Coming to the significance of this post, Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or Dussehra/Dasara.
Hailing from the city of Mysore, Dasara holds incredibly special memories for me. During Dasara, Mysore is transformed into a shimmering wonderland. The main streets and circles are lit up with colorful lights and the spectacular Mysore palace is illuminated daily which is a sight to behold. Vijayadashami denotes the victory of truth over evil and was the day when the Hindu Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura. On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jamboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore city. I remember one particularly memorable Dasara where me and my cousins rented a room in a lodge that overlooked the main procession street and armed with binoculars, snacks and cool drinks we had a gala time taking in all the marvelous sights! The main attraction of the procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed in a golden howdah on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, armed forces, folklores, the royal identities, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysore Palace and culminates at a place called Bannimantap, where the Banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshipped. According to a legend of the Mahabharata, Banni tree was used by the Pandavas to hide their arms during their one-year period of Agnatavasa (living life incognito). Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshipped this tree to help them emerge victorious in the war. The Dasara festivities would culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayithu (torch-light parade).
Another major attraction during Dasara is the Dasara exhibition which is held in the exhibition grounds opposite to the Mysore Palace. This exhibition starts during Dasara and goes on till December. Various stalls which sell items like clothes, jewelry, accessories, kitchenware, cosmetics and eatables are set up and they attract large crowds. A game area containing attractions like Ferris-wheel is also present to provide entertainment to kids and adults alike. Various governmental agencies setup stalls to signify the achievements and projects that they have undertaken. No Mysore Dasara would be complete for me and my siblings without a visit to the exhibition which we would go to every year without fail along with cousins who would visit us during the festive time. Ah! those fun times!
Every year I feel a tinge of sadness that I cannot be in my wonderful hometown to witness all the festivities. Phone calls and Facebook updates of friends and family back home are a constant reminder of what I'm missing! This year I thought I would celebrate it in my own way by treating myself to this wonderful snack. Looking at the bright side, something is better than nothing right? :)
Recipe level: Very easy
1 cup sago pearls (sabudana/sabakki), soak for 4 hours or overnight
3 medium potatoes (preferably russet), boiled and mashed
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely ground
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust according to spice level)
1 inch piece ginger, finely minced
1 small bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Juice squeezed from 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp rice flour, Optional (see notes)
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
1. Wash the sago and soak in water for about 4 hours or overnight until they are soft and mushy when you pinch them between your fingers. The soaking time depends on the quality of the sago so check to see what works for you.
2. After soaking, drain the sago well. It is very important to ensure that there is no moisture in the sago when you are ready to use it.
3. Mix the sago along with all the other ingredients and knead lightly to form a soft dough.
4. Divide the mixture into balls. Shape each ball into a round vada and flatten slightly. Don't make them too thick.
5. Deep-fry the vadas in medium-hot oil until they are golden brown in colour and drain on absorbent paper.
6. Serve hot with green chutney or tomato sauce.
- Ensure that after cooking the potatoes, you drain them well so there is no residual moisture in them. Any water can make the vada mixture soggy and hence end up in oil-soaked vadas
- I have used rice flour to help with the binding and to enhance the crispiness of the vadas but you can also use Rajgira Atta (Amaranth flour) or Singhara ka Atta (Water Chestnut Flour) or a combination of both to help not only in the binding but also to provide extra flavor