India, being a multicultural and multi-religious society, celebrates holidays and festivals of various religions. There are different types of festivals, such as religious festivals, local festivals (depending on prevalent religion and linguistic demography), or harvest festivals. These festivals have different names and are celebrated in different ways in different states of India. This is my attempt to look around and learn the significance of these festivals in the present world. Furthermore, will try to find the cuisines related to the festivals and see what Ayurveda say about the recipes.
The traditional meals prepared and served during festivals are influenced by the local food availability and most important the seasons. There are 6 Ritu (seasons) in India. These are Vasant (Spring), Grishma (Summer), Varsha (Monsoon), Sharad (Autumn), Hemant (Winter) and Shishir (Winter and fall). Indian cuisine reflects a thousands of years of history of various groups and cultures interacting with the subcontinent, leading to diversity of flavours and regional cuisines found in modern-day India. In short, the food is heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices.
Yesterday was Gudi Padwa, the beginning of the new year according to the lunisolar Hindu calender. The word Padwa means the first day of the bright phase of the moon. On this day, the sun assumes a position above the point of intersection of the equator and the meridians. According to the Hindu calender, this marks the commencement of the Vasant ritu or the spring season. Gudi padwa is celebrated in many states, hence the traditional food depends on the region.
According to Ayurveda, it is not advisable to consume cold dishes, including yogurt in winter. Cold food or drinks increase cough in our body. Spring is a time to make ourselves ready for summer. The sweet dish made for Gudi Padwa in a state called Maharashtra is called Shrikhand, made from home made curd (yogurt) and sugar. To reduce the side effect of yogurt, nutmeg powder is used with a pinch of saffron to flavour the Shrikhand. This time of a year is for cleansing and renewal of our body and hence 2-3 young leaves of Neem or Azadirachta indica are eaten during the lunch on Gudi Padwa. Neem is believed to have antibacterial properties. Neem leaves taste very bitter and can cause severe acidity if consumed in large amount.
A new year has began, I will write more about food traditions of Maharashtra with coming up festivals.