With the advent of the month of Shravan (sometime in July-August according to the Gregorian calendar) begins the festival season in India and my mind is full of ideas of how to celebrate the plethora of festivals and poojas that await us. In our home, the first major Pooja of the season is Varalakshmi Pooja.
Celebrated on the Friday that precedes the full-moon in the month of Sravan (Shravana Pournami Poorvaasta Shukravaare or simply the Friday before Raksha Bandha or Nariyal Poornima) by married women across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and some parts of Tamil Nadu, Varalakshmi Pooja is said to bestow prosperity and well-being on the family.
Sri Lakshmi is the Goddess of Prosperity and manifests in many forms. As Varalakshmi (Vara = boon), she grants her devotees their wishes. Legend has it that Varalakshmi appeared in the dreams of a lady called Charumati and asked her to perform Varalakshmi Vratam. Charumati performed the Vratam along with other ladies from the village and as soon as the Pooja was over, they ladies found themselves blessed with riches.
Any pooja/vratam is said to be complete only after listening to the Katha or story about the origins of the pooja. As a child, I was most interested in this part of the pooja because the stories fascinated me.
Here is another payasam that is popular with us; Pesara Pappu Payasam, which is known Pasi Paruppu Payasam in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In this version, I have used sugar as it is faster to make this payasam this way. I will write about the recipe that uses jaggery or bellam in a later post.
Time: 45 Mins
Pesara Pappu or Moong Dal – 3/4 Cup
Milk – 3 Cups
Water – 1/2 Cup
Sugar – 2 Cups or To Taste
Cashews – 8 to 10
Raisins – 8 to 10
Green Cardamom – 3 or 4
Ghee – 1 tsp
Dry roast the pesara pappu till it starts to change colour.
Add 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup water.
Pressure cook for 4 to 6 whistles, or till the pesara pappu is of mashable consistency. Use a large vessel so that there is a lot of empty space after adding the pappu, milk, and water because milk has a tendency to boil over.
Using a heavy ladle, mash the dal.
Peel the green cardamom and crush the seeds to a coarse powder. It is easier to crush cardamom seeds if you add about 1 tsp of sugar. The volume makes it easier to crush the seeds.
Add the remaining milk, cardamom, and sugar to the cooked pesara pappu.
Over medium heat, bring the payasam to a gentle simmer.
Heat the ghee.
Break the cashew in halves and add to the ghee.
Stir-fry the cashew till it starts to change colour.
Add the raisins and stir-fry till the raisins start to puff up.
Add the fried cashew and raisins to the payasam.
I find that cooking the pesara pappu in milk gives the payasam a richer taste. You could also cook it using just water.
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.