July 24, 2017 is the start of Shravana Masam or the month of Shravan in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka which follow the Amavasyant calendar. It ends on August 23, 2017. Now begins the “favouritest” part of the year for me.
Shravan is the fifth month of the Hindu calendar and is probably its holiest. It is choc-a-bloc with festivals and auspicious occasions. It also ushers in the 4-month long festival season in India that stretches right up to Deepavali or Diwali (mid-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. 🙂
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.The dates for the Shravan Somvaram Vratam in 2017 are:
July 24, 2017
July 31, 2017
August 7, 2017
August 14, 2017
August 21, 2017
Mangala Gowri Pooja is performed by married women (sumangali) on all Tuesdays in Shravan for the well-being of their husbands. Gowri (or Gauri) is also another name for Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.The dates for the Mangala Gowri Pooja in 2017 are:
July 25, 2017
August 1, 2017
August 8, 2017
August 15, 2017
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.The dates for Shravan Shukravar in 2017 are:
July 28, 2017
August 4, 2017 (Varalakshmi Vratam)
August 11, 2017
August 18, 2017
Nag Panchami is the day snakes are worshipped in many parts of the country. The date for Nag Panchami is August 7, 2017.
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. The date for Raksha Bandhan, Narali Poornima, Avani Avittam is August 7, 2017.
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 childare 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.The date for Krishnashtami, Janmashtami, or Gokulashtami is August 14, 2017.
Here are a few recipes that you can make during this month.
Makara Sankranti is one of those festivals that is celebrated across the length and breadth of India, albeit under various names. Typically, celebrated over 2 to 4 days, it marks the start of Uttarayanam or the 6-month period which marks the the passage of the Sun northwards towards the Tropic of Cancer.
Hindus believe that the 6 months of Uttarayanam corresponds to 1 day for the Gods while the 6 months of Dakshinayanam, when the Sun moves southwards towards the Tropic of Capricorn corresponds to 1 night for the Gods. 🙂
Makara Sankranti is also the harvest festival and so a day to celebrate the fresh harvest. A lot of the dishes made on this day include freshly harvested produce such as rice, sugarcane, etc.
One combination that is common to Makara Sankrati celebrations across India is Til and Gud or Sesame and Jaggery. You will find people across India making sweets such as Til ke Laddoo (or Tilgul as it is called in Maharashtra) or Gajak.
It is a day to celebrate and typically every family has a feast at home. Here are some Sankranti Recipes that you can include in this feast.
Using new rice is a big part of Sankranti celebrations in the South. You can make:
BhogichiBhaji, as the name suggests, is a dish made on Bhogi in Maharashtra. It is a mixed vegetable that celebrates the winter vegetables such as Paavta (Indian Lima Beans), Fresh Green Chana (Harbhara), Carrots, and more. In addition, Bhogichi Bhaji uses Peanut Powder and Sesame Powders which are warming in nature and are perfect for the season. It is to be savoured hot with Bajrichi Bhakri.
I have been meaning to make Mohanthal (Besan Burfi) for ages now and have always been put off by how daunting it is. Then this Diwali, I decided to make it much like I overcame my reluctance to make Badushah | Balushahi last year. 🙂 I am glad I made the effort to make this traditional sweet as it turned out just perfect!
In India, sweets have a rather different connotation from desserts of the Western world. By sweets, here we mean an assortment of dishes that can be enjoyed as a post-meal dessert, be served as a snack, or then something you could just pop into your mouth when the mood takes (a la chocolates).
Mohanthal is essentially made by roasting Besan in ghee till it is brown and then adding sugar syrup to it before cooking it further. It sounds simple and it is simple I guess, except for the last part where you have to keep an eye on the Mohanthal else it will become too hard or chewy or then not set. Pretty much the same problems you have with the Traditional Mysore Pak.
There are many different variations of this traditional sweet; I chose the simplest one to try, the one without Mawa. It turned out to be decadent and delicious.
