Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Holi - the festival of Color!

Holi is a very important festival in India. It is celebrated sometime during March; and essentially brings the onset of summer (Spring is not very prominent in this part of the world). Holi is celebrated for two days, the second day is called Dhuleti. On Holi, a large fire is lit in the evening and various offerings are made to the fire - papad, popcorn, water, dates and so on. On Dhuleti, people play with color and water and there is a lot of fun and frolic involved. There are a number of reasons behind this festival; mythological, ecological and even psychological. With the help of my paternal grandmother Sudha Devi; I've managed to find out and log all the various reasons!

Mythological - the story is set in Ancient India. There was a great, but tyrant king - Hiranyakashyap; who was incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, the power went to his head and he wanted all his courtiers and people to pray to him instead of Lord Vishnu. Ironically; his son, Prahlad; was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, and simply refused to bend to his fathers wish. He went to the extent of telling Hiranyakashyap's followers that Lord Vishnu was the real God, and not Hiranyakashyap. The kings argument was that when people were hungry or were in need; it was him who they come to; Lord Vishnu couldn't do anything at such times.

Frustrated by his sons behavior, Hiranyakashyap attempted to kill Prahlad innumerable times; but to no avail. Finally; he devised an evil plan with his sister Holika.She had received a boon that she could not be burned. So, the two siblings decided that they would make a large fire and tell Prahlad to sit on Holika's lap right in the center of it. Prahlad agreed as he had complete faith in his lord. The boon did not work for Holika and she burned to death while Prahlad emerged without a scar. This is the reason for burning a fire on the day of Holi.

Ecological - the Holi fire is made out of cow dung and wood. Cow dung is known to be an antiseptic; the smoke caused from the fire kills all the germs and little insects in the atmosphere.

Psychological - the second day of Holi is called Dhuleti. This is the day when everyone plays with powdered color and water. Dhuleti is the day to wash away all the past misunderstandings and problems with your friends and family. It is also to welcome summer with joy. The reason behind playing with bright colors is because there are many emotions in life, and various colors represent those emotions.

In a similar manner, there are various tastes in life, and they represent the various emotions. That's why, one will eat all the different flavors on Holi - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy.

Each family, and each region of India has there own way to combine these flavors into one. My family uses Gudd ka Bhaat and Dahi Vada to represent these flavors.

Gudd ka Bhaat

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup Rice
  • 3/4 cup Jaggery (gudd)
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1tbsp Ghee
  • 2 Cloves (long/laving)
  • 2 Cardamom (elaichi)
Melt the jaggery in the water and keep aside. Heat the ghee slightly and add the cloves and cardamom. Fry the rice in the ghee and spices for about a minute. Add the sugar mixture and allow to cook until the water has all been soaked and you have a sticky rice. Serve hot.

Dahi Vada

Ingredients -
  • 3/4 cup Mung dal
  • 1/4 cup Urad dal (white lentil)
  • 1 1/2 cup Yogurt (dahi)
  • 50 grams Tamarind (imli)
  • 50 grams Jaggery (gudd)
  • 3tbsp red Chili powder
  • 3tbsp Cumin 
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
Wash and soak the two dals for a couple of hours or even over night. Grind to a fine paste with a little bit of water. Form the batter into small balls and fry for a couple of minutes or until the vadas are cooked through. Dip each vada in some water for a couple of minutes and then squeeze out the water by placing a vada between your hands.

Soak the Tamarind in 1/2 cup of warm water for a couple of minutes and then strain to get a thick sauce.

Melt the jaggery in a pan with a few table spoons of water, add 1tbsp of chili powder to it.

Roast the cumin seeds till the oils in the spice release, and grind to a fine powder

Strain the yogurt so that it is smooth and creamy without any lumps.

Place the soaked vadas in a shallow bowl. Pour the yogurt on top. Then, pour the tamarind and jaggery sauce over the yogurt. Sprinkle the remaining chili powder and cumin powder. Serve cold.


  1. regina di mom says awesome....she might just try gud ka bhaat

  2. Thank you! Let me know how it goes :)

  3. Regina your story telling is as interesting as your cooking :-)