As families reunite in small villages as a result of the pandemic, lockdowns and 2020’s Work From Home culture, the focus shifts from the city to a quiet, rural Deepavali
“I find that Deepavali in a village is rather simple and charming. We moved to the farm seven years ago, and it has been a peaceful, quiet Deepavali since then,” says Surya Pasupathi, an architect, who along with her husband, well-known actor Pasupathi, has taken up agriculture at their farm in Melmaligaipattu, Thiruvallur district.
“In villages, the Deepavali brunch is the highlight. Normally, idli and chicken curry or vada curry is made for breakfast. Kesari is also part of the menu. After breakfast, families visit the local temple,” says Surya.
She goes on to explain how almost all households join a Deepavali fund scheme where they deposit a small amount of money every month and utilise the savings to celebrate the festival. Surya adds that she is glad to have made the decision to live on the farm, as their eight-year-old daughter gets to spend more time close to Nature.
“This is a total contrast to the city where Deepavali is filled with din, dust, and pollution. Here, we avoid bursting crackers as we don’t wish to distress the birds and animals. We burst fireworks briefly in the evening for the sake of our daughter. The concept of a silent Deepavali fascinates us, and the concern for animals and environment that the villagers have is high.”
In Manjakkudi, near Kumbhakonam, 23-year-old S Rajarajan, who works as a mill operator at Swami Dayananda Farm is excited about the approaching festival. “In our village, the excitement surrounding Deepavali is about watching movies that release on the day,” he says, adding “Along with my friends, I would watch at least three films, for three consecutive days. But this year we have to miss it…” He says, however, that some traditions will be stronger this year, as families reunite and elders gather to make sweets and savouries.
- Dry ginger powder: 50 grams
- Palm jaggery 120: grams
- Cardamom powder: 10 grams
- Coconut oil: 1 table spoon
- Preparation: Mix the dry ginger and cardamom powder in a vessel and keep aside. In an other pan add palm jaggery and to this add one-fourth cup of water and when it begins to boil, add the powder mix little by little, stirring the pan gently without lumps. Stir for a minute, switch off and then add the oil. Rub some oil in your palms and when the mixture is still hot roll them into marble size balls. When it cools, store it in a container.
- Paasiparuppu Laddu
- Moong dal 250 grams
- Grated jaggery 400 grams
- Cashews 10 grams
- Almonds 10 grams
- Coconut oil 1 tablespoons
- Cardamom powder a pinch
- Preparation: In a pan, dry roast the dal on low flame, and when it turns aromatic and slightly changes colour, transfer to a plate and allow to cool. Then grind it to fine powder, add the cardamom powder and then sift it and keep aside. Now dry roast the nuts, and when it is still hot take half the portion of nuts, dal powder in a mixer grinder and to this add the jaggery and grind. Transfer the contents to a plate and add coconut oil as required and shape it into lemon size balls. Grind the remaining nuts and powder as well and shape it into balls by adding some oil.
- Kambu Thattai
- Kambu (pearl millet) four 2 cups
- Roasted channa dal flour ¼ cup
- Channa dal 50 grams
- Grated coconut ¾ cup
- Cold pressed sesame oil as required
- Salt as required
- Pepper powder ¼ teaspoon
- Hing as required
- Preparation: Soak Channa dal for 30 minutes. Sift together Kambu and roasted channa dal flour and keep it in a bowl. To this add the soaked channa dal, coconut, pepper, hing and salt, mix well. No need to add water. Shape them into small balls, then flatten it on a plate or banana leaf lined with oil. Deep fry the discs in hot oil.
- Recipe by Seethalakshmi Manikandan
In the fields
Seethalakshmi Manikandan, a member of the Organic Farmers Market, (an initiative to guarantee safe, organic food and fair pricing for farmers), says that new outfits, gifts and crackers have less significance among the farming community.
“Health is of focus. We have oil baths during the wee hours and eat sukku urundai, a marble-sized ball made using plain jaggery and dry ginger powder, which aids digestion. In our house, my mother made delicious akkaravadisal, a sweet dish similar to sakkarai pongal but prepared with rice, jaggery, milk and loads of ghee, every year,” she says. She continues, describing other festival staples: “Karupatti mittai [similar to jangri, but made with palm jaggery instead of sugar], mundhiri kotthu [with moong dal and jaggery] and thodhal [with red rice and coconut milk].” Seethalakshmi then adds, “But it is adhirasam that is the king of sweets in the entire State during Deepavali, and it is made in almost every home in villages.”
In the villages, adhirasam is made using hand pounded rice or thinai (foxtail millet). As jaggery syrup thickens, it is flavoured with nutmeg and cardamom powder, and then powdered rice is slowly added. The soft resulting batter is allowed to sit overnight, then flattened into discs and deep-fried. Families make large portions as it is a tradition to send Deepavali sweets to their married daughters’ homes.
“This year I look forward to my mother’s special getti urundai [made with rice flour, moong flour, sugar powder, cardamom and ghee], rawa ladoo, somas and murukku,” says Rajarajan. He adds that though everything is quieter, this year’s festival is drawing the community closer.