Every year, the month of “Marghazi” is of very special significance as it heralds new beginnings, the new year, the music season in Tamil Nadu made redolent with the myraid performances of senior music stalwarts in the various halls, Vaikunta Ekadasi, and of course Thiruvadharai. When I actually embarked on the significance of this day I found so many different versions, all of them confluencing on the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva.
This festival occurs on the day of the Arudra star in the tamil month of Marghazi, and is of course of special significance to Lord Shiva. This day also marks the auspicious time for Arudra Darisanam – of Lord Nataraja in the Saivite temples all over Tamilnadu. This celebration is marked by abhishekams to Nataraja and his consort Sivakami during the full moon night, and worship services such as the Deepa Aradhanai to Natarajar amidst the chanting of sanskrit and tamil hymns and the waving of lamps, in the pre-dawn hours, when the moon still shines bright, an enactment of the dance of Shiva, and a grand procession through the processional streets.
Although there is a shrine to Natarajar, in virtually all of the Saivite temples in Tamilnadu, five of these are considered to be the Pancha Sabhais or the five cosmic dance halls of Shiva. The five dance halls are:
Roasting the Rice Flour is again an important and integral portion of the process of making Nombu Adai. The rice flour has to be roasted on a medium flame for about 7-8 minutes until it reaches a consistency where you can pick it up and draw a line with it . It would have changed from a fresh white to a dull brown colour.
3/4 cup of rice flour.
3/4 X 2 cups of jaggery.
1 1/4 cups of water.
A handful of cooked red beans.
A pinch of elaichi powder.
1/4 cup of sliced coconut.
A drop pf ghee.
In a kadai, add the water and the jaggery and allow to boil.
Add a drop of ghee, red beans, sliced coconut, elaichi powder and stir in well.
Lower the flame, and slowly add the roasted rice powder little by little.
Use a whisk and bring the mixture together in to a smooth dough.
Use the same procedure as in the Kara Adai and flatten the balls of dough and place them on greased idli plates.
Steam the vella adai for 8 minutes on high and for another 7 mins on sim without weight.
Offer this neivedhyam HOT with uncooked butter.
If you find that the jaggery has given out far more water than what you have imagined and the vella adai maavu consistency is too watery, simply pour in to the idli plates, steam and enjoy hot vella adai.,
This is a dish that get twice cooked. Once when you mix and cook it in the water over the stove and the secind time when it steams in the cooker.
The MOST important step int he whole process is the roasting of the flour until its almost a dull red.
Karadaiyan Nombu is the tamil ritual where married women pray for the well being of their husbands and little girls pray to get good husbands in future. This ritual is observed at the time the tamil month of Masi ends and the month of Panguni begins. It`s believed that Savithri who was a very devout wife, saved Satyavan her husband, from Lord Yama the God of Death. In order to show her gratitude to the Lord, she quickly made “naivedhyam” out of ingredients easily available then and there and offered it to God, along with uncooked butter.I am guessing “Karadai” refers to Kara – adai which means a savoury pancake. There is also the sweetened preparation called Vella Adai. Another ritual , is to offer the adais, a fruit, butter etc to Lord, pray for one`s husband`s well being and tie the Nombu Charadu which is a yellow thread, around the neck. Following the tradition of Karadaiyan Nombu is believed to attain Dheerga Sowmangalyam ( Long Married Life).
Every year when we were small, I remember madurai amma would dutifully tie her madisar so beautifully and get ready for the vratam. Mami and me and D would help in the kitchen in rolling out the dough, flattening them on little square cut banana leaves and placing them in the idli plates. Mami would then steam them out in the cooker and place them in little casseroles. There would be no need to grease the plates as they adais would be directly placed on the idli plates flattened on to the leaves. All one has to do is pull out the leaf and place the piping hot adais on the casseroles. I would love to see the little adais with the banana leaf pattern on one side. I am guessing there is also a flavour angle here, but I can never be too sure. After making the adais, Madurai amma would have laid out little square kolams for us to place the small banana leaf in front of the altar. We would all sit on follow her cue from there. She would place, a banana, the nombu charadu, the kara adai and the vella adai on the leaf and serve a blob of butter and offer it to God. She would also place a similar leaf for the Goddess herself. After tying the charadu to the picture of the Goddess, she would tie it on her neck and then tie each of our charadu on our necks too. Then we would salute the Goddess and then partake our prasadam.
Today, as I was following Madurai amma`s traditions, teaching them to my little daughter, I am reminded of how much devotion she would put in to every festival, every ritual. Her every proportions for dishes that she had taught me over the years, still hold good. I am very lucky to be her grand daughter and to have lived with her and learnt so many things from her. The preparation for kaara adai is also her proportions which are perfect if followed correctly.
1 cup rice flour.
2 cups of water.
A handful of cooked red beans (Karamani)
1/3 cup of thinly sliced coconut pieces.
1 Tsp Finely chopped Ginger.
1 spoon of salt.
2 Green chillies chopped in to fine pieces.
Mustard to season.
Dry roast the rice flour for about 7-8 minutes till it becomes a very light shade of yellow, and keep aside.
In a kadai, add 2-3 spoons of coconut oil and when hot, add mustard. When the mustard splutters, add chopped coconut, chopped green chillies, curry leaves, cooked red beans and a pinch of hing.
Allow to saute for a few minutes and then immediately add 2 cups of water and the salt.
Allow for this to boil, like you would do for upma.
Now slowly bring the stove to SIM and add the roasted rice flour little by little.
Use a whisk to bring it all together. You will see that it becomes a nice cooked ball of rice upma.
Grease your hands and also a small ziploc cover on one side. Make a ball from the rice upma and flatten it n the ziploc cover till it becomes the size of a cookie. Make a little hole in the centre and place it on a greased idli plate.
Comtinue and finish the dough , place the idli plates in the cooker and steam on high for 8 mins and then simmer and cook without weight for another 7 minutes or so.
Remove from idli plates, and serve HOT with uncooked butter.
The most important part of the Nombu Adai is roasting the rice flour until it turns to a consistency where you can almost etch a”kolam” line with it. Not roasting it properly alters the water absorbed by the Nombu Adai. PLease take care with this.