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Mahashivratri: Celebrating the Great Night of Lord Shiva

Mahashivratri 2023

Mahashivratri, the great night of Lord Shiva, is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated annually in the month of Phalguna (February/March) on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) of the Hindu lunar month.

The legend behind Mahashivratri dates back to ancient times when a hunter unknowingly entered a forest and ended up spending the night near a Shiva Linga (a phallic representation of Lord Shiva). The hunter unknowingly worshipped Lord Shiva by pouring water over the Shiva Linga, and as a result, Lord Shiva was pleased and blessed the hunter with his grace.

The day of Mahashivratri is considered auspicious for the worship of Lord Shiva. On this day, devotees visit Shiva temples, offer milk, flowers, fruits, and light incense sticks to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Devotees also observe fasts and stay awake all night, performing rituals and chanting the name of Lord Shiva.

mahashivratriThere are several legends associated with the origin of Mahashivratri. One of the most popular legends is that of the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan) by the Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) to obtain the nectar of immortality. During the churning, a poison known as “halahala” emerged from the ocean, which had the power to destroy the world. Lord Shiva drank the poison to save the world, and his throat turned blue due to the poison. The incident is also known as “Neelkanth,” meaning the blue-throated one. The day Lord Shiva drank the poison is celebrated as Mahashivratri.

Another legend is that of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is believed that on the day of Mahashivratri, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married. Devotees celebrate the festival as a symbol of the divine union between Shiva and Parvati.

The significance of Mahashivratri lies in the belief that Lord Shiva, who is known as the destroyer of evil, blesses his devotees with peace, happiness, and prosperity. It is believed that by worshipping Lord Shiva on Mahashivratri, one can attain salvation and liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Mahashivratri is not just a religious festival, but it is also a celebration of the divine power of Lord Shiva. It is a reminder that one should strive to attain the qualities of Lord Shiva, such as detachment, compassion, and self-realization.

Mahashivratri PujaMahashivratri is celebrated with great fervor and devotion across India and in various other countries where Hinduism is practiced. On this day, devotees offer prayers, perform rituals and observe fasts to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. It is believed that fasting on Mahashivratri cleanses the body, mind, and soul and helps one attain salvation.

Special Fast Food for Mahashivratri:

While observing a fast on Mahashivratri, devotees abstain from consuming food that is considered to be ‘tamasic’ or ‘rajasic’ in nature. This includes non-vegetarian food, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, and onions. However, there are a variety of delicious and nutritious fast food items that one can enjoy on this auspicious day.

  1. Sabudana Khichdi: Sabudana khichdi is a popular dish that is made with soaked and drained sabudana (tapioca pearls), peanuts, potatoes, and spices. It is a light and easy-to-digest dish that is perfect for those observing a fast on Mahashivratri.
  2. Singhare ke atte ki puri: Singhare ke atte ki puri is a gluten-free and crispy flatbread that is made with water chestnut flour, mashed potatoes, and spices. It is a perfect accompaniment to sabudana khichdi or any other fasting dish.
  3. Fruit Salad: A bowl of fresh fruits like bananas, apples, grapes, and pomegranate is a healthy and refreshing option for those observing a fast on Mahashivratri. Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for the body.
  4. Samak rice pulao: Samak rice or barnyard millet is a gluten-free and nutritious grain that is perfect for those observing a fast on Mahashivratri. Samak rice pulao is a flavorful dish that is made with samak rice, mixed vegetables, and spices.
  5. Makhana kheer: Makhana or foxnuts are a rich source of protein, fiber, and essential minerals. Makhana kheer is a delicious and creamy dessert that is made with milk, makhana, and sugar. It is a healthy and satisfying option for those with a sweet tooth.

In conclusion, Mahashivratri is a significant festival that is observed with great devotion and enthusiasm across India. While fasting on this auspicious day, one can indulge in a variety of delicious and nutritious fast food items that are not only satisfying but also beneficial for the body. So, celebrate Mahashivratri with your loved ones and enjoy these delectable fasting dishes.

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Jingle All the Way- History of Christmas!!

Tis’ the season for carolling and gifting!! Christmas is the time to spend time with your family and enjoy the festive mood around the neighbourhood. This festival is of grave importance to the Christian culture since it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. We can see houses decorated with vibrant lighting, small statues of elves, snow (of course), Christmas special cakes, and Christmas special Hanging Door Ring!!

Did you know that the term ‘Christmas‘ originates from the words ‘Cristes Maesse‘, which means ‘mass of Christ‘!? Christmas’ history dates back to over 4000 years ago as several customs and traditions were celebrated before the birth of Christ. We can trace Christmas’ origin back to some civilizations that gave way to this festival.

  • Mesopotamian (New Years)– Several traditions began from the Mesopotamian culture. The people believed in many Gods, but one chief God- Marduk. In his battle with monsters of chaos every year, the Mesopotamians would assist Marduk by holding a festival known as Zagmuk, lasting for 12 days.
  • Scandinavia (Yuletide)– Scandinavia is the Northern part of the European continent where, during winter, the Sun would disappear for months. Villages would send scouts to track the Sun’s first light. After any sightings of the Sun, people would organise a festival called the Yuletide, which would consist of huge feasts and have a bonfire made from the Yule log.
  • Roman (Saturnalia)– For Romans, this festival began in mid-December, ending on January 1st. They named the festival Saturnalia as they worshipped their God, Saturn. Celebrations included masquerades in the streets, festival meals, visiting friends, and exchanging gifts called Strenae.
  • Persians and Babylonians (Sacaea)– This culture follows a unique way to celebrate where the slaves were the masters, and the masters were to obey them.

Throughout its history, Christmas has had many names. Nativity, meaning ‘birth’, originates from the Latin word, ‘nativitas‘. Christmas also derives from Christenmasse, meaning “Christian Mass“. However, some say it was the date of Winter Solstice according to the Roman calendar, which was nine months after March 25, the date of Vernal Equinox and the date linked to Jesus’s conception. The first recorded Christmas celebration was in Rome on December 25, A.D.336.

