“Janma” meaning “birth” and “ashtami” signifies the 8th day of the month, “Bhadra” in the Hindu calendar. This day has special significance as it is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna . The Lord krishna is the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu,one of the three prominent supreme Hindu deities, Brahma(creator) and Maheshwar (destructor) being the other two.
There are a huge number of literature ,sculpture ,poems belonging to Indian mythology which describe the sweet childhood of Krishna who was sent to earth to end the evil “Kansa” his maternal uncle, who was a cruel unscrupulous ruler.
Krishna who was the narrator of Srimad Bhagwat Gita , the religious book of Hindus ,as a child was an attractive and mystical personality.He had magical powers and stories of his childhood mischief were woven with wild imagination by different poets, and writers of medieval era.
The childhood of Krishna was spent in the beautiful village of Gokul in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. Both Mathura and Vrindavan( where Krishna’s maternal uncle Kansa lived )are the home of “gowalas” who as a community , are keepers of cows and as such milk is available in abundance here. The city is famous for its various milk products like sweets, lassi, peda etc. Sweets are prepared from thickened milk and not by curdling the milk forming cottage cheese. During the Janmastami celebrations in various states of the country seasonal fruits and dishes made of local grains and seasonal; vegetables is offered as bhog to the lord.
There is a story in Hindu mythology which describes little Krishna saving the village of Gokul from natural cats-trophy ,heavy rainfall and thunder by lifting the “Govardhan” parbat(Mountain) on his little finger. The Lord held the Mountain for 7 days , under which the citizens of the whole village of Gokul took shelter.
Based on this story there is a practice of offering “Chhappan bhog ” to the Lord in the temples. “Chhappan” meaning 56 signifying 56 dishes for 7 days ,8 times per day as prasad or food is offered to the Lord.I had tried 12 dishes which are traditional dishes of various regions, which one can prepare during Janmastami for the celebrations. The dishes are sattvik or strictly vegetarian without onion and garlic .
12 dishes to prepare during Janmastami
This is a one pot meal made of rice and lentils with spices. It can be prepared without onion by garlic only flavored by ginger and green chilies and garam masala. Clarified butter is must for the mind blowing aroma and flavor ,this simple dish gives. Different types of lentils can be used like green moong,roasted moong, urud dal, matki etc to produce enormous varieties. In Bengal ,a special variety of short grained aromatic rice called “Gobindo bhog” is used to produce the best “khichudi” during the festivals.
2.Shinghara Ate ka poori :
In some places people observe fasts and refrain from the intake of grains . Hence they make deep fried poories made of “Shinghara Atta” or the flour extracted from dried water chestnuts. Water chestnuts are fruits and hence don’t fall under the category of grains. This flour is gluten free ,so very little water is mixed with the flour and small balls are flattened and deep fried . The dough can be spiced with green chilies and Indian spices.
3.Shevgachya palyachi bhaji:
“Shevga” in Marathi is called drumstick(Vegetable) or Moringa in English ,”Palya” is leaves .this is a traditional vegetable sidedish prepared using “moringa leaves” and spices. Seasoning is made using mustard ,boiled moong dal can be added to it. The local residents of Maharashtra add onions and garlic to it too and garnish with freshly grated coconut. This green vegetable is seasonal and extremely beneficial for developing as strong immunity against various diseases prevalent this season.
This is a popular dish served in almost all Indian festivals .The recipe varies with every community as well as family. Sweet fritters are made with flour ,sometimes mixed with semolina ,sometimes cottage cheese or thickened milk. The crispy fritters are then dipped into sugar syrup and served.
This is a sweet specialty from Bengal where the milk is thickened and sweetened with sugar. After cooling it is flavored with orange pulp. Tastes divine with the richness of milk and fragrance of oranges.
Palmyra fruit is a favorite among the locals of West Bengal this season so ,rice powder and sugar is mixed with the palmyra fruit and an exotic sweet deep fried fritters are prepared . Some times malpuas are also flavored with this delicious juice.
This sweet rice tastes absolute divine and I have tasted this as a part of Mahaprasad in the temple of Jagannath Puri. Lord Jagannath is another form of Lord Vishnu ,in the holy Temple of Puri, located in Odisha, India.The “Prasad” offered to him and later to Maa Bimala in the Grand Temple (SriMandir) is known as ‘Mahaprasad’. This rice is cooked with clarified butter ,cinnamon powder,sugar and coconut and tastes absolutely divine ,out of this world.
This is a traditional fasting recipe which is delicious, nutritious as well as evergreen for every festival. The tapioca pearls are soaked in just appropriate amount of water and seasoned with spices and roasted peanuts.
This is also an traditional recipe which has a huge number of versions depending on the region and community in which it is prepared. In Bengal freshly grated coconut are cooked in sugar or jaggery to form a sticky mixture which can be made into balls while warm. In Maharashtra and North India sometimes rawa or semolina can be added to these.
10. Payesh :
Sweet rice pudding prevalent is almost all states and common in most festivals. It can be prepared during Janmastami also with flavors of cardamom, bay leaves and saffron.
11. Kolar boda:-
These are simple and sweet banana fritters with rice flour and refined flour and sugar forming a soft dough and then deep frying them.They can be made crisp by adding baking powder.
12. Dahi pakhal:
pakhal is a type of rice dish in which the cooked rice is soaked in water often for fermentation.it is extremely beneficial for digestion .Dahi pakhal is also a dish which is offered to Lord Jagannath of Puri and is a part of mahaprasad.
1 cup of cooked rice is soaked in 2 cups of water and 1 cup of curd with little salt and sugar. The seasoning is added by frying the mustard seeds and curry leaves in clarified butter.
13.Luchi tarkari recipe
This is a great recipe for any festival.Luchi ar alur torkari is a popular Bengali traditional breakfast from the Eastern part of the country.In other parts of India fried flatbreads involves addition of whole wheat flour and are called poories but luchi are inherently made of only refined flour and look white and fluffy. They are served with potato curries called Alur torkari in Bengali.
14. Mooli kachori
Kachori is one of the most favorite Indian snacks ,hundreds of varieties and versions of whom you can find in the local regional sweet shops.They are essentially deep fried flat breads with a spicy ,savory or sweet filling inside. These are spicy delicacies filled with seasonal radish
15. Chushi pitha
Pitha are baked ,fried or steamed dumplings popularly relished in the Eastern part of India and Bangladesh .They have quite similarity to handmade pastas made in Italy ,only they are egg-less in India.