Festivals & Significance

Sri Krishna Jayanthi – Significance & Offerings to the Lord.

Lord Shri Krishna in a lovely Tanjore Painting at my home.
Lord Shri Krishna in a lovely Tanjore Painting at my home.

Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shri Krishna. Lord Sri Krishna was born on the ‘Rohini’ nakshatram (star) on Ashtami day.  The festival Sri Krishna Jayanti is also known as Gokulashtami and Janmashtami. Sri Krishna is Lord Vishnu’s eighth avatar (incarnation) on earth. He is considered to be the Lord’s most glorious incarnations.  Even saying and remembering His name brings joy because Sri Krishna himself was a manifestation of joy at all levels and in all walks of life. In Tamil Nadu Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated with great pomp as its a festival spelling happiness and joy as the saviour was born on this day.

People offer sweets like Vella Cheedai, Aval or Poha Payasam, Butter etc as these happen to be the Lord`s favourites. Many homes have beautiful kolams adorning their homes and little feet drawn in the floors as if to show little Krishna coming in to our homes. Poojas are performed and flowers and neivedhyams are offered late in the evening when the moon rises as this is the time the Lord was born.

DSCF5111

In my home, Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated with the utmost devotion and love. From the time I learnt the art of “Yezha Kolams” when I was in school, it was my bounden responsibility to decorate the front yard with lovely kolams and with little baby footprints coming all the way to the pooja sanctum at home. In the mornings, we would help Madurai amma roll out the Cheedai balls and scrape the jaggery for the sweets. My sister and me would thread cleaned mango leaves in to a “Thoranam” and hang it outside our main entrance to the home. The home would be cleaned and decorated to welcome the little Lord!!!

Mango Leaves threaded in to a Thoranam.
Mango Leaves threaded in to a Thoranam.

Prayers Offered:

Krishnashtakam

Sri Krishna Ashtothram

Madhurashtakam

Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Maduraiamma`s Uruli with flowers.
Maduraiamma`s Uruli with flowers.

Neivedhyams Offered to the Lord:

Gokulashtami Neivedhyams
Gokulashtami Neivedhyams


Brisk Breakfast · No Need of Onions!!! · Snacks & Tiffin Items

Quick Fix Arisi Upma (Upma made from coarse cream of rice cooked with seasoned spices)

Quick Fix Arisi Upma
Quick Fix Arisi Upma

Every evening from school meant having tiffin prepared by dear Madurai amma. It would not be a lot in quantity, just a little bit to satisfy that crazy hunger pangs when you come home from school after a tiring day and a crowded journey jostled in public transport. It would not even be warm, let alone hot, but lovingly served. When you are a student, somehow you crave for exotic eatables like Gobi Manchurian, fried rice. pulav, channa batura and the like. In contrast, madurai amma would make Upma,  Pidi Kozhakattai,  Poha, Dosa etc. After some  years, in my hostel for my Masters, I would recount those lovely home made preparations waiting for you when you come home after a tiring day. Life after masters was completely different. I started eating all fruits and vegetables and an thing that amma or Madurai amma would prepare and serve on  my plate. I had realised the importance of what I had taken for granted!!!

One such tiffin entree that Madurai amma was an expert at, was  Arisi Upma. Many times, it would be the dinner for every one on Amma Vasya, festivals, Pradosham etc.This evening, I had made Arisi Upma for dinner and was recounting those lovely days of my childhood…..

It is a quick preparation, that does not need any prep work done ahead of time.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of Raw Rice ground coarsely in the mixer.

1/4 cup of Toor Dhal.

1 spoon of Urad Dhal.

1 1/2 spoons pf Black Pepper.

1 spoon of Jeera.

1/4 cup of fresh coconut.

2-2 1/4 cups of water.(Depending on induvidual preference of Upma consistency)

Salt.

Coconut Oil.

Hing.

A handful of broken cashews.

SEASONING:

Mustard, Jeera, Red Chillies, Urad Dhal, Channa Dal, Cashew, Hing and Curry Leaves.

PREPARATION:

  • As already mentioned coarsely grind the rice in the mixer and set aside.
  • In the mixer jar add – toor dhal, pepper. 1 red chilli and give it a quick pulse. Then add the fresh coconut and 5-6 cashew pieces.
  • Pulse it for a few more seconds and set aside. You will have a coarse mix.
  • Set the kadai on the stove and add 2-3 spoons of coconut oil. (You could also use ghee/canola.)
  • Add urad dhal, channa dal, mustard, cashew, jeera, 2-3 red chillies coarsely broken, hing and curry leaves.
  • After a few seconds add the coarse ground rice and then the coarsely ground dal coconut mix.
  • Allow to saute in the oil for a minute or two.
  • Now add the water and mix well. Switch off the heat and transfer to a vessel along with the water.
To be kept in the cooker.
To be kept in the cooker.
  • Pressure cook it just as you would do with rice.
  • Generally I allow 3 whistles after the weight. Give a couple minutes for the steam to work off and then open the cooker.
  • Hot, cooked Arisi Upma is ready to be served.
  • Serve with Coconut Chutney or Tomato Ginger Gravy.
Naivedhyams/ Festival Offerings.

