What will you find in this post?
- Introduction about the Navaratri Golu festival
- Significance of Puratasi month and Lord Venkateshwara
- 7 steps party planning 101 – explained in detail along with links to buy them online
- Recipe for Vegan Mung Dahl Ladoo (Pasiparuppu Ladoo with Sesame Oil and Cashews)
In Southern India, the festival of Navrathri is referred as Navratri Golu, where women in the house set up figures/dolls in a wooden or steel shelf. It is rested against the wall and created like a step. It is a nine day festival for Goddess Durga and tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadasami. For 2015, Gollu begins from 13Oct (Tuesday) to 21Oct (Wednesday). Vijayadasami is the most auspicious day falls on 22Oct (Thursday). The month of Navaratri marks the beginning of winter. Autumnal equinox occurs around this month. It was on 23rd Sep this year. On the equinox, night and day are nearly same hours all over the world. This is widely accepted and it isn’t entirely true as in reality equinoxes don’t have exactly 12 hours of daylight. In the Northern hemisphere, the month of September marks the start of fall.
Navratri is a national festival in India and it celebrated in each region based on their local beliefs and traditions. During nine days of Durga pooja, Durga is worshipped in her Mahishasuramardini form. In Southern part of India, it is a belief that Goddess Mahishasura Mardini (Durga) is sitting in golu, prior to the slaying of the demon Mahishasura. On the the tenth day, Durga kills Mahishasura, the demon. It is the day when good won over evil. It marks the beginning of prosperity and happiness. Till today, Vijayadasami is the day where we begin new ventures and kids start new extra-curricular activities like singing or dancing or any form of art.
During this period of the year, it is customary in many homes in South India to display golu. Navaratri Golu is set up made with odd number of steps. Friends and family are invited to see the Golu and are given prasad (the offering given to God), kumkum (holy red powder), and a small bag of gift.These are only given to married women and girls. This is chiefly a woman’s festival and in olden times, it was also an opportunity for them to step out of their homes to socialize with their peers.
Navaratri golu comes in Puratasi month. It is an auspicious month that is dedicated to Lord Ventakeshwara (Lord Vishnu, the preserver). Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma are referred as Trimoorthi (the Trios) and the preserver is Lord Vishnu. It is believed that he came to Earth on this month and we worship him as he preserves and protects the world. We make mavilakku and kalanda sadam (variety rice) on Saturday. Saturdays are the days when Hindus offer special prayers to Lord Venkateshwara because Saturdays are free from the influences of Saturn and other planetary forces. Certain traditions and rituals in Tamil Nadu are based on climate and changes related to it. For instance, fasting during Navaratri time period is practiced to quip the body to the changing weather. Most remain vegetarians during the month as it helps to discipline the mind, remove toxins from the body and cleanses the system. It is similar to the concept of Lent and Ramadan fasting.
Now that we know the dates for this year’s festival, lets begin the planning. We have exactly 10 days to plan and organize.
Navaratri Golu Planning 101
Dolls, Figurines and White Cloth: The very first step for planning golu is to buy the dolls, figures and shelf. I brought some of figurines from India, few from flea market and local Indian stores and rest from Amazon. You can use veshti or white cloth to cover the steps. Some use their plain red or maroon or yellow silk saree to cover the steps. Feel free to use whichever is assessable to you.
Golu Stand and Book Shelf: You can either buy a readymade golu stand and make one yourself with wooden planks and bricks from Home depot. We live in about 1100 square foot town home and using every space is key for us, the 4 homosapiens living here. I convert our leaning ladder book shelf into golu steps during navaratri.
Date: Typically, friends and family can visit anytime during the 9 days of festival. I always pick the weekend (17-18Oct2015) as I find it difficult to handle huge numbers on weekdays. So the first step towards planning your golu party is to decide on the date to invite your friends and family.
List of Invitees: It is always easy to know the number of people who will attend our golu. So once you have the dates in mind, create a list of people whom you want to invite. Next step is to send your invitees an invitation via evite. I like to use evite as it helps me manage the invitation and gives me the list of adults and kids who will attend the party. Don’t forget to mention a date to confirm their visit. For instance, you can say please RSVP for the party by 12Oct2015 (Monday). Evite also sends a reminder to the host and invitees a day or so before the event. This is a great way for people to show up on the right date and right time for the party.
Menu: That’s a tricky yet fun part for me. I love to entertain and I love to invite my friends over for dinner all the time and I love to plan a party. You can see my post on how to plan a Mexican themed birthday party or how to create menu for Navaratri Golu party here. In today’s post I have a made a list of things I would like to make for 9 days of Navaratri Golu. During weekdays, I have planned to cook the food in the evening so it becomes for dinner and following day lunch. I will be using slow cooker or pressure cooker to save my time in the kitchen. During Navaratri golu, sundal, payasam and annam are part of everyday offering to God. We remain vegetarians on 10 days of the festival. I used bamboo plates and spoons for an event I cooked for The Institute of Future, Palo Alto. You can also buy paper plates, water cups and spoons. Just chose what will work for you. When I host a party of more than 25 guests, I try to place the food in aluminum tray, deep foil steam table pan, food warmer wire frame and cooking fuel. Since I host a lot of parties and I like to keep the food warm during kid’s birthday parties, I own all of these aluminum trays and food warmer wire frame. You can also grab quick and easy recipes created for golu by Ramakrishnan of One Pot One Shot (OPOS) Blog.
