Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I love this time of the year---and this year after a long gap, the Monsoon is back---and the way it used to be---in the old days!!!Tomorrow is "Janmaashtami" in Maharashtra---the birthday of Lord Krishna,the most Beloved Incarnation of Lord Vishnu---and widely celebrated all over India----but a day earlier in Maharashtra.
On the day prior to His Birth, Maharashtrians observe a Fast----for 24 hours starting at midnight---they do not eat or drink anything----only those who are medically advised eat certain Foods made from the approved "Fasting Items" or "Upvaasi Pharaal" as it is called.Dairy Products are totally abstained from in deference to the arrival of the Lord----to the extent of not taking Milk in Tea or Coffee---that day denying oneself the usual cup of Tea or Coffee is a sign of Devotion !!!The entire day is spent in Worship and Prayer and in preparing the Ceremonial Food for The Birth at midnight----a sumptous Spread is prepared to celebrate the Event on hat day!!!Each household has different Traditional Menus which are cooked on that day.In our home we cook Green Peas "Usal" and Fresh Corn Kernels "Usal" --- both being a dry dish simply cooked but truly tasty!!!Then there is "Masaaley Bhaat" or Spicy Rice,steamed White Rice,"Varan" or sweet mashed,lightly seasoned Split Pigeon Peas, "Aloo- Kansanchi Paatal Bhaaji" or Colocassia/Taro Leaf and Corn Vegetable Curry, "Bataatyaachi Suki Bhaaji" or Dry Potato Curry,"Khamang Kaakdi" or Cucumber Salad,Green Chutney, hot and spicy Panchaamrut(a Chutney type Pickle),Papadums and Vegetable Fritters.Not to forget the crowning Glory----"Saanzoree" or thin Rotis stuffed with "Sheera"a Sweet Semolina Pudding cooked in Coconut Milk.Once cooked this Food is assembled in the prescribed manner and served on tender,clean Banana Leaves----starting with a pinch of Salt placed first thing on the left,followed by a wedge of Lemon,then a tsp.of Chutney,followed by a tsp.of Pickle,then a tbsp. of Panchaamrut,then the Cucumber Salad,then the Taro Leaf and Corn Curry,then the Potato Curry,followed by servings of both the Usals,Papads and Fritters---everything is prepared fresh that day itself---cooking starts in the late evening.The Food is always served left to right----and the Saanzorees and both varieties of the Rice are pressed into moulds and served in the centre of the Leaf.The White Rice gets a large dollop of Varan and a tsp.of Ghee over it.This "Varan -Bhaat" is the first thing eaten---this traditionally breaks the Fast!!!
My M-I-L Atya observed this fast each year----the reason being that when she was pregnant with Sudhir an astrologer advised her to do it--saying that the outcome would be auspiscious for the new Baby.She fasted on this day ever since till she passed away in 1994---since then I've begun performing the Ritual---I however do not Fast----but do cook the entire Menu as prescribed and after offering it to the Gods/Goddesses in my home Altar---feed my "Godly Husband" or my "Pati Parmeshwar" before I eat.I love cooking this Meal--it acts as a connecting Bond with The Almighty---May His Blessing always rest on our heads!!!