But some wonder, how did Santa Claus come into existence?! We all know Santa Claus is a prominent figure wearing red and white clothes and is portrayed with his eight flying reindeers. The American version of Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, originates from the Dutch version called ‘Sint Klass‘. Over the years, Santa’s visual forms have developed. According to folklore, Santa Claus’s home situates near the North Pole and has a habit of filling people’s stockings with gifts on the night of 24th December.

Even though the celebrations are grander every year, the traditions remain among the Christian community-

  • Usually, Catholics visit Church mass early in the morning for their prayers. According to a study, Christmas and Easter have the highest attendance in Churches. 
  • https://www.nativchefs.comFor decorations, usually, red, green, and golden are the primary colours, where red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, shed during the crucifixion. The green colour represents eternal life, specifically the evergreen tree, which does not shed its leaves during winter. The colour gold portrays Royalty and is one of the three gifts of the Magi. People put up different statues of Santa, reindeers, and elves to decorate their houses with colourful lights. Bells, candy canes, candles, stockings, and wreaths are a few traditional decorative items.
  • During Christmas, the nativity play is one of the oldest traditions originating in A.D.1223 by Francis of Assisi. The play depicts the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • Folk music and carols are the best way to get into the mood for Christians. They sing different songs, which originated in the 9th and 10th centuries. Groups of people roam on the streets and visit various homes to spread the holiday cheer.
  • Exchanging gifts is probably one of the most important traditions in recent times. Some say the gift-giving tradition started from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. According to the culture, gifts are wrapped well in advance and kept beneath the Christmas tree for everyone.

Christmas is time to get together with your family and enjoy the festive treats to satisfy your belly. People enjoy delicacies that are available only at this time of the year.

  • https://www.nativchefs.comPudding is also a popular delicacy which people specially prepare during this season. It is part of almost every Christmas dinner, mainly in the U.K. and Ireland. 
  • Christmas brings us different types of cakes (of course) but the main attraction of the cakes are the Rum Cake and Plum Cake. Rum cake consists of dried fruits soaked in rum for at least a month and then baked to perfection.
  • Eggnog is an alcoholic and, dairy based-beverage often found at everyone’s home during Christmas. Its origins trace to the United Kingdom and the U.S. The ingredients are mainly sugar, milk, cream, whipped egg, and alcohol of choice.
  • Cranberry sauce is also a must at every Christmas party. Also known as Cranberry jam, the first recipe for this dish dates back to a cookbook published in 1796.
  • Gingerbreads are a popular snack during this festival and are prepared in two types- Gingerbread man and a Gingerbread house. It’s flavoured using different spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, honey, and molasses.

Well, all this has got me in the mood to decorate my house with all the Christmas goodies and enjoy some festive treats with my friends and family. Let us know how you are celebrating the season of gifting!!

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History of Goan Cuisine and Goa Liberation Day!!

Imagine yourself walking on the beach, walking in the shallow end of the sea, and then enjoying some delicious seafood with your loved ones!! Doesn’t it sound amazing?! Well, that’s Goa summarized for you. Although a small-sized state, it is a popular tourist destination for Indians and people abroad.

Goan cuisine is a combination of eastern and western influences. The Portuguese, Arab, Brazilian, French, Konkani, Malabari, etc., are some of the few cultures to mould the Goan culture. But the first influence came from the Portuguese when in 1510, they captured the state from the Sultan of Bijapur. Their rule introduced new items in the culinary section such as potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, cashew, and bread. People started to call it ‘Goa Dourada‘ because of its beauty. It also had different ports to facilitate trading with the West, introducing Chinese Silk, different types of meat, and asafoetida.

However, during the 450-year rule, the Goan citizens were dissatisfied with the Portuguese. Just as India was free from the British regime, the Goan colony was still a part of foreign rule. On December 17th, 1961, after several failed negotiations, Indian deployed around 30,000 Indian troops against the 3,000 member Portuguese Army. ‘Operation Vijay‘ was successful, freeing Goa on the night of December 18th. Hence, on December 19th, Goa became a part of India, and the people celebrate this day as Goa Liberation Day.

Did you know that Goa celebrates 2 Independence days? One from the British and the other from the Portuguese. People celebrate Liberation day with great joy and festivities.

  • Celebrations begin with a Torchlight Procession where three separate parades, lit from three different locations, converge at one point, Azad Maidan. At this point, people pay their respects to martyrs who fought for the state’s independence.
  • Sugam Sangeet is another such cultural program that consists of people singing classical vocal music. This musical genre is an integral part of the Goan celebrations during Liberation day.

Apart from the celebrations, there are also tourist attractions that you may want to add to your bucket list. Beaches, probably, may rank high when visiting Goa, but there the cities have more to offer. Some places are-

  • Dudhsagar Waterfall
  • Fort Aguada
  • Mangueshi Temple
  • Reis Magos Fort
  • The Saturday Night Market
  • Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, and many more places!!

Portuguese influence on Goa’s cuisine was carried forward by the locals. Since Goa is located near the seashore, seafood dominates its cuisine. Coconut milk, kokum, rice, cashews, vinegar, and different types of meat also dominate the cuisine. The state’s cuisine consists of three types-

  • Hindu Goan Cuisine
  • Muslim Goan Cuisine
  • Goan Catholic Cuisine

With each type varying from the other, Goan cuisine has a lot of delicacies to offer. Some of their main dishes include-

  • Pez– a rice-based dish prepared with leftover curry and pickles, which people eat as a mid-morning meal.
  • Vindaloo– a signature curry-based Goan delicacy
  • Sol Kadhi– a cooling drink popular for its health benefits and consists of ‘kokum’
  • Some other include Cafreal, Xacuti, Sorpotel, Caldin, and Balchao.

