Festival Foods

by Jyotsna Kamat  

 "Why do we prepare certain delicacies are prepared on certain festival occasions only?" "Why milk preparations on Krishna Janmashtami, modakas on Ganesh Chaturthi and Pongal varieties on Makara Sankranti? We enjoy good food on all occasions, but why this specification? What is their significance?"

In Hindu festivals, special dishes are prepared and offered to respective deities, and the seasonal background plays an important role in the celebration. Let me start with Sankranti, which falls in January. the new kharif crop is in and the worship of Surya in the form of Vishnu, and Mother Earth (or Bhudevi) in the form of Laxmi are worshipped on the occasion with dishes prepared out of new rice, new pulses, oil seeds, jaggery etc. Thoughout India Pongal, khichadi, undhiyo and sweets of sesame seeds re eaten. Exchange of jaggery and teel is very common with sugar-cane pieces, turmeric etc., During Yugadi, the summer sets in. Hence this Hindu new year and Ramanavami are celebrated with cool drinks and pachadi of cucumber and soaked pulses. Shravana is the month of monsoon bloom and dishes of green vegetables, fresh coconuts, bamboo shoots, roots, special leaves and flowers are used. Milk pudding, butter, and curd preparations signify cowherd Krishna's birthday, Krishnashtami. Modakas of fresh coconut, regional varieties of murukku, laddu and kajjaya are thought to be favorites of Ganesh and are offered on Ganesh Chaturthi.


Sankranti Sweets

Fruit Offerings for Lord Krishna

Sweetened Oil Seeds Mark  the Sankranti Festival

Festival Foods of India

Then comes the Dasara, associated with Rama and Durga -- both warrior deities. Fasting signifies Shakti or Durga's worship. Some offer meat and liquor following some tantric practices. During the Diwali festivities, fried delicacies are common. Ghee, dried nuts are used in plenty. In a warm-climatic country like India, winter is the only time you can eat calorie-rich food, which keep the body warm. Some rare sweets like halwas, phenori, which require elaborate cooking are prepared and exchanged.

In olden days when the transportation of food stuffs and vegetables was difficult, only seasonal food, typical of the region was cooked and offered to the deities. These food items came to be identified with particular deities, and the practice has continued till today. In India, the tradition does not disappear easily, and we find that the traditional food habits in fact, trace the ethnicities of the people. The festival food habits speak volumes of the imaginative and God-fearing attitudes of ancient Indians who associated food offerings of different seasons to their favorite gods and goddesses.

See Also:

  • Land of Festivals -- India is a land of festivals and fairs. Every day of the year there is a festival celebrated in some part of the country.
  • List of Recipes at Kamat's Potpourri
  • Vegetarian Links
  • Fun with Vegetables -- Kamat's lust for life is reflected even in the vegetables he buys! Pictures of common and uncommon vegetables of India.


Kamat's Potpourri Timeless Theater Foods of India

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