“Food and Festivals are an integral part of any religion!” Indians love festivals. When it comes to celebrating these festivals we don’t constrict ourselves within the brackets of region, religion, caste, state or any other boundaries. We celebrate all festivals. More than the rituals and traditions associated with these festivals what fascinates us more is the food part.
To corroborate the above notion, let me borrow from a Malvani saying that my father iterates many times when it comes to express his love for food- “To eat fish, a Konkani person would not hesitate to sell his estate!” That is the sheer love for food that he expresses in that statement and must not be taken literally.
With that thought, we are celebrating Onam on Kali Mirch! Onam, a 10 -day long harvest festival of Kerala, falls in the month of Chingam according to Malayali calendar, (August or September as per Gregorian calendar). The timing of the festivities is so apt, that it seems that nature partakes in the celebration by offering numerous seasonal bounties that add to the festive zeal and spirit.
Onam has lot of mythology associated to it. A mythological story from Vishnu Puran that tells you the significance of this festival goes like this- Once upon a time, Kerala was ruled by a demon king named Mahabali. The mighty king, who was great grandson of Hiranyakshipu, the grandson of Prahlada, was also an ardent worshipper of God Vishnu. Unlike the stories that we hear about the demons, Bali was a kind and benevolent ruler who loved the people in his kingdom and would always help them. The time under his rule was considered one of great prosperity and happiness. He had conquered heaven and earth and now was in the preparation to conquer Indralok (an abode of Lord Indra).
His success got all the Gods wary and worried and they approached Vishnu for assistance who decided to help them. He finally stepped on earth as a dwarf or Vaman (also known as his Vaman avatar-incarnation). Mahabali was performing 100 Ashvamedha Yagnas on advice of his teacher Shukracharya, after which he would be King of the 3 Worlds. Vishnu as a dwarf Brahmin entered King Bali’s court at that precise moment. Generous Mahabali offered him a wish and said he would do anything to fulfill his wish. The dwarf demanded 3 steps of land measured by his own feet. Mahabali was equally surprised at this innocuous demand as each of his courtiers but he accepted his demand. As soon as the King agreed, Vamana grew..and grew and grew. He became so large that Bali could only see his feet. In first two steps, Vamana had covered Earth and sky and had no place left to take his 3rd step. Being true to his words, Bali offered Lord Vishnu his head where he could place his 3rd step.
With all the pain in his heart Vishnu placed the 3rd step on Bali’s head and with the mighty force he was pushed deep down into Netherworld. Before he was pushed down to the underworld, Vishnu accepted with great joy Bali’s final wish. Mahabali politely wished that he wants to meet his kingdom and wants to see his happy people atleast once a year.
This is why the 10-days festivities of Onam are organized when Keralite welcome their loving King and treat their unseen guest during these 10 days.
You may consider these as part of popular folklores and nothing more but you shouldn’t overlook the subtle messages that these stories pass on to their readers and listeners.
The festivities of Onam span 10 days starting from Atham-the first day of Onam. The major highlight of this day is traditional floral mat-Pookalam laid out in front courtyards of every house. They start making this floral mat and in subsequent days’ new designs and flowers are added to Pookalam. These are laid out for welcoming the legendary Mahabali who, it is believed, visits Kerala-his Kingdom.
During subsequent days Kerala witnesses a grand celebration and is transformed in sort of carnival with several different events taking place throughout Kerala like- Vallam Kali (boat races), Pulikali (tiger dances), Pookkalam (flower arrangement), Onathappan (worship), Onam Kali, Tug of War, Thumbi Thullal (women’s dance), Kummattikali (mask dance), Onathallu (martial arts), Onavillu (music), Kazhchakkula (plantain offerings), Onapottan (costumes), Atthachamayam (folk songs and dance) (source wiki)
On the final and 10th day-Thiru Onam, it is said that Lord Mahabali comes home for a visit. Hence a grand feast, OnaSadhya, is prepared with special delicacies. Every recipe is precisely curated for Sadhya using local and seasonal ingredients. Coconut is abundantly used in every recipe – mainly to enhance flavor and to balance the spice! Kera means coconut in Malayalam, and a land with of coconut palms came to be known as “Keralam”!
