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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dhanu Muan

Margashira gives way to Pausa, kicking off a period of thanksgiving for the hardworking farmer community of Odisha. It's literally the time to reap the benefits of all that hard work put in over the last few months. A feast is in the offing as it is the perfect excuse for spending quality spend time with friends and family. But life is hardly meaningful without pausing for a few moments to express gratitude. Especially to the divinity, the human manifestation of the forces of nature. No celebration in Odisha (or for that matter elsewhere) is complete without invoking the Gods and thanking them for their divine blessings.

The first such celebration observed during this holy month is Dhanu Sankranti which marks the transition of the Sun into Sagittarius (Dhanu rashi as per the Indian Zodiac calendar). On this day, an offering of sweetened popped rice 'khai' called Dhanu Muan(or 'Muaa' in some dialects) is offered to the Lord Jagannath at Puri and to the various other Gods in different parts of the state. Made with 'khai' from newly harvested paddy,  jaggery from the season's sugarcane crop, fried coconut slices, and ghee, it is seasoned with a mix of spices like pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel. The jaggery and spices provide warmth and help build immunity for the farmers and farmhands as they continue toiling in the cold weather. Post-harvest activities like threshing, milling (manual), parboiling, etc. are all labor-intensive and require a lot of energy. All the more reason to appreciate every morsel of rice that graces our plate. 

For making the Muan, freshly popped 'Khai' is tipped into melted jaggery ( or sugar) that has been mixed with the spices. The garnishing bits at added at this stage. The still-warm mixture is either shaped into spheres or set into greased molds to give them a fancier shape. If the mixture is spread loosely instead of being molded, it is called Ukhuda or 'paga khai'. This mixture resembles granola, both in appearance and taste, but is made with locally sourced ingredients. 

While 'paga khai' or 'Ukhuda' is very commonly consumed/used as a 'bhoga' or even as a snack in most Odia households, a few special ingredients go into the making of Dhanu Muan. Not surprising considering that the 'Pusa' or 'Pausa' month is also described as the month of abundance with all the granaries overflowing with grains. The Dhanu Muan is considered a delicacy that is sold in the markets between Dhanu Sankranti and Makara Sankranti. During 'Pausa' masa, Dhanu Muan is also exchanged between families or sent over as a 'Bharaw' to a woman's parents to her in-law's house. In the earlier days, the married women used to go over to their parent's homes during this time of the year.

But this period is also considered as an inauspicious period in the Odia calendar and activities like marriage, thread ceremony, house-warming, or engagements are not usually forbidden. A famous festival called Dhanu Yatra is conducted in Western Odisha (Bargarh) during this month. 

One of the most famous and oldest shops selling this delicacy is Baiya Kora Khai / Baiya Khai Ghara which is situated in Old Town, Bhubaneshwar. The Kora Khai sold here is also offered as a prasad at the Lingaraj Temple.

[ Image taken from Wiki ]

Buy it online Here.


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