FOOD AND TRADITIONS OF FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

The season of autumn (Kartika) brings the joy of celebration in air as the biggest hindu festival according to the Indian lunar year is here again on 14th November 2020. “ Diwali “ the festival of lights and flavors is rejoiced for victory of  light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance as a symbol of triumph of lord Rama over Ravana and it remarks his return to ayodhya after 14 years of exile. It’s usually a five day celebration, the climax being on third day as it’s the birthday of goddess Laxmi. It marks the beginning of financial year in India. Preparations are started by cleaning, renovating and decorating the house with lights and flowers often before the main day.

Diwali marks a major shopping period in India. During Diwali people groom themselves with new and traditional clothes. The women, in particular, adorn themselves in colourful attire and decorate their hands with henna and their houses with diyas, candles and rangoli. Goddess laxmi and lord ganesha is worshipped for prosperity and spirituality. Rituals and preparations for Diwali begin days or weeks in advance, typically after the festival of Dussehra that precedes Diwali by about 20 days. The festival formally begins two days before the night of Diwali, and ends two days thereafter. Each day has the following rituals and significance. Gifts, celebration packs filled with sweets and snacks are exchanged among friends and families. These snacks were used to be home made before but now processed marketed gift packs from some popular brands like kurkure, Cadbury, Haldiram , Bikano are high at demand due to modernization. The scenic fireworks often call for gathering of all children’s and adults among the neighborhood.

Kheel Batashe (sweet puffed rice with sugar drops) and animal shaped confectionery called khilone are an inescapable part of celebrating Diwali.  Any festival is incomplete without Indian sweets called as ‘Mithai’ and mouth watering savory snacks. Diversity being the beauty of India, the sweets and mainly vegetarian food has various differences yet many similarities among each state and community. Food is always first offered to god to pay respect before eating as it is believed to be a gift from god.  Mithai like son papdi made from gram flour and flaky in consistency, ladoo made from boondi, coconut, gram flour, kaju barfi, gulab  jamun made from milk solids and sugar syrup , halwa of sooji,carrot etc. , kheer from fox nut (makhane) or different types of rice are usually presented as gifts. The base of all these mithai is commonly chick pea flour, wheat flour, milk (khoya), sugar or jaggery, dry fruits, ghee etc. Along with this the traditional sweets like sandesh from Bengal made with milk (khoya) and sugar, singal which are fried semolina spirals from Uttarakhand, sohan halwa from rajasthan, aarasa from M.P which are rice fritters with jaggery with poppy seeds, khajia from bihar, panjiri from punjab, Deepawali Marundu from Tamil Nadu are relished specially during diwali season. These small titbit of deliciousness are often blinged up with silver leaf (zarq) for decoration.  Besides the sweet treat, aloo chole puri is a must have kick start for any festive season. There is a plethora of salty-savory snacks from different places. Even though pakora, samosa , Aloo tikki , Dahi vade are famous and enjoyed around the year but the demand of these food is specifically high during the festive season , they are either made at home or purchased from the market. Chakli which is traditionally a deep-fried Indian snack prepared using rice, lentils, and different spices and Murukku Crispy Indian Rice and Lentil Flour Snack are some snacks which can now easily be found in market and account for filling those something crunchy craving.

The  brunch or dinner during these festive occasion in India consist of relishing on plenty dishes made from rice, wheat flour, pulses, vegetables, Dairy eaten and shared together with family members. The food is varied in every part of India as well as the traditions. But these dishes are often high in calories, sugar and fat content so should be consumed in moderation for people looking for weight loss or with associated medical problems. Since Diwali being such an auspicious occasion calls for big celebrations it sometimes also leads to accidents like fire, burn injuries, increased pollution so proper care and measures should be taken for safety and social responsibility.

Wishing everyone a very happy, safe, prosperous and food filled Diwali. Hope you clear that stack of soan-papdi left at your home soon.

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