One of the important Hindu festivals is Navratri , roughly translated as Nine Nights. The festival lasts for nine days and nine nights. The tenth day is Dussehra or Vijaya dasami. In the Ramayan, Ram battles with Ravan to free his wife, Sita who had been abducted by Ravan. The battle lasted for nine days and nine nights and on the tenth day, Ram killed Ravana and emerged victorious. That is why, the tenth day is called Dussehra (victory over Ravan, who had ten (dus , in Hindi) heads or Vijaya Dasami (the victorious tenth day). It is also believed that Sita was praying to the Holy Trinity of Shakti for providing Ram with the strength to emerge victorious. Hence, the nine days and nine days are dedicated to the three Hindu Goddesses of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
In South India, there is an exhibition of dolls kept in the house. The dolls are basically idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are arranged in nine/seven/five/three steps as per convenience. The ladies and girls are invited to each other’s houses and are given gifts and tamboolam ( which includes paan, areca nuts, turmeric, flowers ). It is believed that each and every woman is an embodiment of Shakti. There are lots of house visits during these nine days and the main offering to the Gods made during these days is sundal, or tempered lentils. This is a photo of the dolls exhibition in my house:
The ninth day or the Maha Navami is the Saraswati Pooja day. On this day, the Hindu Goddess of learning , Saraswati is worshipped. During my childhood all our textbooks and pens were kept in front of the Goddess and the puja was performed. The next day . i.e., on Vijaya Dahami my dad would take the books and give them and we would start reading from them. (This time I kept my laptop, camera and cookbooks..:)).It is also on Vijaya Dasami when parents start teaching the toddlers to write, which is called Vidyaarambam ( start of education). The baby sits on the father’s lap and the father holds the baby’s fingers and makes him/her write on raw rice which is kept on a plate. Traditionally, it is on this day children start their music classes or instrument classes. Some schools in Tamilnadu also have admissions for the kindergarten students on this day. The students also pay respect to their teachers on this day. I have been calling my music teacher every year where ever I am and I am happy that I havent missed wishing her on this day till date.
On this day, I would like to pay my repsects to all my teachers from school and college, my music teacher, my bosses who have bben my mentors and also my mum and mum-in-law because of whom I can cook a decent meal.
I prepared this Rava Kesari to give to my guests during this Navratri and I would like to share the recipe with you. Rava Kesari as it is known in TamilNadu is also known as Ksheera or Halwa in other parts of India. It is the simplest of all sweets but there are a couple of tricks to get the perfect taste. Of all the Rava Kesaris I had tasted, my mom makes the bestest. I never got it right till now and this time it was pretty close. So here goes the recipe for Rava Kesari.
Rava/Semolina/Sooji – 1/2 cup
Sugar – 1/2 – 3/4 cup ( depending on your sweet-o-meter and the quality of sugar)
Water (boiling hot) – 1 cup
Ghee/ Clarified butter – 1/4 cup ( reserve 2 tablepoons)
Cardamom powder – 1/8 teaspoon
Yellow or Red – 4- 5 drops in case of liquid colours
Cashew nuts – 1 tablespoon chopped
Raisins – 1/2 tablespoon
- In a pan, add ghee and semolina and roast the semolina till a fine aroma rises and the raw smell of semolina goes
- While roasting the semolina, bring the water to boil in a separate vessel
- Add the boiling hot water to the roasted semolina and let it cook
- Once all the water is absorbed by the semolina add sugar.
- Once the sugar is absorbed ,add food colour and cardamom powder. Mix well and switch off after a minute
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of ghee in a small pan and roast the cashew nuts and raisins and add them to the kesari.
This is best served hot.
Wishing you all a very Happy Dussehra and Vijaya Dasami!!!