The festive season is upon us! We adore this time of the year, all the big holidays around the corner, it's back-to-back fun!
Madura wanted to give our readers a taste of Indian Festivities and do a Diwali-themed post, so we asked Vindhya, founder of Styl Zycia, and a long-time friend of The Chai Bar, to have a conversation with us about Diwali!
Diwali is the Indian festival of Light, it is a weeklong celebration. In oversimplified terms, it is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. However, in reality, it is so much more than that.
Madura and I have been living abroad for a while now, and we just wanted to give our readers a glimpse of this beautiful celebration.
India has 28 states and 8 union territories.
The essence of Diwali is uniform across the country, however, there are a few unique food traditions followed in various parts of the nation.
Jumping into Madura's conversation with Vindhya.
Madura: So, Vindhya, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started blogging!
Vindhya: Hi guys, this is Vindhya. I was born in Karnataka and grew up in Chiplun, Maharashtra. I was pursuing a course in chartered accountancy, soon after, I realized I am really interested in food and started food styling and food photography, and, finally, I decided not to pursue accountancy anymore and invested in my passion - food blogging, so here we are!
M: Guys, I went to school with Vindhya, so, we have our roots in Chiplun! We are also similar in the sense that we found our passion for food and quit our career to follow our dreams! I studied in Chiplun, moved to Mumbai college, went to Pune, did a master's degree, and then came to North America to do another master then, I worked a corporate job for a bit, ended up quitting it to start The Chai Bar!
It is so lovely to see how we grew to be so like-minded and passionate about our love for food!
V: So, basically, food is what connects us!
M: Yes, and India has such a strong food and chai culture, that even on the busiest of days, we find the time to grab a power chai'ger.
V: And the best part is, as an Indian, you never get bored talking over tea. Even if -that means making a few extra rounds of chai!
M: Exactly! We love our tea talks and are just fine with having to scrub the aluminum chai pot as many times as we need to.
So, readers, we are here for our Diwali collab, with Vindhya from Hubli, Karnataka so, she is going to tell us how they celebrate Diwali where she comes from.
Vindhya, since you have lived in Chiplun, Maharashtra as well as Hubli Karnataka, how is the festival celebrated differently in the two states?
V: Well, the core rituals for Diwali are very similar in Chiplun and Hubli, so where I come from, you would wake up in the wee hours of the morning, around 4 A.M. and, then you make an Ubtan paste.
NOTE: Ubtan: It is a fragrant, exfoliating powder that is made into a paste by adding oil. The powder is a mix of turmeric, gram flour (besan), sandalwood powder (Chandan), rosewater, and milk powder. It moisturizes and rejuvenates the skin during the winter months.
You would take a fragrant shower with sandalwood and rose, dress up in new clothes followed by an Arti, i.e. a small ritual where light in the from of a candle or panti is offered to one or more deities or family members.
NOTE: "In Sanskrit, the word ‘arti’ – transcribed as ‘aarati’ – is composed of the prefix ‘aa’, meaning complete, and ‘rati’, meaning love. The arti is thus an expression of one’s complete and unflinching love towards the person being offered light to. It is performed with a deep sense of reverence, adoration, and meditative awareness."
After Aarti, you would receive a "Shagun" which is a small gift or sometimes even cash.
So this is a wonderfully positive way to start the day during the festival of Diwali.
All-day, you would socialize with friends and family, make savory snacks, sweets called Faral, and distribute these to our loved ones.
NOTE: “Diwali faral” is the term used for a variety of sweet and savory snacks, which are traditionally made at home and eaten during the 5- days of Diwali. Often, a spread of faral is served to guests who visit homes during the festive season. Traditionally, packets of mixed Diwali faral are exchanged when visiting relatives and friends to wish them on the occasion of Diwali.
In the evening, we have Laxmi pujan: Laxmi or Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth. Indians pray to the Goddess, asking for blessings of health, wealth, and prosperity.
M: I am so nostalgic, you described it perfectly, by 6 A.M. everyone is decked up all set to socialize, there are so many rounds of chai with relatives, oftentimes, children light firecrackers, almost like a competition - who lit it first!
We would paint a square using some Geru.
NOTE: Gairika (Red Ochre) a silicate of Alumina and oxide of Iron. In Ayurveda know as Geru, it is used for medicinal purposes after purification but during Diwali, it is used to paint a brown background before drawing rangoli, i.e. artistic patterns drawn using sand, ground quartz, flower petals, or rice.
