You read some of my childhood Navratri stories yesterday and then like it happens often; childhood became history. I grew up, moved out of the house and married into a South Indian family. With a totally different culture and traditions and of course food. My wor;d became richer by a whole new cuisine and cultural experience.
My first Navratri after the wedding, everything was so different than I had experienced till then. There wasn’t any devi pooja, there was no mention of Rama which were the things I grew up celebrating. For us the first 8 days of the festival were always about Durga who according to the stories was hiding from Bhairo without food for 8 days in the hills of now what we know as Vaishno Devi. And when she killed Bhairo and came down from the hills was fed by a local with chola and poori. The fasting and kanya pooja on ashtami is a representation of the whole story in a way. The Dashami or Dushehra marks the killing of Ravana by Ram. Two of the most important Gods in the North of India are worshiped around this time.
But it was different down South, the 9 days of Navratri are marked by a popular and beautiful tradition of keeping Golu or Kolu in the house and inviting friends and families for blessings. The first time I saw it, I was fascinated. Usually various kinds of dolls are kept in odd number of steps. People get innovative and have themes around Golu, every year some new dolls are bought and added to the existing collection. Everyone in the house contributes in its decorations, even the kids get a dedicated area. A friend’s son this year has built the whole village with Lego in his area. Golu kind of reminds me of the jhankis we used to make up north during Janmasthami.
From what I understand the Gods are placed on the highest of the steps, followed by humans and animals on the last. Kind of signifying the way of life and that God is superior to us all. We never kept Golu at home, one we aren’t too religious. Two, I am slightly uncomfortable with the idea of haldi kumkum. Specially because I live with MIL who is a widow, it makes me very sad to greet only a certain set of friends in a particular way and not the rest. If people would not get hurt, I would love to boycott the whole haldi kumkum practice itself. Yes invite people, sit together, eat some good food and say bye but then like a lot of traditions and customs this is deep rooted and will take years to change.
But I love love love everything else about Golu, the decoration and of course the prasadam that is made every evening. One of the major ones being Sundal. I adore the very lightly spiced lentils with a generous sprinkle of grated coconut. I could eat bowls full of them. Of all kinds but my top favorite really is white chana Sundal or Chickpeas Sundal
So whether you are fasting or not, whether you have kept Golu or not. Let the food across regions unite this Navratri. Enjoy the chola poori halwa and the sundals at the same time. You can be as lucky as me, I am sharing the recipes with you guys after all 🙂