Saturday, October 31, 2009


Deepavali represents the victory of light over darkness, goodness over wickedness.

Hope every one had a nice Deepavali (yes, that's how it is known in the southern states of India). As is my practice I go back to my childhood days on each festival day and the things I remember are being woken up very early in the morning and given an oil bath and given pakoda and ukkarai to eat at that unearthly hour. Deepavali was not a big festival in rural Kerala in those days. Only the Tamil speaking Iyers or Iyengars celebrated Deepavali in Kerala in those days. They also did not have a big celebration unlike people from other states. Especially for Puthucodians, coming as it does after the greatest festival of the year, Navarathri, Deepavali was a low key affair.There were no fire crackers or new clothes. We also did not light diyas for Deepavali, we would do that for Karthikai. Kerala had fire crackers for Vishu and new dresses for Onam. So what did we have for Deepavali?

There of course was a special snack preparation for Deepavali in all the houses and invariably all the houses had Pakoda and Ukkarai for Deepavali. Then on the eve of Deepavali, all the households stored water in big utensils called Anda and Arkkinchatti, emptying the water from the wells. The firewood stove in the bathroom was also kept ready for heating up the bath water early next morning. Though usually we all went to the nearby stream for our bath, on Deepavali day everyone took bath in hot water at home.There would invariably be the story telling session by our Echiyamma and on the eve of Deepavali it was the story of Narakasura vadha. (I narrate the story as told by our echiyamma). Our echiyamma would wake us all up at 3 am. While our mother got busy with lighting the big stove in the bathroom for heating the water, our athai would make a small kolam and place a wooden palakai (a small stool) on the kolam. We all would sit on the palakai one by one and our echiyamma would pour one spoon of oil on top of our head symbolically. Our athai would take over from there and oil our hair and body thoroughly and get us all ready for our bath. Our athai and mother would give us all a hot water bath rubbing our hair with soapnut powder and body with greengram dal powder. Our athanga (athai's eldest daughter) would dry our hair and comb and plait them. Then came the most important ritual. We all would put on our best dress (not brand new) and say our prayers in the pooja room. Then we were given the ribbon pakoda and ukkarai to eat. Sankaran, the man who milked our cows and buffaloes would not have come at that early hour and hence we would have to wait for our coffee until he came. We would all crib for coffee. When we had had our snacks and our mother, athai and echiyamma had gone for their bath (they went to the stream for their bath), we all would fall asleep one by one where we sat (We were not allowed to sleep in bed after the bath). When Sankaran finally came and milked the cows and coffee was made, we would all be woken up for the second time. By now the sun would have risen and we would go out and meet our friends and eat some pakoda or ukkarai from their homes as well, come back home and have a breakfast of Idli and Chutney.

In the evening the children (under 20) of all villages took out a procession of a decorated chariot or car (ther in tamil) to the accompaniment of Nadaswaram. The children made their own collection of funds for this and this was a good entertainment for all of us.

After a few years, some households started making sugar based sweets, like Thengaiburfi and diamond biscuits and it is only recently that people have started making mysore pak and laddus for Deepavali in Kerala.

So after my marriage when I came to live in Bangalore, we always made sugar based sweets like Badusha, rava laddu, Mysore-pak, Boondi laddu, Gulab jamun etc., and never tried Ukkarai. So this Deepavali I prepared Ukkarai. I also prepared Methi Para, thenkuzhal and Mysore-pak for Deepavali.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Important festivals in October 2009

Thanks everybody for your kind messages during my long sabbatical. We are all doing very fine, thanks to the Blessings of Bhagavathy and the best wishes of all of you. As I had mentioned earlier we had got into some minor renovation of our home, which per the contractor was supposed to take 3 weeks and at most 4 weeks. And it took, hold your breath, exactly 7 weeks, at the end of which we just sent them away as we already had planned on going to Hyderabad the next day. We also had to celebrate Onam, Ganesh Chaturthi and Navarathri as well as my mother-in-law's anniversary during this time. All these activities had me on my toes all my waking hours and I had no energy left even to check my email. We just reached Hyderabad and what torrential rains we had! Non-stop for 5 days. And to think that the roads we had travelled on just the previous day had all been washed away gave me the jitters. My heart goes out to all those who lost their everything in the floods of last week. Generally I was at my lowest ebb.

The show must go on. Here then is the list of festivals for October 2009. The only festival in October 2009 is Deepavali.

17th October 2009 - Deepavali.
Deepavali or Diwali as it is known in the North India is the biggest festival of the year. People across the country celebrate Deepavali differently. The common celebration being the lighting of diyas and bursting of crackers and consumption of mounds and mounds of sweets. The festival itself is celebrated on different days in different parts of the country. Whereas in Tamil Nadu Naraka Chathurdashi is celebrated as Diwali, most other people celebrate Amavasya as Diwali. Many people observe a vrath for Diwali and in north India Laxmi Pooja is done on Diwali day.

The most important part of Diwali being preparation of sweets. I have given many recipes for sweets and savouries. Have your pick and enjoy!

Happy Diwali to one and all!