All these represent Goan cuisine and are the staple delicacies among the locals. Several desserts comprise-

  • Bebinca– a layered coconut pudding
  • Neoreo– a type of sweet fried dumplings consisting a sweet filling of coconut and jaggery
  • Goshe– a variation on kheer consisting ‘sweet rice’ and lentils
  • Patoleo– steamed dumplings of rice flour with a filling of coconut and jaggery cooked in turmeric leaves
  • Alebele– consists of a rolled pancake filled with coconut, jaggery, and nuts.

Because of the influence of the Portuguese, baking is also popular in this state. Different types of bread and cakes bring some more variety to Goan cuisine. By reading this, it shows that the state of Goa is just more than nightlife, drinking, and beaches!!

We wish all Goans a Happy and Prosperous Liberation Day. We hope the next time you visit Goa, try these unique delicacies to add them to your never-ending bucket list!!

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A Festival to Thank the Sun God- Chhath Puja!!…-god-chhath-puja/

It’s time to wake up early in the morning because it is the auspicious festival of Chhath Puja. From fasting to singing various puja mantras, it’s a unique festival with celebrations not as loud as Diwali!! It’s one of the most prominent festivals in the Eastern states of India like Bihar, eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Nepal. Did you know that Chhath Puja is the only Vedic festival celebrated in India?!

Also known as Chhath or Surya Shashthi, the first day marks the sixth day of the Hindu calendar month, Kartik. Devotees worship the Sun God, Surya, and his wife, Usha, thanking them for supporting life on Earth and seeking his blessings. Along with a fast for 36 hours, people worship the Chhath Mayya, Lord Surya’s sister. Like every festival, Chhath also has a rich history to it with links to Ramayana and Mahabharata.

  • Chhath Puja’s main legend link to King Priyamvat. He was sad since he had no children. After consulting a Guru, he performed a ‘yajna’. Soon, his wife Malini gave birth to a boy but, the baby was born dead. After a prayer to Mata Shashti by the king, she made an appearance. Shashti Devi is the daughter of Lord Brahma and protects all children. Hearing their cries, Shashti Devi brought back the lifeless child.
  • According to folklore, when Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya, he and his wife, Sita, observed a fast in honor of the Sun God and broke the fast at sunset. This practice later spread amongst the cultures.
  • In Mahabharata, Karna was the son of Lord Surya and Kunti. He stood in the water and offered prayers to the Sun. But, there’s also another story where the Pandavas and Draupadi perform a similar puja to get their Kingdom back.

Culturally, people celebrate Chhath Puja twice a year-

  • Chaitra Chhath- Also known as Chaiti Chhath, it’s celebrated in the Chaitra month of the Hindu calendar.
  • Kartik Chhath- This is the main festival, and devotees celebrate it on a large scale in the month of Kartik.

Moreover, this folk festival lasts for four days, with each day having its significance.

  • The first day of Chhath Puja is Nahaye Khaye. After bathing, people clean their house and eat the food blessed by God to remove any negative feelings.
  • Rasiaav Roti is the second day where people don’t drink or eat anything. In the evening, they eat Jaggery Kheer, also called Rasiaav, with fruits and chapati.
  • Devotees offer ‘Arghya’ during the Kartik Shukla Shashti on the third day, Sandhya Arghya. They decorate a bamboo basket filled with fruits, Thekua, and rice laddus and offer it to the Sun God with their families, along with milk and water. Chhathi Maiya is worshipped from a Soop filled with Prasadam. They end the night with Shashthi Devi songs and Vrat Kathas.
  • On the last day, Usha Arghya, before sunrise, devotees visit a riverbank or lake to offer the Arghya to the rising Sun. With the offering, people ask for the protection of their children and happiness among the family. After worshipping, they drink some sherbet and raw milk with some prasad to break one fast. It’s also called Paran or Parana.

Furthermore, the festival’s rituals benefit not only the person but also the environment. According to some environmentalists, Chhath is an eco-friendly festival, which spreads the message of nature conservation. The festival also dissolves the barriers of the caste system, with every devotee, whether from an elite or middle class, preparing the same Prasadam. Everyone arrives at the banks of the lake or river without the differentiation of caste or creed. In Hindu culture, the worship of the Sun is of grave importance, and according to the Vedas, the Sun God is the Soul of the World. Some believe that the light of the Sun can rid our body of diseases, and with this, the Sun grants a person health, wealth, and confidence.

There are some famous temples to visit that present the authentic form of this festival. Some are-

  1. Sun Temple in Konark, Odisha (one of the oldest temples in India, built in the 13th century)
  2. Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat
  3. Dakshinaarka Sun Temple in Gaya, Bihar
  4. Sun Temple in Katarmal, Uttarakhand, and many more.

Even though people fast, there are some delicacies they eat after breaking their fast. Some are-

  • Kaddu Bhaat or Nahai Khai, which consists of bottle gourd, bengal gram, and Arva Rice, is served as a Bhog to the deity.
  • Kharna is on the second day, which is the eve of Pahli Arag (first Arghya). The preparation starts in the afternoon that has jaggery kheer accompanied with Dosti Puri and seasonal fruits.

Some other notable delicacies are Thekua (Jaggery or Sugar) and different types of Kheer. The food during the four days is strictly vegetarian and contains no salt, onion, or garlic.

Warm wishes to everyone who celebrates this auspicious festival of Chhath, and we hope you enjoy the day celebrating with your loved ones!!

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The Epitome of Indian Festivals- History of Diwali!!

After the celebrations of Dussehra and Navratri, everyone starts planning for the Festival of Lights. From welcoming the entourage of Ramayana to honouring Goddess Lakshmi, every culture appreciates the festival’s celebrations, energy, and reverence. It’s the start of Winter, and the zeal amongst people is starting to present itself.

Diwali’s history has several stories to tell. However, one topic remains common- the victory of good over evil. Since almost every state celebrates it, let’s look at the different legends based around it!!

