Diwali Food Traditions
Diwali is not the only festival of lights but also a festival of tradition, gratitude and most importantly food. Diwali marks cooking of delicious savory snacks and Mithai. This festival has many legends signifying celebration and happiness. Many important events occurred on Diwali day, Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after killing king Ravan, Lord Krishna killed Narakasur, Samudra Manthan or churning of ocean happened on this day, Lakshmi goddess of wealth married Lord Vishnu on this day.
For Jains Mahavir attained nirvana, celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas in remembrance of the release of Guru Hargobind from the Gwalior Fort prison by the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, and the day he arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. During the Diwali week everybody starts to prepare savory snacks and sweets, there is an exchange of gifts and sweets. The auspicious Diwali lamps are lit and the whole country is shining, with the Diwali decoration. But there are some traditions that do things differently; they have their own foods and customs to be eaten on the Diwali day.
Annakoot means Lot of Food, A mountain of food is made to please Govardhan Mountain, He is also called Giriraj or king of mountains. Annakut is celebrated on the fourth day of Diwali, that is the very next day after Amavasya, to offer gratitude to Krsna and Govardhan. This festival is celebrated mainly in Rajasthan and near about of Mathura. The origin of this festival dates back to Lord Krishna when he asked Vrajwasis to give up worshiping Indra and instead worship Govardhan as it is the mountain that provides food for the cows, and they were cowherds men so serving cows were really dear to them. Govardhan means one who nourishes the cows.
Later Lord Krsna lifted the Govardhan mountain to save people of Vraja from the wrath of Indra. From that day onwards worship of Govardhan began. Since Govardhan is a mountain and is humongous in size, it is perceived as it needs a lot of food. Therefore to satisfy the hunger of Giriraj mountains of food are made. Those in Vraja do parikrama of the sacred mountain and offer Bhoga to Giriraj. Those away from Vraja either worship a Shila or rock of the mountain or make a mountain of cow dung, having eyes and mouth and perform the rituals. Abhishek is performed of Govardhan, later mountains of food are made along with Chappan Bhog to seek Mercy of Giriraj.
The Bengal’s Shaak
When everybody is eating sweets, the people of Bengal eat Shaak during the second day of Diwali. The elders would say “Na khele bhoote dhorbe,”. If you do not eat it, ghosts will haunt you. According to Charak Samhita, it is believed that during the month of Kartik, that is the pre-winter month, the doors leading to Yamloka are open and the evil spirits move freely. to protect oneself from these evils, and in order to retain our strength and ward off the dangers, one must eat this Shaak. This unique Shaak is made of 14 different kinds of leafy vegetables.
This Shaak consists of red amaranth leaves, Kalmi (water spinach), spinach, Kochu (Colocasia), Notey (amaranth), Kumro (pumpkin), mulo (radish), Lau (bottle gourd), Paat (jute), Motorshuti (green peas), methi (fenugreek), Palta (pointed gourd leaves), Betho (Bathua), and Shorshe (mustard) Shaak. This Shaak also has no specific recipe, each household makes it differently. The vegetables are first washed and soaked before cooking. And then the soaked water is sprinkled in and around the house to ward off any evil spirit.
Poha, seriously, who eats Poha on Diwali. Poha is a flattened rice Maharashtrian preparation mostly eaten as breakfast in Maharashtra and Goa. In Goa there are different dishes are prepared with the Poha during Diwali, and it is mandatory to eat Poha during the festival. According to popular Goan legend lord, Krishna loved eating poha, it was his favorite preparations. After lord, Krishna returned to Dwarka after killing Narakasur lord Krishna was offered his favorite Poha. poha is known as Fau, in Goa.
The five dishes with Poha are Bataat Fau, which is poha cooked with potatoes and a tempering of curry leaves, lentils, and mustard seeds; then there is the sweet and the spicy Kalayile Fau, prepared by mixing the poha (by hand) with a fiery spice blend, grated fresh coconut and a hint of jaggery. The Doodhatlye Fau is a simple, delicate dish of flattened rice in milk; the Rosathle Fau is poha prepared in cardamom-infused coconut milk, and the Dhayatle Fau is a simple sweet poha prepared with curd or buttermilk. The poha is usually served with dried pea curry, Vatana Usal.
