Food for season and tradition – 2

I started writing about the traditional food according to season in Indian culture a few months ago. The first post was ‘Food for season and tradition’

Today is 14th of January; is a very auspicious day in Hindu calendar. Today according to Hindu belief, the God Sun visits his son Shani (Saturn) who is the master of Zodiac sign Capricorn.  It is called “Makar sankranti”.  In sanskrit, Capricorn is Makar and transition is sankranti. Hence it is the day when Sun enters into the northern hemisphere; with astrological significance the Sun enters the Capricorn zodiac constellation. There are 12 zodiac signs and thus there are 12 transitions of Sun. But the most important is Makar sankranti, from Sagittarius to Capricorn.  Makar sankranti signifies that we begin to enjoy a new light within ourselves as after this day the days start to become longer and warmer.  Tilgul_kha_god_god_bola

It is a major harvest festival and there by is for prosperity, and is celebrated in various parts of India with distinct names and rituals. In many states, it is celebrated with Kite flying  festival.  People offer thousands of their colourful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The message intended is, “Rise higher like the kite’. Also at some places people offer donations. As bulls signify the harvest season, they are treated with respect and decorated with garlands and prayed to. Major cattle fairs are held at different places where many camels, bullocks and horses are sold and purchased by animal lovers.

Since the festival is celebrated in mid winter, food prepared for this festival is such that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy. In state Maharashtra, people make sweets with sesame seeds, clarified butter and sugar or jaggery (a traditional uncentrifuged sugar).  People exchange these sweets and greet each other by saying `til-gul ghya, god god bola’, meaning accept the sweets and speak sweet. Basically, it is to resolve all sorts of misunderstanding during the past year and remain friends.  For lunches, a mixed vegetable curry (although it is very thick) is made using fresh vegetables available during this time of year, specially carrots, beans, aubergine (eggplant), peas, potatoes, peanuts, sesame seeds, grated fresh coconut meat and lot of fresh corriander.  Breads are made with sesame seeds and either pearl millet floor or wheat flour. Pearl millet flour gives lot of energy and specially eaten during winter season. Another kind of sweet bread is also made with a special filling which includes sesame seeds, peanutnut powder and jaggery.

According to Ayurveda, winter season is for consuming healthy food. Eating nuts, fresh milk products, fats, protiens and sweets made from fresh ingedients are good to retain heat and energy of our body. It is also advisable to drink warm water and ginger tea.

More information on Makar sankranti:

Consuming food is Yadnya Karma (यज्ञकर्म – a sacred act)

Food is the fuel of human life. But it is not as simple as it seems, many people do have digestion problems like bloating stomach pain, constipation.

One of the reasons behind this is grabbing or munching of food. According to Ayurveda the process of eating food is very important for our physical and mental health.

To improve digestion we need to sit in a proper way and remain calm.  Every culture has its own way of saying a prayer of thanksgiving before eating a single morsel of food,  the Christians say their grace.

There is an old shloka (chant) recited before stating the meal.

vadani kaval gheta naam ghya shri-hariche l
sahaj havan hote naam gheta phukache l
jivan kari jivitva anna he purn-brahma l
udar-bharan nohe janije yadnya-karma ll 1 ll

वदनि कवळ घेता नाम घ्या श्रीहरीचे ।
सहज हवन होते नाम घेता फुकाचे ।
जिवन करि जिवित्वा अन्न हे पूर्णब्रह्म ।
उदरभरण नोहे जाणिजे यज्ञकर्म ॥१॥

Eating is not  merely for filling stomach but is a sacred act of consuming healthy meal for a complete digestion and so be humble and satisfied with the food.
 We should always remember that we are indeed so blessed to have food of our own choice. There is nothing wrong in being humble,  we should be grateful for the rain (nature in a way) and the farmers for their hard work for the harvests, the fire to cook the food and all the helping hands responsible for serving the food on our plates everyday. A simple way to express gratitude is by saying a thanksgiving prayer at the end of a meal
“Annadaata Sukhi Bhav!”
These small tips are to make us healthier and happier.