  • It’s the story of King Bali and Lord Vishnu. Even though Bali was a generous ruler, he was highly ambitious and ruled the three worlds- the Earth, the world above the skies, and the underworld. This fact displeased the Gods. So, to keep a check on Bali’s power, Vishnu transformed into a dwarf dressed as a priest. He challenged Bali that if he could cover his three worlds in three steps, Bali would give everything to the dwarf. Bali laughed off the challenge but accepted it. The dwarf transformed into Lord Vishnu and covered the entire cosmos in three steps. This resulted in banishing Bali to the underworld. While celebrating Diwali, some remember King Bali.
  • According to folklore, Narkasura was a demon covered with filth and dirt; who used to kidnap young women and force them to live with him. After hearing their cries for help, Vishnu transformed into Krishna, his eighth incarnation. After fighting a five-headed monster, Krishna beat Narkasura. After the loss, Narkasura hoped his death may bring joy to others. For Hindus, this story is a reminder that good can still come out of something evil.
  • A village, Gokula, worshipped Lord Indra since his rains helped them grow excellent harvest. But, Krishna convinced the people of this village to worship the mountain Govardhan because of its fertile soil. This fact did not bode well with Lord Indra and resulted in thunderstorms and torrential rains in the village. In the end, Lord Krishna saved the villagers after lifting a mountain with his finger and protecting everyone under its shelter.
  • However, the main story of Diwali is the story of Lord Ram. After imposing an exile for 14 years by King Dashratha, Lord Ram, Sita, and his brother Lakshman faced Ravana, a great pundit but with an evil mind. After defeating Ravana in a battle, the three returned to Ayodhya. This victory signifies the victory of good over evil, and because of this, people light rows of clay lamps to commemorate this message.

Diwali celebrations vary in different cultures. For example, in the Sikh culture, people celebrate the return of Guru Hargobind Ji (the sixth guru) from captivity. To commemorate his love for Sikhism, devotees light the route to the Golden Temple in his honour. Whereas, in Jainism, people celebrate the achievements of Lord Mahavira, who established this culture. The Bengali culture worships Goddess Kali, the embodiment of supreme energy. Goddess Kali takes away all darkness, cuts down all impurities, and purifies devotees with her love.

Diwali is a five-day festival with each day having its significance. Let’s look at them, shall we!?

  • The first day of Diwali is Dhanteras, where ‘Dhan’ means money and ‘teras’ means 13th, marking the 13th day of the Hindu month Kartik and the beginning of Diwali. Many clean their homes and business premises and decorate them with several elements. Diyas, rangoli, lamps, unique strings of lighting patterns culminate to give it a vibrant feel. In the evening, families devote their time for prayers to Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. This day also marks a shopping day to purchase new items for yourself and your family.
  • Narak Chaturdashi, also known as Chhoti Diwali, marks the second day, where ‘Narak’ means hell, while ‘Chhoti’ means small and ‘Chaturdashi means the 14th day. The story of Krishna defeating Narakasura relates to this day. The day’s rituals signify to liberate any souls from Narak (hell) and remind its spiritual importance. While some perform Hanuman Puja, people also celebrate the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya. During this day, people purchase different sorts of Mithais and visit their friends and relatives for celebrations.
  • The third day belongs to Lakshmi Puja or Kali Puja, wherein the festival reaches its peak festivities. It’s the evening that lights up (literally). Everyone wears brand new clothes and gathers for Lakshmi Pujan. Devotees use the lamps from the puja to light more earthen lamps, which are lit in houses, while some set the lamps adrift in lakes or rivers. Some signify it as a way to avoid any evil spirits. After Lakshmi Puja, everyone lights up their Patakhe (fireworks) to celebrate, along with sharing Mithais with friends and family. On this day, even shops and small businesses either keep their shops closed or close soon so that employees can enjoy some family time.
  • Annakut, also known as Balipratipada (Padwa) or Goverdhan Puja, constitutes the fourth day. Some remember this day for Vishnu defeating the demon, Bali, while some relate it with the story of Parvati and Shiva playing a game of dice on a board of 12 squares and 30 pieces. After Goddess Parvati wins, she asks Lord Shiva to surrender his garments and adornments. Ritualistically, this day celebrates the bond between a husband and wife. ‘Annakut’ means ‘mountain of food’ since some communities prepare over 100 dishes with several ingredients offered to Lord Krishna before distribution.
  • The last day belongs to the siblings. Also called Bhau Beej, Bhai Duj means ‘brother’s day’ and celebrates the brother-sister bond. Somewhat similar to Bhai Duj, some relate this day with the legend of Yama and Yamuna, as Yama travels to Yamuna’s house and is greeted with a tilaka on his forehead. The tale of Krishna visiting Subhadra after defeating Narkasura also relates to this day. Here, the brother visits the sister, and the sister feeds Mithais to her brother with her own hands before receiving a gift.

While the celebrations go on, the festive feast also attracts several people. During Diwali, the main food items are the ‘Faral’, which consists of Chakli, Chiwda, Sev, Shankarpale, and laddus. Although they are available year-round, they gain the maximum demand during this festival. Some other Mithais and snacks to explore during the festival include-

  • Chirote,
  • Barfi,
  • Karanjis,
  • Lapsi (a candied fruit in Nepal),
  • Kaju Katli,
  • Anarsa,
  • Choddo Shaak (14 different types of leafy vegetables, found in West Bengal)
  • Murukku,
  • Different types of Halwas, and many more!!

All this has got me excited for the festive season of Diwali. So, I am going to quickly plan everything for the celebrations and celebrate it in the best possible way with my friends and family. Wishing everyone a happy and safe Diwali!!

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Safe Food Now For a Healthy Tomorrow- World Food Day!!

Safe and hygienic food is a fundamental right for every human on this planet. But according to a study, more than three billion people (approximately 40% of the world’s population) don’t have access to a healthy meal. For developing countries, this leads to a rise in numerous food-related diseases among the lower class.

