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Showing posts with label Margasira masa Gurubar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Margasira masa Gurubar. 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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tarana ( A festive recipe for Bada Osa )

Women folk are unusually resourceful. Who else would have thought of coming up with a dish from what can be described as a side-effect of preparing another dish. The other dish that I have mentioned is the Gaja or manda pitha that is prepared for Bada Osa. The 'khali' or cooked batter that remains sticking to the walls of the container is made into a somewhat watery kheer called the 'Tarana'.

While the Tarana is rather thin in consistency, it packs in quite a punch with a combination of flavours like black pepper, green cardamom and bay leaf. As it is cooked twice, once in the form of a khali and another time as a kheer, it is very light and easy to digest.

But it can also be made with fresh arwa pithau too. This takes a little longer to cook but is equally delicious. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

  • 3 tsp thick rice paste (jeera rice/ gobindobhog rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp crushed peppercorn
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ghee
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tsp sugar

Preparation - Wash and soak the rice for 5-6 hours. Grind into a smooth paste.

Cooking - Bring the water to a boil. Add the batter little by little and mix continuously to thicken the mixture.

Cook for 10 mins on a medium flame. Add the milk and season with bay leaf, crushed peppercorn and cardamom.

Boil for another 10 mins. Finally add the salt, sugar and just a drizzle of ghee. Stir a little to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from the flame.

Serve at room temperature. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Gurubariya Ambila ( A rustic vegetable soup from Odisha )

Well...excuse me for the 'Gurubariya' bit . I kept thinking of a name for this recipe and could not come up with anything better. While the Ambila is a popular dish from Odisha which is somewhat similar to the Andhra rasam, this version is made only during Manabasa Gurubar or the thursdays of the Hindu month of Margasira. Devoid of the generous garlic tempering and made to include only a few select vegetables ( sweet potato, radish, banana stem & taro ) that are usually offered to Goddess Lakshmi, this has a unique taste which is unlike the regular vegetarian version (click here for recipe) or the non-vegetarian version(click here for recipe).

Read on -

Preparation Time - 15-20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1/2 cup radish (cut into circles)
  • 1/4 cup sweet potato (cut into circles)
  • 1/4 cup taro/arbi (cut into circles)
  • 1/4 cup banana stem (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ginger juliennes (my addition)
  • 1 tbsp jaggery
  • 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
  • pinch of asafoetida
  • salt to taste
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp refined oil/ghee

Preparation - Mix the banana stem pieces with a bit of salt and set aside for 20 mins. Squeeze out the water from the pieces.

Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water for 15 mins. Mash it with hands and strain the liquid. Discard the solids.

Cooking - Add all the vegetables to a pressure cooker along with 4 cups of water, green chili, turmeric and salt to taste. Cook for 2 whistles. Remove from flame and keep aside till steam escapes.

Put the pressure cooker on a low flame. Add the jaggery and the tamarind to it. Allow to simmer for 6-7 mins. Adjust consistency.

Heat the oil/ghee in a small pan. Add the cumin seeds, asafoetida, broken red chili and curry leaves to it. Once it gets spluttering, pour the tempering over the contents of the pressure cooker. Boil for 1 minute before removing from flame.

Serve it hot with meals or enjoy as a light soup.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Last Manabasa Gurubar of 2015

A few random clicks from the last manabasa of 2015.

Offerings of a lotus flower, sugarcane stalk, a banana and a rice stalk is made to Goddess Lakshmi.

The midday meal or madhya bela bhojana for the Goddess. Kanika, dahi pakhala, saga bhaja, mula bhaja, dalma, aau khatta and kheeri are the dishes ones traditionally made at my in-laws place. A few dishes may however vary with different households.

The last offering of the day ( sandhya bela bhoga) . Budha Chakuli, saru chakuli and bara (made it in an appam pan this time).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ghora Manda

Yesterday was the first Gurubar(Thursday) of Margasira month (2014). The custom in my father's family is to observe Manabasa for every Thursday of this month, so my mother kept the Manaa (which symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi) and offered prasad three times a day. This may vary for some folks who may choose to keep the Manaa only after 'Prathamashtami' has been observed or even others who choose to keep it after Sankranti. Apart from this, these days one may also find some Odia women (m ostly those who are working) observing only the last Thursday of the month.

Each Manabasa Gurubar calls for a special 'bhoga' or offering. While the offering of the 'chakata bhoga' or mashed banana, chenna, milk and sugar/jaggery at the first prasad in the morning is common to all parts of the state, the anna bhoga or afternoon meal offered to the Goddess widely differs. Kheeri, Tarana, Khechudi, Arwa bhata, Dahi pakhala, Kanika are some examples of the 'anna bhoga'. The evening bhoga is usually a type of a pitha like Kakara, sijha manda, Malpua, attakali, gaintha, chakuli, etc. While some folks may also choose to offer the pitha along with the anna bhoga, the general rule it that it should contain rice as one of the ingredients. Though not a hard and fast rule ( and people do have a general tendency to twist the rules as per their convenience ), one can add a small amount of rice flour if making the kakara/manda/malpua with suji or maida.

One such pitha that is very popular in the Sundargarh (or more specifically Bonei) district is the Ghora or Ghura Manda. Made with a watery rice batter (not flour), this one has an amazing texture that it akin to to a pudding. The stuffing or 'pura' can be a mix of coconut, chenna (cottage cheese), sesame and groundnuts. Soft and melt-in-the-mouth types, this takes a few trials to perfect but is very much worth the effort. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 45-50 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cup arwa rice
  • 1 coconut (grated)
  • 1 1/2 cup chenna (cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • jaggery/sugar as per taste
  • 2 tsp ghee
  • a pinch of camphor
  • 1-2 pinch cardamom powder

Preparation - Wash and soak the rice for 2-3 hours. Drain excess water and grind into a fine paste. Adjust the consistency to a flowing liquid one ( just like Chittau Pitha batter or Neer Dosa batter ).

Take the grated coconut, chenna, camphor and cardamom powder in a mixing bowl. Mash everything together.

Cooking - Slowly drain the batter into a large wok taking care to leave behind any solids (residue) in the bottom of the grinder/mixie jar. (If this residue gets into the wok, it makes the pitha grainy and spoils the overall texture.)

Add salt and a little jaggery to the wok. Switch on the flame taking care to keep it low. Keep stirring at regular intervals so that it does not catch at the bottom. Once the mixture thickens to that of a custard ( or somewhat thicker than Ragi malt ) consistency, switch off the flame.

Pour ladles of the hot mixture onto a greased steel plate or banana leaf. Gently spread (but not too much) using the back of a spoon. Layer with the stuffing of sweetened coconut and cottage cheese. Seal it or top it with more of the hot mixture. (While the more seasoned cooks can afford to touch the hot stuff, the rookies are warned to keep their fingers safe and unscathed)

Allow it to rest till it is completely cool.

Serve. (It tastes even better the next day so do remember to pop in a few pieces into the fridge)

Click here for details on the Manabasa Gurubar Puja .

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