The Varalakshmi pooja is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and is celebrated on the Friday preceeding the full moon during the Hindu calendar months of Jyeshta or Shravana.
The 'Amman' is decorated with the kalash, coconut and the mukham (face and bust made of silver) and ornaments the previous day.
The pooja is performed on Friday; the traditional fetival food is cooked and offered.
The punar pooja/visarjan is done the next day and invoking the blessings and requesting that we are blessed to perform this every consecutive year, we conclude the pooja.
The neivedhyam is mainly steamed kozhukkattais filled with sweet and savoury fillings, payasam, idlis made with raw rice, rice and dhal, vadas and as many fruits we can offer along with coconuts and thamboolam.
The pooja by itself is simple, only the preparations are long. But as soon as the maakolam is drawn and the maavilai thoranam is up, the mood of festival sets in.
The recipes for the neivedhyam, I have given below. These differ from one household to another as per the tradition running in that family. This is a more general menu. So if you are doing differently, that is because what your mother, mother-in-law and your grandmothers have been doing and that is correct too. I am no authority on this, please seek advice and guidence from family elders rather than look up this post. This is my way of performing the pooja, that is all I am sharing with you.
Usually for such festivals the payasams are made with lentils and jaggery. I have made today is made with channa dhal, coconut and jaggery.
1 cup powdered jaggery
2/3 cup channa dhal
2 tablespoons fresh coconut, grated finely
1 teaspoon rice washed and soaked in little water
1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
2 strands saffron dipped in 2 teaspoons of milk
Wash channa dhal and pressure cook until dhal is soft. It should not be mushy but very soft, yet holding shape.
Grind the soaked rice and coconut to a smooth batter and keep aside.
Dissolve jaggery in 1/4 cup of water and strain to remove impurities. Add an extra 1/4 cup of water and bring to boil. Let the jaggery boil well until the aroma arises.
Put the cooked dhal in and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the ground rice-coconut mixture and stir well, Allow to simmer for few minutes and just before removing from the heat add the powdered cardamom and the saffron.
Very delicious kadalai paruppu payasam is ready.
You can substitute channa dhal with moong dhal, or a mix of both these dhals and make this payasam.
Urad dhal vadas:
1 cup Urad dhal
1 tablespoon raw rice
6 green chillies chopped
2'' piece of ginger chopped
Few curry leaves chopped
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
Wash and soak together the dhal and rice for an hour. Grind to a smooth paste adding water in small quantities at a time. Finally add the salt and grind. Remove in a bowl. Reserve the water with which you wash the jar of the blender ot the grinder.
Using a beater or with your palm fluff some air in the dough. This helps air to enter and will result in softer vadas.
Add the chopped chillies, ginger and curry leaves.
Heat cooking oil in a pan. Shape small amounts of batter in discs with a hole in the centre. Drop them in the hot oil as many will fit in. Fry until golden. Remove using slotted ladle and drain on absorbent paper.
We make different fillings for the kozhukkattai, some sweet and some savoury. The sweet is either made with coconut cooked in a syrup of jaggery or sugar, roasted and pounded sesame seeds mixed with jaggery, or cooked channa dhal mixed with jaggery.
The savoury kozhukkattai fillings are with dhal batter that has been steamed.
The outer coating is cooked rice flour/batter.
For the coating:
Wash and soak 2 cups of uncooked raw rice for two hours.
You may either drain and pound this to a flour or grind to a fine batter. If you use the rice powder, measure this in acup to level. Take equal quantity of water, add a bit of salt and a tablespoon of cooking oil. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest and stirring with one hand drop the flour into this boiling water.
Keep stirring constantly to get a lumpfree batter. As you stir, the rice gets cooked and will discolour from pure white to dull. Within five minutes, this batter will be cooked and be ready to shape cups of the rice. At this point, you will be roll the rice in a ball though slightly sticky.
If you choose to grind the rice to a batter, add salt and some oil to the batter in a pan. Keep on medium heat and stirring constantly and thoroughly, get to cook as described above.
Remove from pan immediately in a big bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil and knead well when the warmth is tolerable. Transfer to a damp cloth and keep covered.
Take small quantities at a time, knead again and dipping your fingers in little oil or rice-flour and shape cups working the edges with one hand while pressing down the centre with the thumb of the other.
For the Filling:
1 cup freshly grated coconut
1/4 cup powdered jaggery
1 teaspoon powdered cardamom
Dissolve jaggery in water, strain to remove impurities. Boil further to obtain a honey-like syrup. Add the coconut and cook both together and blend them well. Mix the cardamom powder.
2 teaspoons powdered jaggery.
Dry roast sesame seeds until they pop. Cool and powder in a spice grinder. Mix with the jaggery.
Channa dhal poornam:
Cook 2 tablespoons of washed channa dhal until soft. Mix with few teaspoons sugar and grated fresh coconut.
1/2 cup urad dhal
2 green chillies
Salt to taste.
Wash and soak urad dhal. Grind with chillies to a smooth slightly thick batter. Steam this for 10 minutes. Cool and break lumps. Do a tempering with mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida. Add the above and cook until slightly dry.
Thur dhal mixed with channa dhal can be soaked ground and cooked similarly. The urad dhal filling will be soft and the latter dry.
Once both the outer coating and the fillings are ready, shape the outer dough as explained above. Fill small quantities of the fillings. Close by pressing the edges together well.
Arrange them on a steaming plate and steam for about 5-7 minutes. When done, the kozhukkattais will have a shine.
All these delicacies are done and offered along with rice, fruits and coconut during the pooja.
The same is done for the Ganesh Chathurthi festival too.