Nei Appam ( Spongy soft balls made from rice and jaggery fried in ghee)

Nei Appam
Nei Appam

Festivals have been an integral part of our lives and they usher in so much of redundant goodness and positive vibrations. Every festival has its own significance and I try to capture as much as I can with what I have lived with, in my childhood. It`s more an effort to showcase to my daughter all the traditions that I had grown up with, although in many cases it can never be the same. It`s always better with a grandmother in the household, leading the way for all of us to learn. I do miss the fact that my daughter is not growing up in a joint family, with elders to guide and grow with….

Nei Appam is a staple “neivedhyam” for karthikai deepam, avani avittam, Krishna Jayanthi etc. I remember the lovely heavy bronze Appakaral that Madurai amma had with its huge curvy depressions. I have an Appa Karal thats made of non stick and very shallow depressions. I do miss the heaviness and the beauty of the bronze one I am used to.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup of Rice soaked for 3-4 hours.

A little less than 1/2 cup of Jaggery. (I don`t prefer the dripping with sweetness taste)

1/2 a ripe banana.

1 Tsp Wheat flour.

A pinch of baking soda.

1 tsp cardamom seeds powdered.

1/4 cup of finely chopped coconut pieces.

PREPARATION:

 

"Appa Karal"

 

  • Clean the soaked rice and put in to a mixer jar. Pulse it to grind to a smooth paste adding little water .
  • Crush the ripe banana with a fork. Grate the jaggery with a peeler or knife. Set aside.
  • Now add the ripe banana and the grated jaggery and pulse it once again to mix it well. The jaggery pours out more water in to the mixture.
  • It is always better to watch the water added as we dont want the batter too runny.
  • Pour out the batter in to a vessel and add the chopped coconut pieces. Stir well.
  • In the Appa Karal add a few spoons of ghee and allow to heat.
  • Pour out the batter in to the depressions and allow to cook well on one side.
  • Now flip it over with a knife or a skewer  and allow the other side to cook in the ghee.
  • When done, it would look a little crusty on the outside.
  • Remove and allow the ghee to drain on a tissue.
  • Keep closed.
  • The Nei Appam should be a littl crusty  on the outside but soft and spongy on the inside, with the aromas of the cardamom, ripe banana and fried coconut pieces.
  • Offer to the Lord and ENJOY!

HINT:

Retried the recipe today and I added 1 spoon of wheat flour and a pinch of baking soda to the ground batter.The results was an  astonishingly crunchy crust with a very soft spongy inner layer!!!

Appam Stick or Flipper!!!
Appam Stick or Skewer.
Festivals & Significance · No Need of Onions!!!

YajurVeda Upakarma (Avani Avittam) – Significance & Purpose.

Avani Avittam Menu
Avani Avittam Menu

Avani Avittam, as I remember, was a day when the men of the family went to the temples, in the morning for performing the Upakarma, in the temples. Upakarma (/upaakarma/) means beginning or “Arambham“, i.e. to begin the study of the Veda (Veda Adhyayanam). For example, Yajur Upakarma means to begin the study of the Yajur Veda. Those belonging to the Yajur Veda observe the Upakarma in the month of Sravana (August-September), on the day of the full moon (paurnami). Why begin study of the Vedas on this particular day? This auspicious day also happens to be the day when Lord Narayana assumed the avatar of Lord Hayagriva. Lord Hayagriva as we all know restored the Vedas to Brahma and also is the God of Knowledge. (Courtesy – Ramanujam.org)

The next question is: why do this every year? In the not too distant a past, Veda Adhyayanam was performed only during the period Avani to Tai (from mid-August to mid-January). Therefore, one is supposed to perform an “utsarjanam” in the month of Tai, i.e., a giving up of the learning of Vedas from Tai to Avani. Just like a Upakarma function there was a Utsarjana function in Tai. The period between January to August was then devoted to learning other branches of our shastras. Thus the cycle of Upakarma and Utsarjana with regard to Vedic studies was established. However, this method took 12 or more years to learn just one veda. Slowly this became impractical and Vedic studies continued throughout the year.

The main purpose of the Upakarma function is to offer prayers and express our gratitude to those rishis who gave us the Vedas — the rishis through whom the Vedic mantras were revealed. These rishis are known as “kaanda rishis”.In the Upakarma Homam as well as in the tarpanam, the offerings are made to the kaanda rishis. In fact this tarpanam is so important that it is included as part of  our daily worship.