Sundal (Boiled and flavored beans):
It is one of the offering made to God during Navaratri golu. I pre-soak the legumes / beans at night and set the slow cooker before I leave for work. Some prefer not to pre-soak which is fine as the long cooking time will help the beans soften. I have seen my mother and grandmother soak them for more than 6-8 hours / overnight prior to cooking and hence I follow their cooking methods. The rationale behind soaking is that the processg removes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that can cause bloating, gas, acid reflux and heartburn. In short, beans cooked without prior soaking can cause intestinal discomfort. It is recommended to soak the legumes and beans for longer time as it enhances digestion and nutrient absorption. I try to soak the beans for 12-18 hours on some days. I change the water in between as it leaves scum (white foam) on top. It is key to get rid of scum. Once they are soaked well, remove water and rinse the beans well. Transfer the beans to 3 ½ quart smaller slow cooker and pour enough water to cover them by about 2 inches. Add 1 teaspoon of asafoetida and stir to combine. Alternatively, you can cook them in the pressure cooker for 2 whistles. Once cooked, remove the water and transfer to a baking tray and let it cool a bit. Don’t turn or toss the beans with a spoon as it will be mushy. In a saucepan, add oil and make a quick tadka with mustard seeds, dry red chilly, asafoetida, curry leaves and coconut. You can make variations by adding aromatics like garam masala or curry powder or adding grated cucumber, mango, carrot or green apple. There are endless possibilities to flavor and serve the sundal. A simple sundal is a perfect vegan snack.
Payasam / Milk Pudding / Other Desserts:
Dessert is an integral part of any celebration. On 9 days of Navaratri golu, we make small portion of payasam as an offering to God. Dairy is an important ingredient in most dessert however there are some made with coconut which makes it a vegan dessert. Coconut is very popular in Southern part of India. Coconut shell is brought to different regions of Southern hemisphere by sea currents. Once they reach the shore and touch the ground, they have the ability to shoot and grow into a coconut tree. That is the reason why we find lots of coconut trees in tropical islands and countries surrounded by water. We use coconut in almost every preparation. I cook the payasam in the pressure cooker the method which my aunt taught us. She has been cooking payasam in the pressure cooker for the last 10 plus years. It is key to use a super clean pressure cooker as if its has any residue from previous cooking, it will curdle the milk. Any acidic agent like lemon juice or tamarind juice left over in the cooker can cause this curdling. Pour in the whole milk along with the little raw rice, sugar, cardamom powder and cook for 10-12 whistles. Switch off the flame and let it cool. Transfer it to a clean vessel. Add saffron strands and roasted cashews. Serve warm. You can replace rice with vermicelli, mung dahl, poha, pre-soaked soft tapioca pearls (sago) and anything you love (grated almonds, apples, carrots, beets)
Rice is yet another staple ingredient in Sothern Indian cuisine. Rice is flavored with different herbs and spices and offered to God. It is called variety rice and my mom makes tamarind rice, lemon rice, sesame rice, mint rice, cilantro rice and curd rice. You can use quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat instead of rice.
It is a tradition to give gifts for women and kids who visit our Navaratri golu. I crack my head on what to gift whether it’s a birthday party or golu. For birthdays we made few DIY projects like photo frame, photo globe, food mix, flower bouquets. You can see them here. For golu, I always buy gifts online either from amazon or oriental trading company and you will need following items to make sure your gift bag is nice and professional:
- Organza Candy Bag to place earrings or hairclips
- Gift bag
- Mini animal chalkboard
- Since Golu is around Halloween, I picked some Mini Halloween Activity Sets for kids.
- Since I love to cook, I am planning to make DIY spice paste for women. I will neatly pack them in 4oz mason jars and chalkboard labels to go with it.
- For some of my friends, I will be giving scarfs and mini handbags
Arrangements, Set up and Packing:
- On the day of the event, I will sweep, mob and clean the rooms and bathrooms.
- Replace old curtain, bathroom towel with new ones. I have deewan set in the living room and I will replace the sheets.
- Buy fresh flowers to decorate the living room.
- Light lamps, candles and agarbathi 15 minutes before your guests arrive.
- As mentioned earlier, I live in a 1100 sq foot town home and have open kitchen. If you live in small space like me, make sure you create room in your home to accommodate the guest flow.
- Decorate the TV table with flowers, sandalwood paste, paneer sombhu and kumkum which I will offer when giving the thambulam.
- Keep the food, plates, spoons, water jug and cups over the island.
- Move the dining table to one corner and neatly arrange gift bags over it so guests can grab one each when they leave.
- Save brown packaging boxes to pack the figurines and dolls at the end of the festival. Pack with naphthalene balls and keep in safe place to use them the following year.
- 2 cups mung dahl
- ¼ cup sesame oil
- ½ cup roasted unsalted cashews broken to small pieces
- 2 tsp cardomom powder
- 1½ cups sugar powdered
- 2 tbsp coconut milk
- Dry roasted the mung dahl in a clean saucepan for 15-20 minutes or until they turn golden with constant stirring. Remove and let it cool to room temperature.
- Grind them to a smooth powder in a food processor.
- Run them through the sieve couple of times so you end up with really smooth powder.
- Transfer to a bowl, add powdered sugar, cardamom powder and coconut milk. Mix them well to combine.
- Add broken cashews and sesame oil (add little by little) and knead them into a dough.
- Pinch a small amount and roll into a ball. Repeat the steps and make the balls with rest of the dough.
- Store in fridge and use as needed.