the dance represent the sword of Durga.

What further adds colour and music to the Navarathri festival these days is the vibrant `Dandiya Ras'. The event has crossed geographical and cultural barriers to become a universal mode of celebration. In Tamil Nadu, it has a different form called `kolattam'. With the small wooden sticks having bells at the end in their hands, men and women dance to the vibrant rhythm of music. So popular are dandiya nights during Navarathri in any city that people don't hesitate to join in the elation.

To get a feel of the festival season, which is not just a religious occasion but highlights art as divinity, celebrates music as an obeisance to creativity and enjoys dance as a mass entertainment. People are out there, everywhere in temples, in neighbour's homes, at market places, on the streets to partake in the glitter and glow of the season. As usual discount sales are screaming out, as these are auspicious occasions to make purchases. It is a treat indeed to see women and children dazzling in their silk dress materials wearing gold ornaments and jasmine flowers tucked in their heads spreading an ethereal fragrance.


This is a festival that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. It is a festival of music, dance, of giving, of sharing, of good food, wearing good clothes, meeting people. Underlying everything is the universal message of peace, harmony and bonhomie.

Happy celebrations!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Today is Rakshabandhan(Rakhi Poornima) and today is also Avniavittam(for the Yajurvedis) celebrated in South India by the Brahmins. On this day, the male members who wear the sacred thread change into a new one. This ritual is known as Upakarma which means Beginning. The sacred thread is known as Poonal, Jahnva, Janeyu, Yagnopaveetam. Offerings of water using a Pancha patra udrani (A special vessel with a special spoon, usually found in all brahmin houses) are made to the ancient Rishis, there are prescribed procedures and mantras to be chanted, this ritual is usually conducted by the family priest or the head of the family who has immense knowledge of the Vedas.
Yagnopaveetam has three threads, each consisting of three strands. These threads represent: Goddess Gayatri (Goddess of mind), Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of word) and Goddess Savitri (Goddess of deed).

One of the important features if this festival is chanting of the “Gayatri Mantras”.
It is said that, chanting Gayatri Mantra can make you feel warm in the coldest of winters.
This mantra contains the spirit and energy of all the mantras.
There is a traditional saying in Sanskrit;
“Gayantam traayate yasmaat Gayatri'tyadhiyate. (This means Whoever sings 'Gayatri' is protected”)

Usually on the Avniavittam day the Gayatri japam is recited 108 times by the Male members of the family.
Below is the Gayatri mantra;

Which means : (meaning explained below),
We meditate (Dhimahi) on the Spiritual Effulgence (Bhargas) of that Adorable Supreme Divine Reality (Varenyam Devasya), the Source or Projector (Savitur) of the three phenomenal world planes, the gross or physical (Bhuh), the subtle or psychical (Bhuvah), and the potential or causal (Suvah), both macrocosmically (externally) and microcosmically (internally). May that Supreme Divine Being (Tat) stimulate (Prachodayat) our (Nah) intelligence (Dhiyah), so that we may realize the Supreme Truth.

Festival At home.........
The Female members have to wake up early, take bath, sanctify the house and the courtyard, draw Kolam inside and outside the house and start cooking for the lord without tasting the food. The food is offered to the Lord, this procedure is called “Neivedhyam” after which the food is served to the male members after they complete the rituals.

There is a comic line for this festival that goes “Avniavittam Komanam, Pullai Porandhal Shobhanam” which means that this festival has more relevance to the male and the family that has a son (heir to the family), is considered lucky. This festival holds relevance to the males and implicates that a son is a heir to the family.

The food cooked for Avniavittam is special (No onions or garlic are used in the cooking) and it is served on a fresh green banana leaf.
It consists of ;
Rice, Paruppu, Ghee, Sambhar, Rasam, Beans or Cabbage Poriyal(Curry/Podutuval), Kootu, Avial(Mixed vegetables), Pachadi, Chakara Pongal/ Payasam, Paruppu vadai, Pappadams, Banana chips(salted and sweet).Of course no Brahmin meal is complete without the yogurt and there are yet a lot of things that are part of the menu, but these days with single unit families, a lot of things have disappeared but I have tried to retain the staple things onto my menu and strive hard to celebrate every festival as these are the memories that we give our I cooked up a storm......Saddhi chapadu(as they say) and served it all on a Banana Leaf......for that wave of nostalgia....

Here is a recipe of the Chakara Pongal
CHAKARA PONGAL (SWEET PONGAL) There are many ways to make this dish, some use yellow split lentil(moong dal) also in the recipe. But this is a quick and easy recipe, which my mom makes and always a hit at my home.
Raw rice – 1 ½ cup
Jaggery – 1cup
Ghee- 2-3 tbsps
Cashewnuts – 2 tbsps
Raisins - 2 tbsps
Cardamoms – 5
First cook the raw rice as usual. Keep aside. Now in a wok, add 2 tbsps ghee, add in the cashewnuts, raisins and cardamom powder and fry until slightly pink. Now add in the jaggery and about 1 cup water. Wait till the jaggery melts, if there are any lumps crush it with the back of a spatula. When the liquid starts to froth, Add in the cooked rice and stir well with the jaggery syrup. Keep on a low flame. Keep stirring once every 2 mins. As the jaggery starts to thicken, the mixture will become uniform. Add one tbsp of ghee and stir. You will notice that the mixture starts to leave the sides of the pain. This indicates that it is done. If you cook more than this, the rice will become crispy. Mix well, transfer to a silver vessel. Keep a basil leaf (Basil leaf is also known as “Haripriya”(liked by the Lord), read about Tulsi in my blog) on top and offer as Neivedhyam to God. After that serve hot. Enjoy this South Indian delicacy.

We call it Beans podutuval at home and some call it beans curry or beans poriyal.
French Beans – ½ kilo
Mustard seeds- 1 tsp
Udad dal - 1 tsp
Red chillies – 1-2
Grated Coconut - 2 tbsp
Turemric powder – 1 tsp
Asafetida – a pinch
Salt as per taste
Oil – 1 tbsp
Chop the Beans into small pieces, rinse in a colander and keep aside. Heat the oil in a wok and add the mustard seeds, when they start to splutter add the udad dal, when they are slightly pink add in the chillies broken into 2 pieces and fry for a minute. Now add the chopped French beans, turmeric powder, salt to taste and asafetida and mix well, Cook closed with a lid on a low flame and let it cook in its own juices. Open after about 3-4 minutes. Add some water if required. Cook till it is done. Once the beans are dry, add the grated coconut and mix well and cook for another 2 minutes till you get the faint aroma of the coconut. Serve hot with, rice and Sambhar / Rasam (Click on this link for the recipe in my blog)

and Cucumber – Tomato Pachadi for you;


Cucumber - 1
Ripe red & juicy tomatoes – 2
Curry leaves – A sprig
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
Asafetida – a pinch
Fresh Thick Yogurt – 5-6 big heaped tbsps
Salt as per taste
Vegetable cooking oil – 1 tbsp
Peel and chop the cucumber into small pieces, Chop the Tomatoes into small pieces also.
Put the chopped vegetables in a bowl, Add thick yogurt and salt as per taste and mix well.
Now in a small pan, take one tablespoon of cooking oil, Add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds, when the mustard seeds start to splutter, add a pinch of asafetida and the curry leaves, just fry a bit and pour this into the bowl. Mix well and serve with rice and curries.
You can find the recipe for Cabbage Poriyal and Avial here. (Click on the name which is a link to the recipe in my blog)


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