Konkan cuisine – the fun and fiesta of festivals –II

While rest of India celebrates Raksha Bandhan on the full moon day of this month, the people of Konkan celebrate Narli purnima or coconut day. The day is thus called as coconuts are offered to the sea. This is done mainly by the fisher folk to appease the sea God and pray for their safety before resuming fishing season after the peak of monsoon when they do not venture into the choppy seas.
Soon follows Janmashtmi or the birthday of Lord Krishna. Most devotees fast till midnight when the birth of the Lord is announced, thus calling for a festive meal comprising of dishes, which, according to mythology, was liked by Krishna and his playmates in Gokul. This meal includes rice, butter, yogurt, puris, dahi pohe and a special vegetable made of potatoes. Amboli, a pancake similar to that of uttapa but a little thinner, is consumed with a bhaji made from leaves of drumstick tree since they are considered auspicious. On this festival night, children have a special place in every household. They are given plenty of butter and puffed rice mixed with sweet milk.Ganesh Chaturthi, perhaps the most important festival of this region, is celebrated around end August-September. This is the feast of elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, the God of wisdom and the benevolent deity. Ganesha’s blessings are invoked at the commencement of every occasion. Lord Ganesha is the presiding deity of this region. A clay replica is brought home and worshipped from 1½ days to 5, 7 or 11 days, that is till Anant Chathurdarshi. On the last day, the deity is taken out in a joyous procession and immersed in flowing waters. This is called visarjan (immersion). Along with Lord Ganesh, the people of Konkan also worship Gauri – the Goddess Parvati – Lord Ganesha’s mother.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a day of great feasting. Special sweets called Modaks are steamed or fried for offering to Ganesha. Modaks are small rice or wheat flour dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery. Besides this, a large variety of savoury and sweet snacks such as shevian, karanjis, laddoos, chaklis, kodbolis and anarsas are distributed to devotees and guests during the puja.
On Rishipanchami, or the day following Ganesh Chaturthi, food grains that are produced on fields which are ploughed by the bullocks are not cooked. Hence only vegetables are used. The special bhaji is made with colocassia, green and red leafy vegetables, potatoes, yam, colocassia leaves, padval, etc. Slit green chillies are used for flavouring and garnished with grated coconut, coconut oil and triphal. Puja of Sapta ( seven) Rishis is also performed on this day.
Dassera, which generally comes in October, is considered a very auspicious day for any new beginnings. Many children begin their education, their dance or music or art or sport lessons on this day. New journeys are planned and elders are respected in a ritual, which is touching, as it is interesting. On Dassera, a special dish called Kesari Bhaath and Puran Poli are made.
Soon after Dassera, comes the wonderful festival of lights – Diwali. The commercial city of Mumbai becomes a magical fairyland with scores of twinkling lights and Akashkandils hung in front of every home. The colourful electric lights decorate the buildings and fireworks assert the festive mood. During these five days, elsewhere in Konkan too, Diwali is a festival of twinkling lights and bursting crackers. Mouth-watering snacks, with a variety of sweetmeats, are made by every family. A special feature of Diwali in Mumbai is the identical paper lanterns which children make to light up homes in a building. This practice shows the community spirit of the festival. Many communities hold sports, arts, drama and cultural events to celebrate Diwali. Among the various savoury and sweet preparations made, some are Besan laddoo, chaklis, shankarpale, chivda, papdi, anarasa etc.

Tulsi Vivah, marriage of Tulsi and Krishna follows Diwali, towards mid December. The celebrations go on for three days after which comes the Dev Diwali i.e. Diwali of the Gods which goes on for a month which is considered auspicious.
Makar Sankranti is a festival that usually comes on the 14th day of January denoting the movement of the Sun from the tropic of Cancer to the tropic of Capricorn and is celebrated by the women with joy. They make a variety of sweets from jaggery and sesame seeds like til laddoo, and hold women’s gathering called haldi kumkum.
In March, comes the colourful spring festival of Holi. The jingle ‘holi re holi puranachi poli’ signifies that puranpoli is the special sweet of this spring festival. Holi is celebrated in the month of Falgun to mark the coming of spring season. It is the celebration of Lord Krishna playing raasleela with the gopis and drenching them in colours. Burning of the previous winter’s deadwood in a huge bonfire, throwing of coloured water on each other, community dancing are the integral parts of this festival.
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