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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Varalakshmi Vratam & Ilai Sappadu!

VARALAKSHMI VRATAM is a festival to propitiate the Goddess Lakshmi. Varalakshmi is said to grant boons or varam. This is a very important pooja performed by many women in Southern regions of Indian Hindu community. Mostly married women take part in this pooja for the prosperity of her family members, especially her husband. She also prays god Astalakshmi the eight goddess of wealth, earth, learning, love, fame, peace, pleasure and strength. 

My Granny's Devotional song book from which she recites devotional songs every year. 

We have been celebrating this for the past 20 years. My mom started when I was in my kindergarden. I still remember those days from the past. How the previous night my mom makes me sit in the living room with boxes of glass bangles, small wallet mirrors, combs, packets of bindi, mehandhi cones, kumkum and turmeric powder, coconut and betel leaves and would tell me to put one item each in every cover to be given to married women, young girls and girl children. She invites our relatives and our neighbours and its been growing with each passing year. And the last three years were quite special to me. I got married, then the next year I was carry little A and this year he was looking at the proceedings with his wide eyes filled with curiosity. 

Mom invites around 40 people for this pooja every year and it is always followed by lunch. And its the lunch that I wanna talk about here. Past few years we ordered it outside but this year she decided to cook at home. It was very hectic the previous night I tell you. All the chopping, sorting out and the prep work was going on full speed so that next day morning she can finish off cooking for everyone before the commencement of pooja. 

Sweet Pongal, made as an offering to the god during pooja.

Meal that is served during the pooja is a pure vegetarian South Indian thali. It consist of two varieties of sweet, Vada, three vegetable curries / stir fries, rice, sambar, rasam, yogurt / spicy buttermilk, pickle and papadums / appalams. And its traditionally served on a banana leaf and known is Ilai Sappadu. Now there is something unique eating on a banana leaf. Somehow the taste gets enchanced when eaten from a banana leaf and not just plates. When hot food is served on the leaf, the food actually absorbs the flavour of the banana leaf. Don't believe what am talking about? You need to try it to know it. Also try eating payasam (a South Indian dessert made with rice / semolina / dal / poha with sugar, milk, condensed milk, nuts and cardamom). It quite tricky, you need special technique and grace to scoop off the payasam off the banana leaf and put it into your mouth before it starts dribbling down your fingers. Its tastes just fab. 

From left to right....Buttermilk, Poha Payasam, Vadai (Bought Outside), Potato Curry, Kootu, Cabbage Poriyal, Appalams, Rice, Vatha Kuzhambhu, Sambar and Sweet Pongal

Generally there is a saying among the elders that food prepared for any auspicious occasions / poojas has an elevated taste than them being prepared duirng the normal days. And when served on the banana leaf it adds to it even. 

If you have not had a meal on a banana leaf, you know you are missing something!!!

Happy Cooking!


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