My favourite time of the year started yesterday with Shravana Masam or the month of Shravan.
Hindus follow the lunar calendar. In North Indian states like Uttar Pradesh,Punjab, and Rajasthan, the month starts on the full moon day (Poornima). However, in some states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, the month starts on the new moon night (Amavasya). Since I belong to the latter category, Shravan began yesterday for me. Don’t worry too much about this, even we Indians have a hard time sometimes keeping up with all the calendars! 🙂
Shravan heralds the festival season in India which stretched up to Deepavali or Diwali (early November this year). The intervening period is filled with all manner of festivals and holy days that give me an opportunity to indulge in all my favourite activities; perform and attend assorted poojas, dress up in lovely silk sarees, visit friends and relatives for haldi-kumkum, sing in temples on various auspicious days, attend a range of concerts, and last but not the least, enjoy a vast range of delicacies. 🙂 Shravan is the fifth month of the Hindu calendar and is probably its holiest. It is choc-a-bloc with festivals and auspicious occasions.
Read a scientific explanation of why we should fast in Shravan. Eating fish is also prohibited in Shravan, for one simple reason; fish spawn at this time of the year.
Each region in India has its own set of festivals and here are some that we observe in Andhra Pradesh (which is the state my ancestors are from) and Maharashtra (the state where I grew up and live):
- Shravan Somvaram or Mondays in the month of Shravan are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Many devotees fast on these days. It is said that unmarried girls who want to get married should observe the Shravan Somvar fasts.
- Mangala Gowri Pooja is performed by married women (sumangali) on all Tuesdays in Shravan for the wellbeing of their husbands. Gowri (or Gauri) is also another name for Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.
- Shravan Shukravaram or Fridays in the Month of Shravan are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. For married women in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, the most important Shravan Shukravaram is the one that falls on the Friday before the full moon (Shravana Pournami Purvasta Shukravarey). This is the day on which Varalakshmi Vratam is performed.
- Shravan Paurnami or Shravan Poornima has become popular all over India as Raskha Bandhan, a festival that is essentially from North India and one that celebrates the relationship between a brother and sister. In Maharashtra, it is celebrated by the Koli community or the fisherman community as Narali Poornima. They worship Lord Varuna, the lord of the seas to bless them with a bountiful catch and protect them on rough seas. In Tamil Nadu, this day is also celebrated as Avani Avittam.
- Gokulashtami, Krishnashtami, or Sri Krishna Janmashtami is the birth of Lord Krishna; He who gave the world the Bhagwat Gita and as a child was known to steal milk, curds, and butter from all households around him. In Maharashtra, Krishna’s antics as a child are enacted by youngsters (known locally as Govindas) who go around breaking pots of milk and curd tied high above the ground by forming human pyramids.
Then there are other festivals like Nag Panchami. Each of these festivals is marked by fasting or feasting or both! 🙂 In some states, there are special goodies for those who fast. Alas! I come from a state that insists on milk and fruits for fasting. 🙁 My hope and wish for this month is to share recipes of some special dishes that we make on festival days.
This time around I hope to share some more traditional delicacies!
I hope you stay tuned. 🙂