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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,
  • https://www.nativchefs.com/menuNariyal 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

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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!!

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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.

You can explore more on our website- www.nativchefs.com/menu.

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Navratri and Dussehra!!

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Travelling India Through Our Taste Buds- World Tourism Day!!

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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!!

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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!!

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A Mischievous Legacy- Krishna Janmashtami!!

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Govinda Aala re, aala!! Who’s blue, mischievous, and has an affinity for Makhan? We all know the answer to that!! Of course, we are talking about Lord Krishna. Popularly known as Shri Krishna, people know him using other names as well, such as Girdhari- one who lifted Govardhan hill, Devakinandan- son of Devaki and Vasudev, Parthasarthy- chariot rider for Arjuna, Gopal- who takes care of cows, and many other names.

Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu, was born to Vasudev and Devaki in a prison cell. The history of Janmashtami goes back several millennia, and if we keep surveying, there are multiple folklores relating to Krishna and his birth. Moreover, people believe Krishna’s purpose was to make a kingdom of peace, religion, and prosperity. Mathura’s King Ugrasen had a daughter, Devaki, who married King Vasudev. However, this was not accepted by Kansa because he had a prophecy of death from one of their children. Kansa imprisoned Devaki and Vasudev, and whenever a child was born, Kansa would kill them.

However, on the night of the birth of their eighth child, a divine voice asked Vasudev to ferry the child to Nandaraj, his friend. Vasudev found an exit, and with the help of Sheshanag, he was able to cross the raging Yamuna river. Before Kansa could reach their prison cell, Vasudev exchanged his newborn with Nandaraj’s daughter and returned to his wife. As Kansa tried to kill the daughter, she slipped away from him and transformed into the Goddess Durga. She foretold Kansa of his doom which would soon come true.

Krishna Janmashtami commemorates the birth of Shri Krishna, and people from every state and culture celebrate this festival. Janmashtami falls on the Ashtami or the eighth day of the Krishna Paksh or dark fortnight of Bhadon month. For Hindus, it’s one of the most important festivals, where, on the first day, people perform the Raslila (dance drama), which depicts Krishna’s life. At the stroke of midnight, prayers and pujas are performed to applaud Krishna’s deeds. Some children even dress up as Krishna and Radha. The celebrations reach their peak when people go two nights without any sleep and chant bhajans and folk songs connected to Janmashtami.

Festivities for Janmashtami have no end as almost every state and culture has its way of celebrations. Let’s look at some of the famous ceremonies in India-

  • Since Krishna was born in Mathura and grew up in Vrindavan, the Braj region in Uttar Pradesh celebrates this festival like there’s no tomorrow. Devotees decorate and light temples with rangolis, flowers, and lights, making it a glittery affair. People perform Rasleelas and storytellers treat the audiences with tales from Krishna’s childhood through song or dance.
  • People in Gujarat celebrate the festival similar to Dahi Handi, called Makhan Handi, especially in Dwarka, the origin of Lord Krishna’s empire. Folk dances, singing bhajans, and visiting temples such as the Dwakadhish temple of Nathdwara, are all part of the festivities in Gujarat.
  • In Jammu, kite flying is one of the main festivities during Janmashtami
  • Moreover, Janmashtami in Maharashtra is famous in districts like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Latur. Also known as Gokulashtami, one of the most popular festivities is the Dahi Handi. Here, they tie an earthen pot at the top where participants form a human pyramid to reach it and break it. This ritual is a symbolism of a young Krishna sneaking jars of butter from various houses.
  • In South India, locals decorate their homes with kolams and draw small footsteps using rice batter, symbolizing the tiny footsteps of a young Krishna entering their home. Devotees offer sweets like payasam and laddus for pooja, with some butter.
  • Janmashtami is also celebrated in countries like Nepal, Fiji, Mauritius, and Bangladesh.

Although Krishna was named ‘Makhanchor’, his love for eating was immense. Any dairy product, available in Vrindavan, was finished by Krishna and his mates. However, for this festival, there are certain delicacies that you must try, those are-

  • Panjiri is one of the vital ‘prasadam’ of this festival, and people believe this delicacy to have a good effect on the intestines. It’s prepared with coriander seed powder, ghee, sugar, and assorted dry fruits and is popular in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, and several others.
  • Some consider Maakhan Mishri as Lord Krishna’s favourite. It’s easy to prepare and consists of butter and sugar.
  • One of the most traditional drinks during Janmashtami is honey and milk, which is considered a symbol of purity.
  • Gopalkala, also known as ‘poor man’s food’, is offered to Krishna during midnight prayers. It’s a simple dish consisting of cucumbers, beaten rice, curd, coconut, sugar, ghee, and cumin seeds. Originating in Maharashtra, it’s offered as a prasad in almost every household.
  • Furthermore, Panchamrit is a milk mixture consisting of milk, ghee, curd, jaggery, and tulsi leaves. Its use is to bather Lord Krishna at midnight, and once the devotees complete the ritual, they distribute the Amrit among themselves as a prasadam.