Yam or Sooran is something which drives the kids away; Sooran might be one of the favorite vegetables of many people. But in Uttar Pradesh is and parts of north India eating Sooran on Diwali day gives the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi. Yam grows by corns and even after harvest the corns remain, symbolizing the abundances of the produce. Since goddess Lakshmi and Diwali symbolizes abundance in wealth, eating Sooran became the tradition. There is no specific recipe but Sooran has to be had in any form. Generally, Sooran is eaten stir fried with spices, or as Chokha with Pooris.
The Tamil Nadu’s Diwali Medicine
The foods eaten during festivals can be heavy to the belly, and you may need help to digest. Therefore in Tamil Nadu, a Marundu or medicine is prepared and is mandatory to be eaten empty stomach on Deepavali day. This can be had anytime but during Diwali this is mandatory. Various ingredients such as carom seeds, poppy seeds, dry ginger, dry grapes, honey, jaggery, nuts, ghee are used to prepare this medicine. This preparation prepares your digestive system for indulging in good festive food.
Kerala’s Ginger Jaggery preparation.
Dhanvantri the god of medicine was the last person to appear from churning the ocean, with The elixir of immortality, ‘Amrit’. It is believed that Samudra Manthan happened on the Diwali day and the following day after Diwali is celebrated as Birthday of Dhanvantri. This is a very popular tradition in Kerela. Their Diwali morning starts with a pre-bath Abhyanga, a herbal massage with turmeric, gram flour, and Oil. After this massage, they have a ritual bath and wear clean clothes. Then a concoction made of Jaggery and Ginger is offered to Lord Dhanvantri to seek his blessings. Dhanvantri is the god of health and medicine worshiping him with this preparation showers health and protection from diseases.
Sukhsuptika or Kashmiri Diwali
Deepavali or Sukhsuptika is oldest known Kashmiri pundit ritual that is mentioned in the Nilamat Puran, a text of 6th – 7th century A.D. This text is named after King Nila of the Nagar dynasty that ruled Kashmir in the beginning. King Nila describes sixty-five rituals and festivals which were celebrated by the Nagas, Sukhsuptika is one of those important festivals being celebrated.
Diwali of Kashmiri pundits start on Ekadashi and ends on Kartika Amavasya, Kashmiri Pundits keep a fast during Diwali. In the evening they worship goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. They light lamps in temples, crossroads river banks, and every part of their surroundings. The evening Feast is arranged to be enjoyed with relatives and friends. And sweets are distributed since Kashmiris were not so used to eat sweets they substituted sweets with sweet puris to be offered to Lord Narayana and then distributed among relatives and friends. After the pujas and worship the next day people wear new clothes, gamble and listen to folk songs.
Ningol Chakkouba of Manipur
Diwali in Manipur is celebrated the same way it is celebrated in other parts of the country, by lighting lamps, exchanging sweets, gifts and bursting crackers. But before or after Diwali comes a very special Manipuri festival of “Ningol Chakkouba”. The festival of “Ningol Chakkouba” is a very important and popular festival of Manipur, especially the Meitei Community. It is celebrated on the second day of the lunar month of Hiyanggei , which falls a day or two either before or after Diwali. “Ningol” means the daughter of a family, and “Chakkouba” stands for a feast. On this day, the married women of Manipur go to their paternal homes for a feast and receive gifts from their parents and brothers.
The children of the daughters are also excited as they get to wear new clothes, get gifts, dokhina (token money) on this auspicious day. The invitation of this festival is sent formally a week ahead of the festival by the brothers. The feast is prepared by bamon a Chef or by mothers and elders of the family. The dishes include vegetables and fish preparations such as nga thongba (fish curry), iromba (spicy chutney), ooty (a type of dal), soibum mathel (bamboo shoots dishes), hei thongba (a dessert made of fruits) and a long list of food follows. After a long lunch session with all the family members, the daughters spend quality time with their maternal family and relish their childhood memories. Daughters and their kids are presented with gifts. This festival is so special that daughters wait the whole year for this day to come.