I think one of my fondest memories is drinking Masala chai with this savory faral named chakli.
(Find a list of Diwali snacks in our guide below)
So, Vindhya, what is your favorite Diwali snack to eat with chai?
V: Chakli and Chiwda are the best! But traditionally, I would say a Girmit bowl of puffed masala rice, is my favorite Diwali snack.
So, Madura, how is Diwali different for you in America than it was back home?
M: Initially, it was really a change, I don’t have a large Indian community here, my husband is not Indian and I really missed the traditions from back home, that’s why I decided to make our own traditions and I told Sargam I wanted her to write this blog to kind of share the joy of the festival of light!
Now we celebrate Halloween, Diwali, and Thanksgiving, so we are celebrating almost all November!
We love decorating for Halloween, Diwali, and Thanksgiving so, it’s a busy time of year for me, especially because I try to give my toddler the best of both worlds and, I want him to enjoy both cultures.
As an adult living away from home, I wouldn’t want to wake up at 4 A.M. ha-ha.. but I will be doing a lot of the other Diwali rituals even though I’m not with my extended family.
I guess as we grow, we make our own traditions! But I do miss the tradition of lighting Diya’s/oil lamps.. we can’t really do that here because the homes are made of wood and, it’s a fire hazard, and I do miss the marigold flower strings and fragrant Indian blooms of jasmine and champaka.
Guess I am going to be satisfying that craving by drinking some Mangalyam.
So, Vindhya, what is your favorite part of Diwali?
V: I'd say it’s the morning rituals, waking up to the festivities and the positivity. Somehow as a kid, and even as an adult, I’d just look forward to waking up early in the morning and celebrating with my parents!
M: I agree, it is such uplifting vibrational energy. We wanted to share some of that warmth and the positivity with our readers this year!
I think my favorite part was the festival of Bhau Beej, I do have a brother and, on the day of this festival, sisters invite their brothers for a sumptuous meal, then the brothers gift the sisters lovely presents. I think I would really look forward to the chocolates he would give me and sometimes he would also give me some of his pocket money so, that was really sweet.
So, what special treats are you making this year?
V: I’m surely going to make Girmit i.e. masala puffed rice, traditional to north Karnataka,
I am also going to make Eggplant fritters and long pepper fritters.
Note: here is a link from Styl Zycia for eggplant fritters.
M: Oh wow! I can’t wait to try that!
V: Anther popular Dishes I might dip into is Mandaki.
NOTE: “Mandakki Usli is a Puffed Rice Upma is a simple Karnataka style breakfast made with soaked puffed Rice, onions, peanuts and curry leaves and is typically relished along with Mirchi bajji/Chilli fritters and Chai.”
M: Thank you so much, Vindhya, for sharing your Diwali traditions with us.
V: You are so welcome, thank you for having me.
So keep an eye out on Vindhya's Instagram feed, @thepinxkitchenette she will be sharing these tasty treats with you guys soon.
FARAL GUIDE :
1. Poha chivda: This is flat rice which is crispened on a low flame and flavored with peanut and spices.
2. Shev: These are thick or thin fried crisps made from chickpea and rice Flours and spiced up with chilli powder.
3. Kadboli: Made from a mixture of rice flour, urad flour, chana, moong, and salt, this snake coil shaped crispy roll is flavored with jeera, ajwain, and a pinch of chili powder. In some parts of India, such as Karnataka it is called Kodbale, and made only with rice and urad flour.
4. Anarase: This is a sweet fried snack is a almost like a flaky puff pastry made from rice and jaggery, with sesame or poppy seeds
5. Shankarpale: These diamond shaped sweet treats are made of all purpose flour, sugar and fried in ghee.
6. Chakli: This is a crunchy spikey coil snack made from rice flour, often mixed with a variety of dals, with sesame seeds and jeera tossed in the flour. Chilli powder is added to make spicy chaklis.
7. Karanji: These crescent moon shaped dumplings are stuffed with coconut and sugar, deep-fried or baked.
8. Rava Ladoo: These are small, round balls are made from semolina and sugar with raisins and nuts.
9. Besan Ladoo: These are small, round balls made from besan (gram flour), ghee, sugar syrup and, flavoured with raisins & cardamom powder.
Other popular snacks are chrotis, mysore pak and mithais.
We hope you all participate in the festivities of the season, we have another lovely Diwali themed chai post coming for you guys next week, until then, make your faral so you can enjoy it with special Diwali chai.
Co-authored by Sargam Merchant and Madura Chaudhari