There are also a few other treats like Kheer, Basundi, Nariyal Barfi & Laddu, Besan Laddu, Ragi Laddu, Sabudana Thalipeeth, Masala Bhaat & kadhi, and Gulab Jamun that make this truly a festive time.

Janmashtami is near, and we hope you have reserved your energy for the celebrations. We wish everyone a happy and safe Krishna Janmashtami!!

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Celebrating An Unbreakable Bond- Raksha Bandhan!!

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Brothers and sisters are like cats and dogs!! We fight, we laugh, but most importantly, we share a unique bond that can never break easily. It’s an ‘invisible promise’ that keeps living and is unbreakable. India celebrates this relationship in an illustrious manner, which Rakshabandhan or Rakhi.

Moreover, Raksha Bandhan falls in the auspicious month of Shravana and occurs on the full moon day (Purnima) according to the Hindu Lunar calendar. Also known as Rakhi Purnima, many states of India celebrate this festival. It’s known with several names, but the common thing is the prayer and the pledge for protection. In South India, Raksha Bandhan is called Avani Avittam in North India, it’s known as Kajari Purnima, and in the Western Ghats of India, it’s called Nariyal Purnima.

However, Rakshabandhan’s origin has a vast and varied story. Several stories connote this festival’s significance. Some are-

  • During the battle in Mahabharata, Lord Krishna hurt his finger after sending his ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ to behead Shishupala. Seeing this, Draupadi bandaged his finger with a piece of cloth from her saree. The bandage symbolises a promise that Krishna made to Draupadi to protect her at any cost. Lord Krishna’s help was quick when Draupadi was in need. In a rigged game of dice, Yudhistira wagers Draupadi but loses her. The Kauravas took advantage of it and tried to disrobe her. As the Pandavas couldn’t help her, she prayed for Krishna’s help. As the Kauravas proceed to unclothe her, the saree kept getting longer and was never-ending. Hence, this is known as Krishna’s miracle to protect Draupadi and is carried forward to other stories.
  • https://www.nativchefs.comIn a war between demons and gods, Demon King Brutra was advancing, and Gods lead by lord Indra were on the verge of defeat. After approaching Guru Brihaspati for advice, Lord Indra tied a sacred thread on his wrist powered by divine incantations. Lord Indra’s Queen Sanchi (Indrani) empowered the filament and tied it to his hand, leading them to victory.
  • After winning three worlds from the Demon King Bali, Lord Vishnu was to stay with him. However, Goddess Lakshmi wanted to return to her home place, Vaikuntha. Hence, she tied a rakhi around Bali’s wrist, making him a brother. In return, she asked Bali to release Lord Vishnu from his vow and allow him to return to Vaikuntha with her. King Bali agreed to the request, and Lord Vishnu returned to his wife, Lakshmi.
  • According to folklore, not having a sister on the eve of Rakhi was frustrating for Shubh and Labh, Lord Ganesha’s two sons. After obliging to their request, Ganesha created Santoshi Maa from the divine flames.
  • Another tall tale conveys the story of Yama and Yamuna. Yama did not visit his sister, Yamuna, for 12 years, ultimately making her sad. After taking advice from Ganga, Yama met his sister. She was glad that he came and took care of him. Seeing this hospitality from Yamuna, Yama asked her for a gift, to which Yamuna said that she wanted to keep meeting her brother.

