¤ NAVRATHRI SUNDAL ¤

India, a land of festivals with varying rich cultural heritage, celebrates ‘Navrathri’!

‘Navratri’, Sanskrit word meaning nine nights, ends victoriously on ‘Vijaydashmi’ or ‘Dusshera’. These nine days, nine incarnations of the Goddess are celebrated in various parts of the country following different rituals but the underlying essence is the same.

Some of the salient features of this celebration, in different parts of the country –

In the  North – On Dusshera, Ramleela, a theatrical act of Ramayana is enacted, culminating by burning the effigies of Ravana along with Kumbhakarna and Meghanada, celebrating the victory of good over evil.

In the West – Garbha or Dandiya-Raas, a famous dance form is performed on all the nine nights and celebrated by people participating from all over the globe.

In the East – Durga Pooja is performed, where exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the ‘Goddess Durga’ slaying the demon ‘Mahishasura’ are worshipped and then immersed in the river.

In the South – In Tamil Nadu, ‘Golu or Kolu’ –  A set of steps displaying an arrangement of dolls, is set up in our home. The number of steps are in odd numbers i.e 3,5,7 or 9. The dolls are unique, antique, modern, hand made or ready made dolls. They are of deities, saints, leaders, plants, animals or also displayed in themes like a wedding, market, minature parks, zoo, sports stadium or any other suitable theme. An exhibition signifying, all of the creator’s creations.

‘Marapachi bommai’, an inseparable part of the Golu, is made from teak or rose wood. These traditional wooden dolls are preserved for generations, depict husband and wife, representing prosperity and fertility. Authentic ‘Marapachi’ are rare and available only in Tirupati and Channapatna. Likewise are the Chettiar-Achi pair which is invariably a thalai aati bommai, traditionally made in Panruti, Tanjore, the place famous for its clay and workmanship. Decades earlier, potters of Panruti used to make the dolls around a frame of thin wires, which gave the dolls a perfect shape and build. They were weightless too and women found it easy to lift them and place them on the steps | padis. These dolls generally formed a part of the daughter’s wedding trousseau. Golu dolls are treasured legacy, tokens of the family’s proud possessions, valued aesthetically and sentimentally.

During Navaratri, colourful Golu dolls flood the markets as people add new ones to their collection. Yet, say many, the charm of old dolls is unmatched. Those days, the dolls were much bigger in size and yet proportionate. Even the facial expressions would be intact and the colours didn’t fade that easily. Earlier every single doll was hand-crafted individually, however these days, dolls are mass-produced using readymade moulds and hence the features aren’t sharp. Some neighbourhoods even conduct competitions and award prizes for the best Kolu of the year.

In the evening it is customary to invite relatives, friends, accquaintances for viewing the Golu. Women and girls are offered Vethala Pakku | Haldi Kumkum. Tasty and healthy Sundal, made with different variety of beans, is generally the ‘prasadam’ distributed to all, who come home and admire their creative efforts. Vinayaka Chathurthi : Kozhukattai,  Deepavali : Bakshanam and Navratri : Sundal are synonymous. Apart from Sundal, payasam is also prepared for naivedhyam. When we were young, we went to neighbouring houses, officially to see the Navaratri kolu but the main attraction was the sundal. When we came out of a house, we would open the pack | pottalam immediately to see what sundal variety was inside!

For Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati Puja is performed on the 9th day, books and musical instruments, are placed alongside the Golu. Ayudha Puja is also conducted in South India. Weapons, agricultural implements, all kinds of tools, equipments, machinery and automobiles too, are worshipped on this day.  Vijayadashami, the 10th day, marks new and prosperous beginnings. Start ups on this day are believed to flourish. It is also the first day of school for many children, learning any new skill on this day assures definite success in that field. On the eve of ‘Vijayadasami’, any one doll from the ‘Kolu’ is symbolically put to sleep and the Kalasa is moved a bit towards North, to mark the end of that year’s Navaratri Golu. After prayers, Golu is dismantled and packed up for the next year. To preserve the colour and maintain them intact, they are wrapped in a soft cotton cloth or newspaper. Neem leaves are also sometimes used to keep termites and insects at bay.

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Kolam – one of the many more creative exhibits during Navrathri!

PACHAI PAYAR SUNDAL | GREEN MUNG SUNDAL 

Prep time : 15 mins; Cooking time 15 mins; Serves : 4 – 6

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Ingredients :

  • 500 gms Mung beans
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp udad dal | black gram lentil
  • 3 – 4 broken whole red chilies
  • 3 stems of curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 th of a fresh coconut

Method :

  1. Wash and soak the green mung for 10 -15 mins. Drain, wash and pressure cook the mung beans with turmeric powder and 1/4 cup of water, till 3 – 4 whistles.
  2. Grate the fresh coconut. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a bandli | skillet and add mustard seeds, once they splutter add the udad dal. red chilies, curry leaves in that order. Then add the pressure cooked mung beans, red chilli powder and salt. Toss and mix well till the mung beans are dry and well coated with the seasonings.
  4. Garnish with grated coconut and it is ready to be distributed.

KONDAKADALAI SUNDAL | CHICK PEAS SUNDAL (same as for Varalakshmi Vratham)

Prep time : 9 hrs; Cooking time 15 mins; Serves : 4 – 6

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Ingredients :

  • 500 gms kondakadalai | chick peas | kabuli channa
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp udad dal | black gram lentil
  • 3 – 4 broken whole red chilies
  • 3 stems of curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 th of a fresh coconut

Method :

  1. Wash and soak the chick peas overnight. Next morning drain, wash and pressure cook the chick peas with turmeric powder and 1/4 cup of water, till 3 – 4 whistles.
  2. Grate the coconut. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a bandli | skillet and add mustard seeds, once they splutter add the udad dal. red chilies, curry leaves in that order. Then add the pressure cooked chick peas, red chilli powder and salt. Toss and mix well till the chick peas are dry and well coated with the seasonings.
  4. Garnish with grated coconut and it is ready to be distributed.

Variations :

Sundal can be made with any variety of bean or lentil like Bengal Gram Dal, Black gram lentil, Red gram lentil, HorseGram, Black Chana, Soya Beans, Peanuts, Cowpeas, Black eyed beans, Dried Green Peas, Kidney beans or even fresh corn kernels (in trend, nowadays).

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