Diyas at Maloya Colony, Chandigarh

Diyas brushed with gold at a potter’s house at Maloya Colony, Chandigarh

I love this time of the year. Everywhere you go it’s festive season. While my American friends celebrated Halloween on 31st, Sunday for us Indians was spent celebrating Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in India. It’s our Christmas. The day we exchange gifts, dress up in our finest, celebrate togetherness with family.

Diwali is celebrated for different reasons across India. In the north, Diwali marks the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya, after defeating Ravana and rescuing his wife Sita. In the south, Deepavali/Diwali is celebrated to mark the death of Narakasura, a person who had performed many atrocities on his people. For Sikhs, Diwali is the day when our sixth Guru was released from imprisonment. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple, one of the most holy shrines of Sikhism was also laid on Diwali.

While different people celebrate Diwali for different reasons, the common message is the victory of good over evil. Diwali also symbolises hope, of letting go of what was and making place for the new/for change.

Jalebis

Fresh Jalebis being made during Diwali

There is also a scientific explanation behind the festivities that make Diwali. Diwali is celebrated in the months of October/november, the date changes since it follows the lunar calendar, a little after the rainy season ends. The rainy season brings with it various insects, micro-organisma and by cleaning our homes and lighting diyas, we prepare for a healthy new winter season.

Diwali has always been one of my most favorite festivals. For most Indians, Diwali preparation starts days in advance with visits to boutiques and stores to stitch or buy new clothes, shopping for new crockery, electronics and ordering boxes of sweets to be gifted. Diwali is the business community’s New Year and its the time when you will find the best sales and deals in the market. Big Bollywood movies also schedule their releases around Diwali time.

Gobind Sweets during Diwali

A popular sweet shop in Mohali, Punjab a day before Diwali

For the mithai walas (sweet shops), Diwali is huge. Shops are flooded with customers buying boxes and boxes of different sweets.  Over the years, traditional mithais have been replaced by diet namkeens and low fat twists on traditional sweets like date gujiyas, oat ladoos, dry fruit and muesli barfi catering to diet conscious Indians. Green Diwali (which is a welcome change) has led to a slightly more responsible Diwali. While certain things have changed the essence of the festival remains the same.

If you want to see India on the streets, there is no better time than the days preceding Diwali to be here; be prepared to be overwhelmed though. The traffic can be crazy and crowds in the popular markets are so bad that keeping a track of your loved ones can be a task, but seeing how everyone flocks the markets and the excitement everywhere makes Diwali time the place to be in India.

Crowds at phase 7 Mohali during Diwali

Crowds at Mohali a day before Diwali

For me, Diwali is all about decorating the house with lights and being with family. While the chinese lights make life easier, Diyas and candles for me are what bring the charm to this festival.

While our preparation for Diwali starts weeks before, for businessmen, shopkeepers and the potters who make Diyas, preparing for Diwali starts much in advance. The Kumhars (the potter community in India) in the Maloya colony of Chandigarh start as early as 2-3 months, with each potter making around 2 lacs (200,000) diyas that are then sold to retailers. Some even start 6 months before Diwali preparing Diyas to be sent out countrywide.

The Kumhar colony of Maloya, makes their own clay by using the mud from the fields that they treat and make clay. The clay is then shaped into diyas on electricity operated wheels, and then laid in the sun to dry. The firing process is also rudimentary with no kiln but instead a pit in the ground is made. A layer of dried cow dung discs is put in it that acts as fuel. The sun dried diyas are laid between hay and covered with ash so that the heat is trapped. The diyas are left to fire sometimes for 2 days and once the pit is cool to touch, the finished diyas are then collected and painted or left as is depending on requirement and order.

Here are a few photos from my trip to the Kumhars of Maloya colony, Chandigarh who have been making and supplying diyas for generations. If you are in the area do visit them for an insight into the wonderful work they are doing on a daily basis.

Read More →

A one pot hearty ten bean soup/stew with spinach and potatoes and flavored with curry powder.

Hearty Ten Bean Soup with spinach and potatoes

There is a slight nip in the air when we go for swimming in the morning these days. The onset of winters is here and while the cold does bring with it its own cons, I am excited to cover my extra flab with long coats, scarves and layers of sweaters. It means you can eat that piece of donut and only worry about it when spring arrives! Well, it never works like that, but yes winters can be a little more accommodating when it comes to added calories.

Fall/winter season also means apples, and squashes are back in the market.  There are so many pies to be made- I have an apple pie recipe that I love and somehow whenever I make it I never get a chance to photograph it- it gets polished off way too quickly. But I promise this season I will post the recipe, because it is really good.

Another about this season is that soups become a thing again. So much yes for that and this ten lentil soup will be the perfect thing to cozy up with during the coming cold months. You wont even have to worry about added calories; your summer clothes wont curse your winter choices.

Read More →

All the flavors of yellow curry, in stir fry noodle form with chicken and vegetables. Quick, easy and one pot meal.

Yellow curry stir fry noodles

Yellow curry stir fry noodles

A few weeks back I received an invitation to create a recipe for JSL Foods as part of their Fortune Asian Noodle Blogger Recipe Challenge. I am a big noodle fan so I was definitely in for the challenge. Each blogger who registered for the contest had to choose from one of their products along with a choice of making either a stir-fry or a cold noodle salad with the product that they chose.

I chose their chicken flavor Udon Noodles and decided to make a stir-fry, since I love stir-fried noodle dishes.

They have many more products and you can connect with JSL Foods on Facebook and Twitter. JSL Food products are available at these following stores: Albertson, Lucky’s, Von’s, Pavilions, WinCo, Target.

Read More →