Food always forms an integral part of festival celebrations in India
India – a land of rich cultural diversity – offers festivals galore replete with religious fervour, bonhomie and yes of course ethnic cuisine
With people from practically every religion residing in India, enjoying and celebrating each other’s festivals with unilateral enthusiasm is a norm. Have a look at the calendar and you’ll find at least two festivals every month – with some months offering more than two!
Festivals in India mean occasions to – visit the place of worship, seek the blessings of the elders in the family, wear new clothes and jewellery, decorate the house, invite friends and relatives over and of course enjoy a platter of festive-special dishes!
Food is a perennial conversation starter and also helps dissolve all differences and conflicts. Moreover irrespective of whether one is a foodie or not, no one can say no to food as in India food is treated with respect akin to devotion. Add to this the indisputable fact that a large number of people in India are deprived of a decent daily meal and one definitely learns to appreciate the food on one’s table!
When it comes to festivals this very same food takes on traditional and cultural hues as there are some dishes which only a particular community can cook well as their recipes are passed down from one generation to another by word-of-mouth. So however great one’s culinary skills are, one simply cannot whip up that same taste and flavour!
Academician Rashmi Trivedi nicely conveys this, “I look forward to Eid when I can visit my friend Salma and get a chance to gorge on her lip-smacking sheer khurma!” Her friend Salma too echoes the same sentiments for the ‘awesome sabudana wada’ (sago fried balls) that Rashmi prepares on Janmashtami.
Foodism has curated some popular festivals in India and the mouth-watering dishes which are niche to them –
This kite festival which falls in January is incomplete in Gujarat without chikkis of various sorts, til laddu (sesame ball), undhiyu, jalebi, leelva kachori and puri.
This is celebrated in Northern India with sesame and jaggery concoctions including the famous revri and gajak.
A four-day long harvest festival of Southern India with pongal being the traditional dish. This is sweet rice prepared with a variety of ingredients like rice, dal, jaggery, dry fruits, sugar and milk, all of which are always cooked in a (new) clay pot out in the open and allowed to boil for a number of hours.
Heralding spring this festival is celebrated between the months of January and February. While Bengalis relish mishti doi, boondi ke laddu and sweet rice; Biharis gorge on kheer, malpua and boondi.
Punjabis celebrate the harvest season with delicacies like – sarson ka saag, makke ki roti and gaajar ka halwa.
Vishusadhya – a delicious meal comprising of equal proportions of salt, sweet, sour and bitter items – is the star attraction of this South Indian festival.
The Maharashtrian community celebrates this festival with their hallmark puran poli, shrikhand, batata wada and kothimbir vadi.
Karnataka cannot even dream of ringing in their new year without pachadi, mango rice and kosambari!
On their new year, all Parsi households for sure offer – dhansak, akuri, chicken farcha, sali boti, prawn patio and sev.
Celebrated in reverence to God Shiva by fasting and of course consuming items like – rajgira puri, potato vegetable, moraiyyo and the mandatory sweet potato halwa
Sindhi’s ring in their new year by cooking – tairi, koki, pilaf, tuk papata, mitho lolo et al
A must-have for the festival of colours is thandai or ‘bhang’ – a sweet, creamy milk drink comprising of cardamom, rose petals, fennel and a pinch of bhang (marijuana).
A 25-30 days long harvest festival of our North East Region, Bihu mostly entails food items cooked with green vegetables, coconut, jaggery, rice, sesame, milk and milk products, meat et al. Popular dishes include – khar, xaax, aloo pitika, masor tenga, mangshu and pitha .
Besides the traditional Easter egg and bread, other items which form part of this Christian festival include –roasted lamb, simnel cake, hot cross buns and lots of other tempting delicacies!
Nawabi biryani and sheer khurma are traditional dishes offered to guests by their Muslim hosts in the holy Ramadan.
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated in obeisance to Lord Ganpati is incomplete without the Lord’s favourite sweet – modak. Of the plethora of varieties the most popular is the Maharashtrian modak which is steamed and made from rice flour.
Eid al-adha is celebrated with a lot of fanfare by our Muslim community with hot favourites being haleem and keema.
South Indian households offer the traditional Onamsadhya – pure vegetarian traditional dishes served on a green banana leaf. Some delicacies are – plain boiled rice, kootan (made from different kinds of vegetables), sambar, rasam, papadum etc. and of course the lip-smacking payasam.
The longest and grandest festival of West Bengal, Durgotsav whips up a lavish spread of lucchi, kichuri, pulao, shukto, Ilish bhapa, til diye beguni, dhokar dalna, aloo posto, tangra mach tel jhal, daab chingri, kosha mangsho, mishti doi, khiri ke pakode, rasgulla and the melt-in-the-mouth shondesh (prepared with milk, sugar and paneer and decorated with dry fruits).
Fafda, chorafali and jalebi are the best way to celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana!
The festival of light epitomizes sweets and fresh and fried snacks including – mohanthaal, gujiya, shakarpara, farsi puris, ganthia, mathiya, magas …to name a few.
Hindus mark the birth of the Hindu God Hanuman with sago kheer (pudding made with tapioca pearls).
Cookies, tarts, eggnog, stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, apple pies and the traditional Christmas pudding are part of the festival cuisine for Christians
So go ahead and imbibe the ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ sentiment by either offering these festive specialties to your guests or happily consuming them as a host and celebrate the festival-food connect!