Tomorrow is the beginning of Navaratri, a nine day festival celebrated by Hindus of Indian origin all over the world. Navaratri literally means “nine nights”. It is celebrated for nine nights and ten days in the beginning of autumn. The festival culminates in Dusshera, which symbolizes the victory of good over evil. According to Hindu mythology, Dusshera was the day when Goddess Durga killed the demon Mahishasur and Lord Rama gained victory over the evil king Ravana.
Both Navaratri and Dusshera are celebrated in many places in Phoenix. Bharatiya Ekta Mandir and Indo American Foundation in north Phoenix organize special religious and cultural events all through the nine days (Sep 28th-Oct 5th). For more details of the events check the website http://www.ektamandirarizona.org/. This year, Hindu Temple of Arizona in Scottsdale is organizing a special event on Oct 4th which is day 8 or Astami and considered the most sacred day of the festival. For more details of their Durgashtami festival check the website http://www.hindutempleaz.org/docs2011/october2011.pdf Bengali Cultural Association of Arizona is organizing its annual Durga Puja festival at IACRF Hall in Maryland Avenue from Oct 8th-9th. It is a fun filled event with religious services, delicious food and multidimensional cultural programs on both days. For details see the website http://www.azbengal.org/
Navaratri is also the time when a lot of people perform fasts and abstain from certain types for food. Usually people avoid meat, fish or poultry, eggs, any dish with onions, garlic etc. On certain select days (Sashti, day 6 or Ashtami, day 8) lot of people do not eat food cooked with grains like rice or wheat. So fasting food (food eaten during fasts) usually contains alternate grains like sago, semolina or khus khus and beans like Bengal grams. A popular vegetable for fasting is potato (both regular and sweet). Also many people do not cook food using table salt and instead use a kind of rock salt called sindhav namak. Below is a list of ten food items that can be eaten during Navaratri. All the recipes are very simple and ingredients are available in all Indian grocery stores in Phoenix area.
Day 1: Sabudana khichri
Sabudana or sago is a white pearl like grain and the product of Sago palm. Sabudana has to be soaked in water for a couple of hours before use. A simple gruel or khichri with sabudana, lentils and peas is ideal food for fasting.
- 1 cup sabudana (soaked in 2 cups water for 2-3 hours)
- ½ cup yellow mung daal
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 1 cup peas
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 red chili
- 1 tsp sindhav namak
- ½ tsp sugar
- 2 tsp ghee
Heat 1 tsp ghee in a pan and add jeera and red chilies. Add the mung daal and peanuts and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add 2 cups water and boil till the daal is partially cooked. Add peas and the sabudana (after draining the water). Cook for 15 minutes till both the daal and sabudana are cooked (add extra water if too dry). Add salt and sugar and 1 tsp ghee before serving.
Day 2: Halwa
Halwa is a sweet dish made with semolina or sooji. It is extremely popular food for fasting and can be eaten as such or accompanied by fried bread like pooris. Get the recipe from http://knotmove.com/indian-food-in-phoenix/warm-semolina-pudding-the-perfect-fall-desert
Day 3: Potato chaat
Boiled potatoes cubed and sprinkled with spices is another simple fasting food. Dice 2-3 russet or rose potatoes and boil in 2 cups of water. When potatoes are soft drain excess water. Serve potatoes sprinkled with salt, chaat masala, chopped cilantro and a dash of lime juice.
Day 4: Sabudana kheer
Sabudana is also good for making milk pudding or kheer. Sabudana kheer is full of nutrition and good for fasting people, kids and lactating mothers.
- 1 cup sabudana (soaked in water for 2 -3 hours)
- 1 qt whole milk
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp cardamom powder
Boil milk till it is reduced by one third. Now add sabudana and cardamom powder and cook till the sabudana is well cooked. Add sugar and cook for 5 more minutes. Sabudana thickens after cooking, so do not make the kheer too thick.
Day 5: Veg Chole
Chole or garbanzo bean is a popular vegetarian option. Chole consumed during fasting is made without onions or garlic.
- 2 cups garbanzo beans (1 can)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds or jeera
- 1 red chili
- 1 tsp asafetida (hing)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp sindhav salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tomato chopped
- 2-3 chopped chilies
- Chopped cilantro
Pressure cook soaked garbanzo beans (if using canned, drain water and wash the beans). Heat oil and add jeera and red chilies. Add ginger paste and tomatoes and cook till tomatoes are soft. Add cumin and coriander powders, hing and salt. Now add the drained garbanzo beans. Cook well with 1 cup water till beans are cooked through. Add chilies and cilantro and serve hot.
For fasting food from Days 6-9 of Navaratri chek the next article: Navaratri: Holistic food for nine day festival (Part 2)