Sadhya are of two types – Nalukootan (4 Kari Sadhya “and Ettukootan (8 Kari Sadhya). Everyone make this Sadhya as per their financial background. It is said in colloquial Malayalam “To eat Sadhya, a one can sell his estate too!”
Sadhya are served with 2-3 Payasam – a kheer made with either milk or coconut milk and without Payasam Sadhya is considered to be incomplete.
We are concluding our Onam Series with this delicious Cherupayar Parippu Payasam- Moong dal Payasam! A classic sweet dish from God’s own Country-Kerala- Moong Dal Payasam, with the sweetness of Jaggery and subtlety of Coconut Milk.
Make this delicacy this Thiru Onam and share your feedback with us in comment section below
- 1 Cup=200gms Moong Dal (Yellow Petite Lentils)-washed and soaked for 30 mins
- 1 and ¾th Cup=350gms Jaggery-finely chopped
- ¼th Cup dry Coconut-sliced into length
- 1 tbsp Raisins
- 1 tbsp Cashew Nuts (8-10 in nos)
- 1 tsp Cardamom Powder
- Ghee as required
- 1 Cup=250ml Coconut Milk-First extract
- 1½ Cup=375ml Coconut Milk-Second extract
- 1½ Cup=375ml Coconut Milk-Third extract
- Water as required
- We will start with cooking Moong Dal in a pressure cooker. Transfer soaked Dal in a pressure cooker. Add 2 Cups of Water. Traditionally Moong Dal is cooked in a Pan but it takes longer to cook. So we are using a Pressure cooker. Cover with lid and pressure cook. Pressure cook on medium heat until 3 whistles
- Let the pressure subside naturally. Meanwhile, we will roast nuts. In a Pan, add 2 tbsp Ghee. Allow it to melt
- Add Cashewnuts and fry until it becomes light brown in color. After 2-3 mins Cashewnuts becomes brown. Remove from Pan.
- Fry sliced dry Coconut in the same pan until it becomes brown in color. After 3-4 mins, remove dry Coconut in a plate.
- Now fry raisins until it gets fluffy. After 30 seconds, remove raisins in a plate. Reserve the Ghee in the pan. We will use this Ghee later.
- In the same pan, we will make Jaggery syrup. Add Jaggery pieces and 1 Cup of water. Allow Jaggery to melt on medium heat. The melted jaggery has started to simmer. We will cook it for some more time on low heat until the syrup slightly thickens
- We have cooked syrup for 8 mins on low heat and it has thickened to desired consistency. Remove from Pan and strain. Strain the melted Jaggery
- Heat 1 tbsp Ghee in a Pan. Now add cooked Moong Dal. Cook Dal in Ghee for 2-3 mins. Now add Jaggery syrup
- Mix on medium heat. Stir well and ensure there are no lumps formed. We have cooked Jaggery and Dal for 3-4 mins on low heat
- Now add Coconut Milk-3rd extract. Add Coconut milk on low heat and stir to mix well. Let the Payasam come to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat. Cook on low heat for few more mins
- We have cooked Payasam on low heat for about 8 mins and it has blended well. Now add Coconut Milk-2nd extract. Add and stir well on medium heat. Allow Payasam to come to a boil on high heat (3 mins)
- Reduce heat. Cook on low heat for few more mins. We have simmered Payasam on low heat for 8 mins and it has thickened
- Now add Cardamom Powder and mix well. Now add fried Coconut, Cashewnuts, Raisins along with the reserved Ghee. Mix well
- Now, add Coconut Milk-1st extract on low heat. Add and stir well to mix. Do not cook after adding 1st extract
- Remove from heat. Keep covered until serving
Click to watch recipe video