Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Holy Nine Days

Today is the start of Navaratri- nine days and nights of festivities for us. Prayers are offered to three main Goddesses- Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. It signifies the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated throughout India but the form of celebration (and food too) varies. In Tamil Nadu and some southern states, a few odd number of steps are set up and dolls that represent important religious deities are placed on these steps. This is called a "Golu".

This is a festival for the ladies and a celebration of womanhood. We invite people we know to see the arrangement and send them home with special food preparations made for the occasion along with a small bag of gifts.

In most Southern states, Sundal, a snack mix made of lentils or beans is a daily preparation. It is served to the guests and each guest is sent home with sundal packed in pages from the previous day's newspaper. In our family, we do not use onions and garlic on holy days and so most of our sundals have grated coconut to boost flavor. For Day 1, I made a sundal made of channa dal. Nupur has a great chart of the different lentils and beans for reference.

Channa dal sundal

Channa Dhal - 1 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp (I love the taste coconut oil gives)
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad Dhal - 1/2 tsp
Dry Red Chilly - 2, broken
Green chilies- 2, finely chopped (optional)
1 sprig of curry leaves

Clean the channa dal and soak in warm water for 10-15 min. Cook with enough water (with a pinch of turmeric added) to submerge lentils. When the dal is almost cooked add about 3/4 tsp salt. Continue to cook until completely tender but not mushy. Try not to over cook. Decant the excess water completely and set aside for a couple of minutes. Heat up the oil and fry the mustard seeds, urad dhal and chilly. When the mustard splutters, add the green chilies and curry leaves. Add the cooked dhal and 1/2 tsp salt (the salt added earlier would have been decanted off with the water) and stir for a few minutes. If interested, you may add a handful of grated coconut (I always do it).

This is a protein-rich snack especially for vegetarians and is very portable.


  1. Mika, that's a beautiful description of this festival. Iam so happy to share the celebration with you this year.
    I was wondering about Sundal, I thought it is some sort of sweet.
    Now I know another Tamil word. We call them 'guggullu' in Telugu.
    Chanadal sundal you prepared with coconut looks mouth watering. It's what they serve in temples back in India, right. kabuli chana sundal also tastes great, my favorite.
    Golu or 'Bommala koluvu' look wonderful. We also do that back home in our place. Lot of pretty dolls and deities. I am so happy to see 'Golu'. Is it you home, Mika? How pretty!
    looking forward to the festival recipes from you and thanks for sharing them with us.

  2. Oh Mika, did not even read the blog yet, but just saw the title and sort of started to feel sad. Have been here so long, I get consumed with work and deadlines and it is so easy to not follow the rituals...I have had a few years where I did not even know when festivals came by and went, but may be growing older or something else...yearning to do all the stuff that I did growing up. At least my son knows what Sundal is..time to clean out the Pooja room..

    Love you rblogs and the reminders that come along with it.

  3. Your golu is beautiful! I love the description of the festival too. Thanks for referencing my dal-chart :) your recipe for the sundal sounds delicious and easy.

  4. I absolutely can't wait to make this.