To reduce these issues, the United Nations commemorates International World Food Day on 16th October. It’s the date for founding the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. Moreover, the World Food Program celebrates this day to combat hunger and food security, which led to winning the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2020. It was a result of fighting against hunger, bringing peace in conflict areas, and stopping the use of hunger as a form of a weapon for war.

However, many countries celebrate this day who want to reduce hunger-related issues. Since 1981, World Food Day adopts a theme to present areas to improve and a common focus. For example, the theme for 2020 was “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together”, or in 2019, it was “Our actions are our future, healthy diets for a zero-hunger world”. Usually, the themes depend on agriculture since only with investment (education and monetary) can this industry scale to new heights.

A study by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) indicates around 190 million people in India are undernourished. Furthermore, the Global Hunger Index ranks India 94th out of 107 countries. Moreover, nearly 1/3rd of the food produced in India goes to waste. This factor adds to the existing problem of malnutrition in the country and shows that India still needs to improve.

Celebrated in over 150 countries (including India), everyone has their way of commemorating World Food Day. Some choose to remain hungry for the day with respect to the millions of hungry stomachs that need food and nutrition. Some hold marathons highlighting the significance of healthy living and eating habits; while some hold stalls in exhibitions to satisfy any poor souls’ hunger. There are even a few who donate meals to the needy.

World Food Day iterates that every living being has the right to enjoy nutritious and safe food. So, let’s celebrate the day by enjoying some nutritious food and donating to those in need!!

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A Special Thali for a Navratri- Ma’er Bhog…asion-mayer-bhog/

Bengalis celebrating Durga Puja is the epitome of the Navratri festival, ranging from dances and decorative temples to delicious thalis. The different elements during this period make West Bengal a state worth visiting.

Also known as Annabhog in some areas, it’s a festive thali available only during the Navratri. Mainly, the thali is available only for the last three days of Navratri, i.e. Saptami, Ashtami, and Navami. This thali dates back to the starting of the 20th century and mainly consists of veg delicacies, which prohibits onion and garlic.

The eighth day (ashtami) during Navratri holds a special place for the devotees as they begin the day with morning fasting. In the afternoon, people gather at the pandals to gorge on the delicious and fresh bhog. Moreover, it’s a platter among the Bengalis at any sarbojonin pujo (community puja). However, a thing to note is that the recipe and taste of this bhog varies between different households. The bhog consists of delicacies with specific ingredients such as khichuri (Dal khichdi), bhaja (fried seasonal vegetables), a vegetable dish, chutney, and a form of payesh. Let’s look at the delicacies offered in this bhog, in brief.

  • Begun Bhaja (Eggplant fries)– In Bengali dialect, Begun means baigan or Eggplant, and bhaja refers to ‘fries’. Being a vegan dish, the eggplants are thinly sliced, covered with different spices, and some flour. Shallow-fry it or bake it, the taste will be the same. With the help of a few ingredients, the dish has an amazing taste and compliments the other elements of the dish.
  • Bhoger Khichuri (Khichdi)– Traditionally prepared with special rice- Gobindobhog rice, the festival is incomplete without this delicacy. It has a unique flavour, and Bengalis prepare it mainly during Navratri. Devotees consume it as a naivedyam and is prepared especially during Ashtami (Eighth day of Navratri).
  • Aaloo Phukopir– Loved by Bengalis, the dish consists of no onion or garlic. The main ingredients are Aaloo (Potato) and Phulkopir (Cauliflower), with a thick gravy consisting of different spices. It’s one of the essential delicacies during Navratri and is one of the most popular delicacies among vegetarians.
  • Tomato Chutney– Sweet and spicy chutney tomato chutney consists of jaggery and gives the mouth-watering aroma of panch phoron (Bengali 5 spice mix). It’s a part of the Bhog during Durga Puja in West Bengal and has different preparations in every household. Some may prepare it with khajur (Dates), while some may add tamarind to give it a hint of sourness.
  • Nolen Gurer Payesh– Payesh means Kheer in Bengali dialect, and this is a dish that consists of rice and date palm jaggery. It has a unique taste and is a popular sweet in West Bengal alongside Rasgulla and Sandesh. In this, traditionally, people use the Gobindobhog rice and can be consumed either hot or cold.

With these elements in the Bhog/Thali, it’s a fulfilling delicacy with a unique taste to give you an authentic taste of West Bengal’s Durga Puja feast. Enjoy!!



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Navaratri and Dussehra- Two Ritualistic Festivals!!…listic-festivals/

It’s time to grab your sticks and play the festive songs for Garba because Navratri is here!! To describe Navratri in one word won’t do it any justice. That’s because it’s vibrant, energetic, and offers a never-ending feast. It is a carnival celebrated in almost every corner of India and spans nine days. The term Navratri means ‘Nine Nights’, and people celebrate it in honour of Goddess Durga.

Being one of the most significant festivals in India, it’s celebrated four times in a year- in March, known as Chaitra Navratri. However, it is called Sharad Navratri in September/October, Magha Navratri in January/February, and Ashada Navratri in June/July. According to folklore, Goddess Durga has nine avatars, which are,

  • Mata Shailputri- Also known as Parvati or the daughter of Parvat Raj, Himalaya; she is worshipped on the first day and signifies action and vigour. She is the wife of Lord Shiva and portrays herself riding a bull, with a ‘trishula’ in her left hand and a lotus in her right.
  • Maa Brahmacharini- She is an incarnation of Parvati and holds the significance of the second day. Devotees worship her as she bestows peace and prosperity and symbolizes bliss and calm. Depicted as walking bare feet, she holds a ‘japamala’ and a pot in her hands.
  • Mata Chandraghanta- Symbolizing bravery, she is also an incarnation of Parvati, and after her marriage to Lord Shiva, she adorned her forehead with a half-moon.
  • Maa Kushmanda- Worshipped on the fourth day, i.e. Chaturthi, she is depicted having eight arms and sitting on a tiger. She is associated with bestowing vegetation on earth and the creative force of the universe.
  • Mata Skandamata- Known as the mother of Kartikeya, she signifies the strength of a mother when her child is in danger. She is portrayed riding a lion, having four arms, and carrying her baby.
  • Maa Katyayani- Known to exhibit courage and as the warrior goddess, she is one of the most violent forms of Devi and signifies the sixth day. In this form, she has four hands and rides a lion, and is a form of Parvati, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati combined.
  • Mata Kaalratri- Signifying the seventh day, she is the most ferocious form of Durga. She is portrayed in red colour attire or tiger skin with rage in her fiery eyes.
  • Maa Mahagauri- She symbolizes intelligence and peace and is worshipped on the eighth day. It is believed that after taking a bath in the Ganga river, her dark complexion changed to fair instantly.
  • Mata Siddhidatri- Also known as Mahalakshmi, she is portrayed sitting on a lotus, has four hands, and bestows all forms of Siddhis (meditative ability).