On the Avani Avittam day(the full moon day bearing the nakshatra “Avittam” in the tamil month of Avani)  Brahmins after a holy dip ,change the sacred thread and wear a new holy thread. This ritual is known as Upakarma, which means beginning. The sacred thread is referred as ‘Poonool,’ ‘Yajnopavita’ or ‘Janeyu.’

DSC02470

Today`s lunch menu was a little spread, consisting of:

Awards

Kreativ Blogger Award – Thank you friends!!!

An award in the world of blogging comes as a sweet surprise to anyone and so did it when I received it from my sweet fellow bloggers – Lata Raja of Flavours and Tastes from Ghana, and EC of SimpleIndianFood. Thanks a ton Lata and EC…you guys really made my day!!!  In our everyday lives, we do try to be a little different and creative in our cooking , when its a dish for a festival, or a special dinner for hubby dear or even a small evening snack for our kids!!! But well, the awards from fellow bloggers is a whole different thing to me!!!

kreativblogger[1]

The Kreativ Blogger award comes with its own rules!!!

1. You must thank the person who has given you the award.

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

3Link to the person who has nominated you for the award.

4.Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

7. Leave a comment on which of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

DSC00172

Here are a few interesting things about myself….Well…as far as I know this is me…

  1. I love anything creative and I yearn to create anything of interest…It could be a simple butterfly from a piece of rag, a new dish from leftovers, little pots of painted terracota, containers from coconut shells etc. I try to find different uses for everyday things!!!
  2. I love watches and I used to be a watch freak buying one every few months whenever I used to feel like it. One one hand, I love the Titan Ragas, the movados, espirit, edge, and even the ones made from fabric….Strange huh?
  3. I love cooking anything and when people I love, enjoy my meal, of what I have cooked for them, I feel so satisfied….I do put in a lot of devotion in my everyday meals with the faith that it tastes much better then ever.
  4. Pictures and photography enthralls me. Angles, lighting, lines of the structure, sharpness, colour depth, detail, everything. I study and drink it in all the details deep.
  5. I collect Ganeshas in all colours, shapes and sizes. When I was in India,I tried offering one lily flower everyday to all my Ganeshas, and found it way too difficult , much to the amusement of my “Pookari”.
  6. Travelling is almost a passion. It could be a small locale very close to home or a place as beautiful as Venice, Egypt, Paris or Greece.
  7. Music is also a passion from when I was a little girl. I crave for good music in any form. I listen to Carnatic Classical, Western Classical, Western Pop, regardless of the language or band.

I nominate the following 7 people for the Kreativ Blogger Award from my end.

Kid Friendly Recipes. · Milk Shakes

Rose-Minty Watermelon Cooler.

Watermelon Cooler
Watermelon Cooler

It`s that time of the year when your throat is tempted to reach out and grab bottles and bottles of cold water, lemonade, fruit punches or simply any icy milk shakes. One of the most commonly available fruit at this time of the year is the Watermelon. As the name itself suggests, Watermelon is packed with some of the most important anti-oxidants in nature. It`s also a very good source of Vitamin C as well as Vitamin A.Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92%, giving its flesh a crumbly and subtly crunchy texture and making it a favorite thirst-quenching fruit.

How to Select a Good Fruit:

The best way to choose a flavorful melon is to look at the color and quality of the flesh, which should be a deep color and absent from white streaks. If it features seeds, they should be deep in color.

Many times , however, we do not have this liberty when purchasing watermelon since it is more common to buy a whole, uncut fruit. When choosing a whole watermelon, look for one that is heavy for its size with a rind that is relatively smooth and that is neither overly shiny nor overly dull. In addition, one side of the melon should have an area that is distinct in color from the rest of the rind, displaying a yellowish or creamy tone. This is the underbelly, the place that was resting on the ground during ripening, and if the fruit does not have this marking, it may have been harvested prematurely, which will negatively affect its taste, texture and juiciness. For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened watermelon and eat it as soon as possible.  (Courtesy – Whole Foods).

INGREDIENTS:

Watermelon chunks roughly chopped.

1/2 spoon of Roohafza.

1 spoon of Edible Rose Water.

A few shavings of grated ginger.

A few sprigs of mint leaves.

1 spoon of Honey.

PREPARATION:

  • Pop all the chunks of watermelon in to the mixer.
  • Add honey, roohafza, edible rose water, ginger gratings and give it a quick whip.
  • Pour in to a chilled glass just before serving.
  • Serve with mint.

Hints:

  • Great, Easy and healthy drink for kids in the evenings after school.
  • Chilling the glasses keeps the drink in it also cooler for a longer time for your guests.
  • Some people do not prefer the aroma and taste of rose. Substitute with ginger and lemon and mint.