Payasam, Sundal and Thrimaduram – Navaratri


Navaratri with its nine-day celebrations and golu and visiting is something that I experienced for the first time when we briefly lived in Salem 25 years back. I was fascinated by the energy and gusto with which the women threw themselves into this 9-day celebrations.

In Mumbai, we saw the Garbha, the fasting, and the coordinated colours on each day and women rushing home after a full day of work to celebrate. In the office the list of colours was circulated and all of us wore the chosen colour every day, displaying a sea of green, purple, orange, yellow, blue and red on these nine days. The joy de Vivre was infectious. Coming from Kerala where this festival is a two-day subdued affair, all this was all a revelation to me. Yesterday I was at a golu slightly at a loss, nevertheless enjoying the bustling energy around me.

In Kerala, this is celebrated as Saraswathi/Ayudha pooja and it starts on the evening before Navami and ends on Vijayadashami. The high point was the prasadam on Vijayadashami and wanting to read our books on Navami (the only day we asked to study since our mothers strictly forbade us from reading).

On Vijayadashami, we made Sundal, only with Bengal gram (the deep brown one with coconut pieces chopped in, why are we not surprised by the presence of coconut in everything?). The arisi payasam with rice, jaggery, and bananas were thrown in, flavoured with cardamom. Originally it was made with raw red rice, which moved to white rice. On all three days we offered thrimdauram/panhamrutham to the gods and then the children consumed it. I am sure the gods were mighty pleased with the enthusiasm we showed for the prasadam, after all, she resides in all of us, especially children.

. This was made with bananas, kalkandu, jaggery, dry grapes/raisin, and honey dribbled over it. So this year again I will continue the tradition of making all three of these. Using organic sundal kadalai, jaggery, maybe Uma red rice or gobindabhog scented rice, lovely karpooravalli bananas, honey, ….. Revering the land, respecting the farmer, relishing the food, revelling in the festival!!

My prayers are that every festival while preparing every prasadam to let us remember the people who grow these foods for us, our annadatas.

... and spread the good word!

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