Moreover, several legends revolve around Navratri in different cultures. Some are-

  • https://www.nativchefs.comAccording to North Indians, Mahishasura, a demon, worshipped Lord Shiva. After obtaining the power, Mahishasura started killing people to attain the ‘Three Lokas’. To protect the world, Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva combined their energies to form a divine female warrior called Durga. After the first meeting with Goddess Durga, Mahishasura asked her to marry him. However, Durga put forth a condition saying that he will have to win her over in a battle. A battle ensued for nine nights, and on the ninth night, Durga beheaded Mahishasura. Hence, the nine nights were known as Navratri, and the tenth day was Vijayadashmi.
  • The Eastern Indian states have a different story to tell. Daksha, the king of the Himalayas, had a daughter, Uma, who wanted to marry Lord Shiva. After years of worshipping, Lord Shiva appeared before Uma, but his appearance displeased Daksha. One day the king organized a pooja but did not invite Shiva. Seeing this behaviour from her father, Uma jumped into the Agni Kund to end her life. It’s believed that since then, Uma comes home to her parents every year with Ganesha, Kartik, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and 2 of her sakkhis (best friends); Jaya and Bijaya.
  • Another legend of Navratri relates to Ramayana. According to the legend, Lord Ram was a devotee of Goddess Durga and worshipped her for nine days to gather strength to kill Ravana. Later, everyone celebrated the nine nights as Navratri, and on the tenth day, the day Ram killed Ravana, was known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra, signifying good’s triumph over evil.

With a festival, this huge, celebrations tend to differ in different cultures and states in India. Let’s look at some of the most prominent celebrations in India during Navratri.

  • https://www.nativchefs.comThe eastern states lavishly celebrate Navratri and is a sight to behold. In West Bengal, the festival is called Durga Puja and is one of their biggest festivals. Observing fasts and worshipping all nine forms of Durga is a must. Devotional songs, dances, and their grand processions make this state a must-visit during the festival. During Navratri, several worshippers visit Dakshineswar Kali Temple in Kolkata.
  • Navratri, in Gujarat, is a community event where people perform the traditional Dandiya Raas and Garba Raas. The Amba Mata temple in Junagarh is prominent in Gujarat and attracts thousands of devotees.
  • Maharashtrian culture dedicates its whole nine days to Durga Mata. People believe the festival is auspicious to make new purchases such as ornaments or vehicles. In Mumbai, people visit the Ayyappa temple to receive Durga’s blessings.

Although the main attraction is the nine days during Navratri, the tenth day is Dussehra or Vijayadashami. Celebrated a day after Navratri, Dussehra celebrates Durga winning the battle against the demon, Mahishasura. Although, in Northern regions, people celebrate the end of Ramlila, which marks Lord Ram’s victory over Ravana. In western states, the burning of Ravana statues symbolizes the release of evil spirits within us, and people decorate and adorn their household objects such as ornaments, vehicles, and others.

With Navratri being a ritualistic festival, feasting is not popular among people. However, during fasting, some people like to enjoy some ‘upwas’ delicacies. Some follow a strict no-eat diet during Navratri, but some may choose to eat fasting delicacies. Dishes mainly consist of Tapioca (Sabudana), certain Millets, a few milk products, coconut, potatoes, and different fruits. Some famous delicacies include Sabudana Khichdi (of course), Sabudana Wada, Upwas Thali, and many more. During Dussehra, people usually enjoy sweets to commemorate the day.

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Wishing everyone a happy and safe Navratri and Dussehra!!

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Travelling India Through Our Taste Buds- World Tourism Day!!…orld-tourism-day/

It’s time to pack your bags!! World Tourism Day is here. Travelling is a form of breaking free from your daily routine to explore something new and exciting. The tourism industry has taken a hit in recent times, but some people are unfazed by it and take any opportunity to visit different cities. Travelling helps us acquaint ourselves with new cultures, people, and cuisines.

With this in mind, there arose a need to spread awareness about the importance of the travel and tourism industry. The United Nations wanted people to realise the importance of tourism internationally. With the help of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the world celebrates World Tourism Day. Since 1980, it’s been an international observance on 27th September, and each year, they celebrate this event with a theme. For 2021, there’s no theme yet. However, in 2020, it was “Tourism and Rural Development”, in 2019, it was “Tourism and Jobs- a better future for all”, and in 2018, it was “Tourism and the Digital Transformation”.

Although World Tourism day promotes tourist attractions of a country, we thought of taking a different route to celebrate this day. This time we are looking at the top 10 places to visit in India and their must-try local cuisines. Let’s have a look, shall we?!

Rajasthan– Even though the state is known for its vast desert and heat, there are several tourist attractions, mainly the forts. With these monuments intact for hundreds of years, they sure are a sight to behold. Some of the famous forts are

  • Amer Fort,
  • Udaipur Palace,
  • Pushkar Mela (an annual fair in Thar desert),
  • Hawa Mahal,
  • And many others.

