With the Indian festival of colours Holi a day away, I thought it was only essential to share recipes of typical Indian sweets that one simply cannot go without on this day – malpua, gujiya and of course, thandai. Before I share these recipes though, since a lot of my lovely readers are situated outside India, let me give you a little background on the bright day that is Holi.
This is one of my favourite photographs of the festival courtesy of National Geographic.
Come Phagun Poornima (full moon night) and the streets of India reverberate with the chants of “Holi hai” (it’s Holi today!) clouds of abeer and gulal (dry, coloured powder) float through the sky, and the day turns into a riot of colors among great bonhomie and camaraderie, and of course flirting! The colors of this festival are entrenched in the very soul of every Indian.
This ancient festival, originally called Holika, is believed to have existed several centuries before Christ. And while all of us know the story of the evil Holika and the Shivbhakt Prahlad (http://www.holifestival.org/legend-holika-prahlad.html), Holi also heralds the commencement of spring, and so is also called Vasant mahotsav.
In some parts of India, specially in Bengal and Orissa, Holi Purnima is also celebrated as the birthday of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Hindu monk from the 16th century). And in South India Kaamdev (Hindu God of Love) is worshipped on this day. The Sikks call it holla mohalla and show their might on this day. However, the literal meaning of the word ‘Holi’ is ‘burning’. There is also a scientific reason for celebrating Holi. The mutation period of winter and spring, induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere as well as in the body. When Holika is burnt, temperature rises to about 145 degrees Fahrenhiet. Following the tradition when people perform Parikrima (circumambulation) around the fire, the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the body thus, cleansing it.
However, nowhere it is celebrated with so much charm and enthusiasm as in Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon – the places associated with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna. The people of Mathura and Vrindavan celebrate Holi for over a week. Legend says that the young Krishna was extremely jealous of the fair Radha. On complaining Radha kyon gori, main kyun kala (why is Radha so fair whilst I am so dark?), Maiya Yashoda (His mother) asked him to go and color Radhas face, and since then, this loveable prank of Krishna has been immortalised in the celebrations of holi. In fact, the entire country gets drenched in the coloured waters of pichkaris (small water pipes) when it is time for Holi and celebrate the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. At Barsana, the birth place of Radha, Holi assumes the name of Lathmaar Holi. Here, women of Barsana give a tough time to men of Nandgaon as they come to play Holi with them. Women drag the unlucky captives, beat them, dress them in a female attire – yet all is in the spirit of Holi. These celebrations draw tourists from around the world, and in the interest of tourism and safety, the state tourist board has set up excellent vantage points for the public. A large open ground, on the outskirts of the town is specially set aside for the most magnificent display of the festivities.
Holi is celebrated all over the country under different names like sigmo, dol jatra, khadi holi, dhuleti, ukkuli and kumaoni holi. The one common ritual being the colors, dancing and the revelry, and mouth watering gujiya, mathri, malpua and thandai associated with holi.
Here are a few good recipes that I found online:
This Holi, do not forget to be safe, protect your skin and hair, and have a whole lot fun!