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Showing posts with label Lakshmi Hathi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lakshmi Hathi. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Manabasa Gurubar : Breaking caste barriers













The story behind Manabasa Gurubar. Taken from a 15th-century text, namely 'Laxmi Purana', that is read in almost every Odia home on Thursdays during the Hindu month of Margashira. 


A story that is helmed by the two protagonists, Maa Lakshmi and Sriya Chandaluni. One woman who supports another in the garb of a Goddess who blesses her disciplined and hardworking devotee irrespective of the latter's social standing. Cleanliness (or rather being industrious) is the key to appeasing the Goddess we are told.

Next is the character of Lord Balabhadra ( Jaganaath's elder brother). He epitomizes the high-handedness of a patriarchal society meting out unjust punishment to women for crossing their boundaries. In this case, by visiting the adobe of a 'Chandala' or social outcaste.

Lastly, the character of Lord Jagannath, Maa Lakshmi's husband who fails to stand up for her. He is torn between his elder brother and his wife. 

The transgression is followed by the banishment of the Goddess from her home. Then begins the 'Lakshmi-chawda' ( roughly translated into one abandoned by Lakshmi) phase of Princes who are turned into paupers. In a dramatic turn of events, the siblings are even denied food and water as the elements of nature conspire with the Goddess to bring the former to their senses. A beautifully narrated episode that establishes the Goddess's all-encompassing role as the center of the Universe.

The final redemption of the siblings is when they hungrily partake food at another 'Chandala' home (a test devised by Maa Lakshmi) thereby completing the cycle and vindicating the Goddess's stance. Food is positioned as the common denominator in this story. No one is above it. Hence to this date, people from all castes are allowed to partake in the 'Mahaprasad' from the same pot at the Jagannath Dham in Puri. The concept of 'Makara' or 'Sangata' seems to have evolved from the same philosophy. 

It's a story that seems to be quite ahead of its time. Sadly the Lakshmi Purana has been turned into just another 'holy book' that is read for the sake of it. While it does have its share of clich├ęs and parts of it may not be relevant in today's date, it is a timeless tale. And the feminist and socialist tone is in sync with the period during which it was written. 

Jau / Jukha

'Jau' or rice from the season's harvest cooked with a trickle of milk, a dash of sugar and a single Annapurna(Pandan) leaf is one of the most important 'bhoga' or offerings made by my mother on Manabasa Gurubar. This is not 'kheer' or dessert but something which can be eaten as a main dish. 

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup new rice (aromatic is preferred)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2-3 tsp sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1-2 Pandan leaves
  • 5-6 cups water

Method - Bring the water to a boil in a thick-bottomed vessel. Wash the rice thoroughly and drain it. Add to the boiling water and stir it so that it doesn't catch at the bottom.

Add the salt. Lower the flame and let it cook till the rice is cooked. Add the Pandan leaves and cook for 15-20 mins longer so that the grains start to disintegrate. Top with more hot water if required.

Add 1/4 cup milk, 2-3 tsp sugar and a pinch of salt. Remove from flame and eat warm with a simple fry (or 'bhaja') or just by itself.

Various kinds of Pitha are also an important part of the Manabasa bhoga. Usually, a different kind is made every 'Manabasa pali' or Thursday. Kakara Pitha (image below) made with rice flour and stuffed with coconut jaggery is one of the mandatory pithas made in our home.




Monday, November 18, 2013

Attakali ( Gaintha pitha )

Gaintha pitha or Attakali is a special pitha that is usually prepared during the oriya month of 'Margasira'. The thursdays that fall in this month are celebrated as 'Manabasa Gurubar', the worship of a vessel filled with rice grains that symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi. The married women keep a fast, eat only arwa or raw rice, prepare a variety of pithas from rice/rice flour and read a text called the 'Manabasa' Bahi. In some parts of Orissa the 'Lakshmi Hathi', brass figurines that symbolize Goddess Lakshmi are also worshiped on this day. These figurines are usually a family heirloom and are passed down by the lady of the house to her daughter in law. Check the snaps below:


































In the left hand side corner of the above picture one can see the 'Dhana Benti', long stands of harvested paddy which also form an important part of this Puja. This year the first Gurubar of Margasira Masa falls on 21st November. But since Prathamasthami falls after this date (26th November), it will be celebrated in some parts of Odisha on 28th November.















The Kalasa ( on the left corner ) and the Manaa ( on the right corner behind the Deepam ) being worshipped in the above picture. The manaa is filled with paddy/rice and covered with a new cloth.

















The special stone vessels known as 'Pathuri', used to offer the prasadam to Goddess Lakshmi.

Read on for the recipe for Gaintha pitha:






Preparation Time - 30-40 minutes

Ingredients - 2/3 cup arwa rice ( Sita bhog, Gobindo Bhog or even Sona masuri raw rice will do ), 1/2 tsp coarsely ground pepper, 2-3 green cardamon, 2-3 tsp ghee, (1/2 cup + 2-3 tsp) sugar, 3 cups milk, 1/5 tsp salt.

Preparation - wash and soak the rice for 2-3 hours. Drain all water and spread on a plate to dry (preferably in the balcony or under a fan) for 1-2 hours.

Take the rice in a grinder jar and grind into a smooth powder.

Cooking - Heat 2 cups of water in a wide base non-stick vessel. Add salt, pepper powder and 1-2 crushed cardamon to the boiling water. Add 2-3 tsp sugar.

Use a sieve to gently sift the rice flour into the boiling water. Keep stirring all the time to prevent formation of lumps.

Cook the rice flour till it turns into a stiff dough and leaves the sides of the vessel.

Allow to cool down for 10-15 minutes till it is bearable to touch.

















Add the ghee to the dough and knead for 3-4 minutes to smooth/even it out. Take small lumps out of the dough and roll into small balls (smaller than a lemon).
















Bring the milk to boil in a deep vessel. Add the sugar and remaining cardamon. (One can also add a little condensed milk at this stage).

Add the balls. Initially the balls will sink to the bottom. Boil for 5-7 minutes or till the ball begin to rise to the surface. This is now done. (Do not boil any longer or the balls will melt/break)


















This recipe can also be prepared with suji (semolina).

Note - I recently came to know that they make a very similar recipe down south called Pala Undrallu.

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