However, let’s look at some of their traditional delicacies. Taking influence from the Rajputs, their meal predominantly consists of different types of meat. Some of their famous dishes are their huge thalis. These thalis are the main attraction with more than ten elements to them. Dal Baati Churma, Balushahi, Ghevar, Panchkuta (Ker Sangri), Kadhi Kachori, and several others are few from a long list of delicacies.

Gujarat– It’s the land from where our Prime Minister hails and is a neighbouring state to Rajasthan. It has a continuous inflow of tourists because of its beaches, ancient temples, and archaeological survey sites. Places like

  • Modhera Sun temple,
  • Gujarat Science City,
  • Dumas beach,
  • the famous ISKCON temple,
  • And many others attract tourists from everywhere.

Other than the usual dhokla and theplas, Gujarat has a lot to offer in terms of food. Majorly a vegetarian state, dishes like Undhiyu, Panchkutiyu Shaak (a five vegetable curry), Handvo (a vegetable cake), Khichdi (a mix of pulses and rice), and many others come under this unique cuisine.

Kerala– “God’s own country”, if you will, this state had to come into this list because of its diverse and ethnic beauty. Ranging from hill stations to pristine beaches, Kerala has it all, which includes historical monuments, waterfalls, and several other attractions. But we are diving deep into the cuisine of Kerala. Of course, going to Kerala, people want to try the local idli, dosa, and sambhar. But some of their other delicacies will also leave you wanting more such as,

  • Sadya (a thali consisting of more than 15 elements),
  • Idiyappam with stew/curry,
  • various types of fish curries,
  • Thalassery Biryani (Kerala’s own biryani preparation),
  • Palada Payasam (type of kheer),
  • And many others.

Goa– It’s a state where Indians travel to witness the beaches and fresh seafood delicacies. Moreover, Goa is known to have Portuguese influence in almost every aspect, be it their cuisine or architecture. Some of the prominent places to visit in Goa include

  • Calangute Beach,
  • Dudhsagar Waterfall,
  • Aguada fort,
  • Chapora Fort,
  • Bom Jesus Basilica (one of the oldest churches),
  • And several others.

Goan cuisine would include a lot of seafood delicacies. However, there are other popular dishes like Goiabada (a Portuguese dessert), Sanna (a type of rice cake), Xacuti (a curry-based delicacy), Vindaloo, Bebinca (traditional layer cake from Goa), and many others.

Punjab– It’s a state that boasts the most popular cuisine in India and is loved by all. The state houses one of the most iconic temples in India, the Golden Temple. Along with that, some more famous attractions include

  • Jallianwala Bagh,
  • Rock Gardens,
  • and the ever-so energetic Wagah Border.

The state’s cuisine is one of the most famous in India, if not the world. Let’s exclude Butter chicken from this list and see what other delicacies it offers. Dishes like Chhole Bhature, various types of Parathas, various non-veg delicacies, Sarso Ka Saag & Makke ki roti, Panjiri, let’s not forget Lassi, Sattu (a ground barley drink to cool your body), and many others also have the must-try tag on them.

West Bengal– This North Eastern state has lots to offer, looking at its tourist attractions and diversity in cuisine. West Bengal boasts of a rich architectural history with mansions maintained from the British era. Kolkata, the City of Joy, is the best example of a combination of culture and urbanization. Places like

  • Victoria Memorial,
  • Kanchenjunga,
  • Eden Gardens,
  • the Sundarbans,
  • combined with beaches in the South of the state attract a lot of tourists.

When anyone says Bengali cuisine, the first dish that comes to mind is Rosogulla. However, with a rich history, this cuisine takes influence from Mughals, Chinese, Bangladesh, and Oriya cultures. Delicacies like Patishapta, Darbesh (also known as Laddu), a variety of seafood delicacies, Mishti Doi (sweetened curd), Bengali style Biryanis, and many others delicacies are a must-try for the food explorers.

Jammu & Kashmir– Although this North state has seen a lot of dispute in recent years, its cultural heritage and cuisines showcase its snow-clad mountains and evergreen valleys. Places like

  • Solang Valley,
  • Leh Palace,
  • Rohtang Pass,
  • Zoji La Pass are some of the prominent places to visit.

With influence from the Muslim community, Kashmiri Pandits, and Indian community, Kashmiri cuisine has a vast spread. Dishes like Shufta (A Kashmiri dessert), Rogan Josh, Waazeh Polav, Wazwan (multi-course meal), Noon Chai (pink colour salted tea), Kahwah (green tea with saffron and spices), and many others. These are some of the most popular delicacies in Kashmiri Cuisine.

Uttar Pradesh– Uttar Pradesh boasts numerous ghats, temples, and forts with India’s mightiest river, Ganga. Also known as the Land of Spirituality, the state houses UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri. Some more popular places include-

  • Qutub Minar,
  • Lucknow- the City of Nawabs,
  • Ghats of Varanasi, and many others.

Along with these attractions, Uttar Pradesh also has a variety of delicacies. Different types of Kebabs, Lucknowi Biryani, Tehri (similar to a veg pulao), Sheermal (flaky naan), Jalebi, Petha (a type of candy), and many others.

Bihar– Known as the birthplace of Buddhism and Jainism, Bihar’s history is vast, with numerous dynasties evolving from its core. Some of the popular tourist attractions include-

  • Bodh Gaya (from where Buddhism originated),
  • Nalanda University,
  • Navlakha Palace,
  • Valmiki National Park, and man others.

Bihar also showcases the variety in its cuisine. The state has three types of cuisines- Bhojpuri cuisine, Maithil Cuisine, and Magahi Cuisine. Delicacies like Litti Chokha, Pittha, Vegetable Korma, Churra, Gud Thekua, and many others are at the forefront of the Bihari cuisine.

Maharashtra– The name of the state translates to ‘the great state’. Although Mumbai attracts tons of tourists, there are several spots which are worthy, such as,

  • Gateway of India,
  • Elephanta Caves,
  • Mahabaleshwar (a hill station),
  • several mountains for trekking and hiking,
  • Ajanta-Ellora Caves, and many others.

