Sunday, October 2, 2011
During this time of the year, the great Mother Goddess is celebrated in India. Navratas began on September 28. Tomorrow, October 3, is the beginning of Durga Puja.
“Navratri” means “Nine Nights” . The lore and legends associated with this holiday all go back to the Mother Goddess, Shakti.
The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations - Kumari, Parvati and Kali - are worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. The next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and mounted on an owl and finally ,the last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. (Source: festivals.iloveindia.com)
Adults and children alike dress in new clothes, wearing a different color on each night. Special sweets are prepared for the celebration. In some communities, people fast for the nine days. The celebration culminates on Mahanavani. Kanya Puja is performed on this day. (Puja – prayers) Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Shakti are worshipped.
The nine forms of Shakti are:
Durga, the inaccessible one
Amba or Jagadamba, Mother of the universe
Annapoorna devi, The one who bestows grains (anna) in plenty (purna: used as subjective)
Sarvamangala, The one who gives joy (mangal) to all (sarva)
Chandika or Chandi
In honor of the specially prepared sweets, I offer you one of my own invention: Rani's Rice Pudding. ("Rani" is "Queen")
1 cup Basmati rice, washed
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2/3 – 1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup slivered almonds or pistachios
½ cup dried pineapple chunks
1 mango, sliced, or 1 can of mango slices, drained
In a large pot, bring 2 cups of water and the rice to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until almost all the water is absorbed.
Add the milk, coconut milk, sugar, cardamom, nuts, and pineapple. Increase heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens (about 25-30 minutes). There should still be some liquid left.
Cover with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface of the pudding. This will help prevent a skin from forming. Chill. Top with sliced mangoes and serve. Garnish with extra almonds or pistachios, if desired.