Although the times have changed, the festival’s tradition and customs have been the same. Before the festival, girls browse through different shops, searching for the perfect Rakhi and sweets. Its significance varies from region to region, it’s primarily a North and West Indian festival, but it also has different importance in Southern and Coastal areas. Some are-

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  • In the Western Ghats, locals consider it an offering to Lord Varuna, Lord of the Sea. The people offer coconuts to Lord Varuna by throwing them into the sea as a ritual. Hence, they call it Narali Purnima, which also marks the beginning of the fishing season.
  • South Indians call it Avani Avittam, which is highly significant to Brahmins. After taking a holy bath in the morning, Brahmins change their sacred thread (Janeyu) while chanting mantras. The yarn is a representation of the vow to adhere to the Vedic culture. They also take part in a pledge to perform their duties as Brahmin. Also known as Shravani or Rishi Tarpan, all Brahmins take part in it.
  • In North India, Rakhi is known as Kajari Purnima. After sowing the seeds of wheat and barley, people worship Goddess Bhagwati and ask her blessings for a good harvest.
  • Pavitropana is a different type of celebration in Gujarat. On Rakhi Purnima, devotees offer water to Shivalinga and pray for forgiveness. The ritual also includes tying cotton threads soaked in ‘Panchagaivya‘(mixture of Cow’s ghee, milk, curd, urine, and excreta).
  • In West Bengal, locals perform the prayers of Lord Krishna and Radha. Known as Jhulan Purnima, sisters tie Rakhi to brothers and wish for their immortality.

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With a vibrant celebration, meetha khaana toh banta hai!! There are several delicacies to try on this festive day!! For example, in Avani Avittam, South Indians gorge on unique delicacies like Varagu Thattai (a snack made of millets ), Aval Payasam (Poha Kheer), Spicy Murukku, Unni Appam, and many others. Whereas on Narali Purnima, coconut is the staple food during the day. Delicacies like Narali Bhaat (Coconut rice), Naral barfi (Coconut barfi), and Naral Laddu (Coconut laddu) are the main attractions during the day. However, in contemporary times, chocolates and traditional mithais have also emerged as popular gifting options during Raksha Bandhan with attractive Rakhi hampers.

Let the bond between siblings stay unimpaired. We wish everyone a Happy and safe Raksha Bandhan!!

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Monsoon’s Harvest Festival in Kerala- Onam!!

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The monsoon season and the month of Shravana bring several festivals in India. The months from July to September showcase different cultures’ vibrant and beautiful celebrations. Although most harvest festivals occur in the summer season in India, Kerala’s Onam occurs in the monsoon season. The tagline for Kerala Tourism (God’s Own Country) is quite fitting, as the South Indian state offers unique celebrations.

Kerala celebrates Onam on Thiruvonam Nakshatram in the Malyali calendar month of Chingam. It’s a 10-day celebration which starts from Atham Nakshatram– first day and ends on Thiruvonam- 10th day, one of the most important days. It’s a rice harvest festival that consists of elaborate feasts, songs, dances, elephants, boats, games, and flowers, making it dynamic. The popularity and representation of this festival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. Moreover, the Indian government promotes Onam in a big way by celebrating ‘Tourist Week‘ for Kerala, resulting in an immense inflow of foreign and domestic tourists in the state.

https://nativchefs.com/?p=58785&preview=trueHowever, the history of Onam is unique. According to folklore, King Mahabali, an asura (demon), ushered in the best times for Kerala, which brought prosperity and happiness all around. But seeing this, the Gods were not pleased and felt challenged. So, to end Mahabali’s reign, Lord Vishnu emerged as Vaman (a short Brahmin) and deceived the king to give him all his land. As a result, the Gods sent Mahabali to a lower world, giving him one benefit- he could visit his land once a year. Therefore, Keralites believe King Mahabali visits them during this time, and people make efforts to celebrate his homecoming lavishly.

Celebrations take a grand turn, and with a culture as rich as Kerala’s, the carnival offers tons of festivities, food, and bejewelled elephants. Locals try to celebrate this festival majestically. There are various activities the encompass the festival, such as,

  • Athachamayam is a cultural celebration in Ernakulam and witnesses almost all the folk art forms of Kerala. It commemorates the victory of Raja (King) of Kochi and locals dress up as the king’s loyal subjects. It marks the beginning of the Onam festival with decorated elephants, music, and other folk art forms.
  • Pulikali is also known as Tiger Dance. On the fourth day of Onam, artists paint their bodies like tigers with stripes of yellow, red, and black and dance to some folk songs. The main idea of this event is role-playing with participants dressed up like tigers and hunters.
  • Noble and majestic elephants participate in the Thirunakkaru Arattu procession.