Within Maharashtra, several cultures have their delicacies which makes the state’s cuisine extensive. Apart from Mumbai cha Vadapav, more drool-worthy dishes come from different regions of Maharashtra. The Konkan region is filled with seafood delicacies and rice, and the Malvan region consists of Malvani cuisine comprising mostly non-veg delicacies. The Desh region is filled with veggies and flatbreads made of wheat or jowar. The Vidarbha region is also known as Savji, which presents spicy food, veggies or meat.

So, which city/state are you visiting once vaccinated?! If you’re not travelling, why not experience the taste of Indian delicacies at the comfort of your home?!

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Monsoon’s Grand Festival- Ganesh Chaturthi!!…ganesh-chaturthi/

Name a better time than Ganesh Chaturthi in Monsoon!! It’s an energetic festival filled with zest and an electric atmosphere that never fails to impress. You can hear cheers of ‘Ganpati Bappa Moraya!!’ echoing around cities. People from all cultures celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, with the tourism industry booming during this time. Without any further ado, let’s look at this festival’s background with some famous places of worship and what you can eat!!

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi commemorates the birth of Lord Ganesha in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. Some say that the first celebrations began in the 1600s since Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj considered Ganesha their Kuladevata (family deity). Although, some argue that the festival dates back to the rule of the Chalukya dynasty, between 271 BC and 1190 AD. However, Bal Gangadhar Tilak transformed this festival into a public event in the 19th century to unite everyone. Did you know that Lord Ganesha has 108 different names?!

Known as the ‘God for Everybody’, there are several folklores surrounding Lord Ganesha.

    • According to legends, Parvati created Lord Ganesha from the turmeric paste she used for bathing. After breathing life into him, she asked him to guard the palace while she took a bath. After returning home, Lord Shiva was not allowed to enter. A battle ensued, and in the end, Shiva beheaded Ganesha. Goddess Parvati was upset and enraged seeing her son dead and asked Shiva to revive his son. Shiva requested his followers to get the head of the first dead creature facing north. After the follower came back with the head of an elephant, Lord Shiva fixed it and brought Ganesha back to life.
    • Some say that Lord Ganesha wrote Mahabharata as Sage Vyasa recited it. After reciting it without any pause, Ganesha’s writing instrument broke, and since he had no time, he broke a part of his tusk and started writing. The whole process took ten days without food or water. On the 11th day, after completing the epic, Ganesha was asked to bathe in a river.
    • Some also believe that the Moon laughed at Ganesha as he travelled on a mouse after a feast. As he was offended, Ganesha cursed the Moon. After some persuading from the other Gods, he revoked his curse but maintained that no one on Earth should look at the Moon during Chaturthi.
    • The name, Modakpriya, stuck to Ganesha after visiting Anusuya with his parents. After presenting several delicacies, Ganesha’s hunger could not be satisfied. During this, Anusuya thought of feeding Ganesha a sweet to fulfil his hunger, which worked. Soon Ganesha gave out a loud burp followed by Lord Shiva. Parvati was curious and asked Anusuya. After knowing what fulfilled Ganesha’s hunger, Parvati wished that devotees should offer 21 modaks to Ganesha as prasadam.

In an extravagant festival like this, people decorate their houses when hosting Ganpati and inviting other people for blessings. Devotees throng famous temples to receive boons and hand-deliver prasadam to Lord Ganesha. During the 10-day festival, Gauri Puja (Goddess Parvati) or Mahalakshmi Puja is also done, two days after Ganesh Chaturthi. Also known as Mangala Gauri, it lasts for three days and is considered auspicious.

    • Also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi in South India, states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu celebrate Gowri Habba, which takes place a day before Ganesh Chaturthi. The best places to experience the celebrations include the Kanipakam Vinayaka temple in Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh), Khairatabad Ganesh in Khairatabad (Telangana), Bengaluru Ganesh Utsav in Basavanagudi (Karnataka), and Karpaka Vinayaka temple in Tirupatthur (Tamil Nadu).
    • In Kerala, it’s called Lamboodhara Piranalum. Here, the celebrations start a month before Ganesh Chaturthi. The capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, witnesses a long procession on the last day from the Pazhavangadi Ganapathi temple to the Shankumugham beach.
    • In Goa, in the Konkani dialect, it’s called Chavath, which lasts from nine to 21 days. People install Ganesh idols under a canopy made of vegetables, fruits, berries, and herbs. To witness the best celebrations, you can visit Panjim and Mapusa. However, to see the best installations, it’s a town called Marcel, where craftspeople make idols from coconut, cotton, wax, and other unconventional materials.
    • With more than 10,000 pandals in Mumbai, Mumbaikars celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi prolifically. With drums and music all around, the decibels are the highest compared to any city, attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world. The most iconic pandal is the Lalbaugcha Raja; however, other prominent temples include Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha RajaGBS Seva Ganesh MandalAndhericha Raja, and many more.
    • With rituals somewhat similar to Mumbai, Pune holds a ‘Pune Festival’ featuring classical dances, music recitals, dance and drama, handicraft and textile displays, and automobile rallies. Some famous temples include Kasba Ganpati Mandal15th century’s Tambdi Jogeshwari TempleTulsi Baug Ganpati, the Kesari Wada Ganpati, and many others.

But with all these places, you might wonder what are the best festive delicacies to try?! Well, wonder no more!! As we all know that Ganpati loves Modak, which is the staple offering during this festival. However, there are also other sweet and savoury delicacies you can try, which are

    • Puranpoli
    • Srikhand
    • Patholi
    • Rajgira Laddu
    • Sabudana Kheer
    • Thalipeeth
    • Samosa
    • Panchakajjaya (in Karnataka, made with sugar, ghee, dessicated coconut, sesame seeds, and gram dal)

Well, all this has got me in a festive mood, and everyone is ready to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Let’s celebrate this monsoon-special festival with high energy levels. We wish everyone a safe and happy Ganesh Chaturthi and Ganpati Bappa Moraya!!