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.


Sumi said...

hmmm, tad same but very different from how we Thanjavur folks celebrate Diwali. we wake up at 3 am, but instead of ukkarai or any other sweet, the first thing they give us after ''ganga snanam'' is ''deppavali marundhu, aka legiyam''. nice i crave for ukkarai. amma makes the best ukkarai, am sure u do too.


Name said...

Hmm, I am not sure in which part of kerala is puthukotta, but my parents(both based on trivandrum) had stories of bursting crackers on diwali. I even remember my grandma telling me abt bursting crackers during deepavali. So i guess that was there from ages...We used to do enna thechu kuli in mornin and ate lots of sweets and savouries . Parippu vada and kaliodakka(kalivadakka) were must_made_items on the eve of diwali

Anonymous said...

Ammu paatti:

You came out of puthucode family and I got married into puthucode family. Although none of our family lives there we visit the bhagavathy temple every time we visit from the USA. Your blogs are nostalgic of my grandma and my childhood days in Kerala (Chalakudy). Thanks for posting. I ahve tears in my eyes.... The search for Thiruvathira kali brought me to your blog site.