How to Make Mohanthal | Besan Burfi
Besan – 1 Cup
Ghee – 1/2 Cup + 1/2 tsp for greasing
Sugar – 1/2 Cup
Milk – 2 tsp
Water – 1/4 Cup
Lemon Juice – 1/4 tsp (Optional)
Cardamom Powder – 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg Powder – 1/4 tsp
Dry Ginger Powder – 1/2 tsp
Almond Flakes – 1 tbsp
Pistachio Flakes – 1 tbsp
Method to Make Mohanthal
Grease a 6″ plate with 1″ edge with 1/2 tsp of ghee.
Preparing the Besan
Melt 1/4 cup ghee.
Sift the besan into a large plate.
Add 2 tsp milk to the besan and mix well.
Drizzle the ghee onto the besan.
With your fingers mix well till the besan becomes like crumbs.
Making the Sugar Syrup
In a pan, gently boil the sugar and water till the sugar dissolves.
Let it boil till it reaches the one thread consistency.
Turn off the heat.
Add the dry ginger, nutmeg and cardamom powders.
Add the lemon juice and mix well. The lemon juice prevents the sugar in the syrup from crystallizing.
Making the Mohanthal
In a kadai, heat 1/4 cup of ghee.
Add the besan mixture.
Over medium heat, saute till the besan turns a rich brown earthy colour and becomes aromatic.
Turn the heat to low.
Add the sugar syrup to the besan.
Mix well. It will becomes spongy at first.
Over medium heat, cook the mixture for about 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly. Essentially to ensure that the sugar syrup is well incorporated.
Pour this hot batter into the greased plate.
Ensure that the Mohanthal spreads evenly.
Sprinkle the almond and pistachio flakes over the Mohanthal.
Let the Mohanthal cook for about 1 hour.
Using a sharp knife, cut them into squares.
For the rich brown colour, ensure that the besan is well-sauteed in the ghee. It takes some muscle power but is needed.
After adding the sugar syrup, ensure you mix everything quickly and do not cook it too much or you will have rubbery, chewy Mohanthal.
You can store the Mohanthal at room temperature for 2-3 days. For a longer duration, I would recommend refrigerating it.
Asoka Halwa is South-Indian Style Moong Dal Halwa from from the Tanjavur (Tanjore) district of Tamil Nadu. Locally, it is also known as Thiruvaiyaru Halwa after the city where it originated.
Making Asoka Halwa is similar to making the North Indian Moong Dal Halwa except that it uses a bit of wheat flour to hasten the cooking process and a lot less ghee. Also, many a time, yu will find it bright orange in colour because of food colour (I did not use any).
In terms of taste and texture, the Thiruvaiyaru Halwa is far more dense but similar in taste to the Moong Dal Halwa.
Do try it this Diwali and decide for yourself.
How to Make Asoka Halwa | Thiruvaiyaru Halwa | South-Indian Moong Dal Halwa
Time: 1 Hour
Makes: 2 Cups
Serves: 6 to 8
Moong Dal – 1/2 cup
Sugar – 1.25 cups
Ghee – 8 tbsp
Wheat flour – 2 tbsp
Green Cardamom – 6
Orange/Red Food Colour – A Few Drops (Optional)
Cashew – 10 to 12
Getting the Moong Dal Ready
Over a medium flame, dry roast the moong dal till it is light golden colour.
Soak the moong dal in in 1.25 cups water for about 15 minutes.
Pressure cook the moong dal for about 4 whistles till it is of mashable consistency.
Let it cool a bit.
Roasting the Cashews and Wheat Flour
Over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp ghee.
Add split cashews and fry till light golden.
Remove the cashews.
Lower the flame.
To the same ghee, add the wheat flour.
Stir-fry till it starts to change colour and becomes aromatic.
Remove into a plate to cool.
If the moong dal has a lot of residual water, drain it.
Peel the green cardamom.
Grind together the sugar and green cardamom seeds to a fine powder.
To the sugar, add the moong dal and grind together to a smooth paste. Because of the water in the sugar, it will become a bit liquidy.
In a non-stick pan, heat about 3 tbsp ghee.
Add the moong dal paste and saute while stirring constantly.
When the paste starts to change colour and become translucent, add 2 tbsp ghee.
Add the fried cashews and wheat flour.
Cook while stirring constantly. The Asoka Halwa will now thicken very quickly.
Continue to cook till the Asoka Halwa starts to leave the sides of the pan.