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  • One of the enchanting features of Onam is Vallamkali, the snake boat race. Locals host it on the river Pampa where colourful and decorated boats race against each other. While oaring, the boatmen chant traditional songs as the spectators’ cheer for them.
  • Similarly, Kummattikali artists wear an attire consisting of plaited grass and a wooden mask where they collect small gifts from different houses and amuse children.
  • Traditionally, the festival includes games as well called Onakalikal. Men go for sports like Talappanthukali, in which they play with a ball. Ambeyyal, also known as Archery, Kutukutu (Kabaddi), and combat sports like Kayyankali and Attakalam.
  • However, women indulge in cultural activities known as Pookalam. It’s a flower mat consisting of a complex floral pattern and is present in the main entrance of a house to welcome King Mahabali.
  • Dance performances are an integral part of the festival. Kaikotti kali, Thumbi Thullal, and Kathakali are the dance styles that add to the zest of celebrations.

Of course, food will be a part of any festival. The main attraction is the grand feast called Onasadya or Onam Sadhya, prepared on the last day, Thiru Onam. It’s a nine-course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential food items, served on a banana leaf, where people sit on the mats laid on the floors to enjoy this fulfilling meal. The term ‘Sadhya‘ means banquet in Malayalam, and if there are larger leaves, it can have up to 64 or more items.

https://nativchefs.com/?p=58785&preview=trueOther famous delicacies on the eve of Onam are-

  • Kalan is a part of the Onasadya consisting of thick yoghurt, coconut, veggies, and some raw bananas.
  • Olan is a relatively simple dish consisting of pumpkin and pulses.
  • A Kerala classic, Avial is a huge favourite among the locals. Made of various vegetables and coconut, people prefer it any time of the year.
  • A chutney like dish, Ingi Puli is a unique dish that’s a must for the Sadhya. Ingi means ginger, and Puli means tamarind making them the key ingredients in this delicacy.
  • Vedukapulli is a pickle made from lemon, and the other is Manga Curry, a minced mango pickle.

You can also visit our website to explore more options in South Indian cuisine. “Thiruonam Ashamsakal“, which means “To everyone, Onam Wishes!!” Enjoy Onam with your loved ones and experience authentic South Indian Cuisine at the comfort of your home!!

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Muharram- The First Month of a New Islamic Year!!

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In India, different communities celebrate their cultural ‘New Year’ with their age-old traditions. Just like that, the Islamic community celebrates their new year in the Monsoon Season. Although a festival of sorts, Muslims don’t celebrate this festival with much joy because of its history. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and is one of the four sacred months after Ramadan. It begins after the sighting of the full moon on the final day of the Islamic calendar.

https://www.nativchefs.com Furthermore, during this month, devotees avoid warfare or any violence since it’s one of the holiest months. It’s the month of remembrance as people honour the martyrs and abstain from joyous events. Also known as the Mourning of Muharram, the Tenth day of Muharram is called the Day of Ashura. While the Shia Muslims mourn the tragedy of Imam Hussein’s family, the Sunni Muslims practice fasting on Ashura. Ashura means ‘Tenth‘ and refers to the tenth day of Muharram. The mourning begins from the first night and climaxes on the tenth night of Muharram.

The last few days, until the day of Ashura, are highly significant because during these days, Hussein Ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, along with his family and followers, starved without food and water. From the seventh day, they started suffering, and on the 10th day, the army of ‘Yazid I‘ killed Hussain and 72 of his followers at the Battle of Karbala on Yazid’s orders. The surviving members marched to Damascus and were imprisoned there. Hence, in their honor, followers consume less food, while some don’t even drink or eat until Zawal (afternoon) as part of the mourning.

However, during Muharram, some people can still enjoy festive delicacies specially made for the day. Fakia, a food platter that consists of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and some sweets, is gifted to loved ones during Ashura. Devotees consume a dessert porridge called ‘Ashure’ and popularly consume it across the Middle East, Turkey, and Armenia. The porridge consists of whole wheat, dry fruits, rose water, spices, and sugar. It’s a wholesome porridge that family and friends share among themselves. Khichda is a variation on the dish, Haleem, which is popular with Muslims in India during Muharram.

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Festive treats also include ‘Muharram ka Sherbet’. Originally popular in Hyderabad in India, it’s a milk-based sherbet flavoured with dry fruits and cardamom. The flavour of the drink comes from the ‘smoking’ of Oudh bark, which gives it a unique and enchanting aroma!! Those who participate in the processions and those who are fasting consume this exotic drink. Zarda rice is another delicacy that consists of rice cooked in orange flavour along with nuts and spices. Lastly, Poha Kheer also is a popular sweet for Muslims. It’s healthy because it contains iron coming from flattened rice flakes.

If you want to explore more, check our website, where you can choose from delectable Mughlai and Bohra delicacies. We wish you all have a safe and healthy Muharram. So, to all reading this, Muharram Mubarak!!