Sunday, August 2, 2009

Varalakshmi vratham related dishes.

The Varalakshmi Pooja is observed in many South Indian households. It is, as one of my neighbours in Chennai pointed out, a pooja completely performed by womenfolk. The rest of the poojas are traditionally performed by the Male head of the family, the women get to do all the hard work and slogging and their participation is that far only, but here we work as well as get to perform the pooja too.
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:

Coconut poornam:

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.

Ellu poornam:

1/4 cup sesame seeds
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.
Savoury poornams:

Urad dhal poornam:
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.


  1. What a meaningful post Lata..feel like have seen a varalakshmi pooja...have all grace
    The food looks tempting and filling too..All the best wishes dear !!

  2. I performed the Pooja too , at my in-laws house. My MIL prepared all the dishes that you have mentioned , waking up early in the morning. I wish the men could do all the work and the ladies get to just do the pooja and take rest. Wouldn't that be nice?

  3. Nice details about the pooja Lata... and your pooja photos too look very beautiful, can feel my presence being in front of her and seeking her blessings...

  4. beautiful arrangement...nice post....yummy recipes

  5. Thank you Ann, Shoba, Anupama, Padma and Shama.

  6. Very divine presentation Lata...thanks a lot for sharing the award with me yaa!am honoured and happy to get from you:)

  7. Nice writeup..v too make all these dishes but not on this day...thanx for sharing such a great info..

  8. Dear Lata,
    Happy Friendship day to you too! You have a wonderful blog. Your Puja was quite grand and the plate looked wonderful. I am thinking of making Kozhukattai one of these days.


  9. Nice to know abt this pooja..My frnd performed the same..U make me drool by ur kozhukattais:) looks superb!!Iam waiting 4 ganesh chathurthi to make all these:)

  10. I know bout the pooja as it is performed in my granny's place....nd ur kozhukattais r just like our Patholi(in konkani)....but u have mny varities of filling gud to kno bout tht...:)

  11. really nice ma!! :) yummy nevedyam and the amman looks beautiful!

  12. my friend also celebrate this pooja and makes all those yummy dishes,

  13. What a delicious spread Lata. Like you said I can imagine the festive mood that sets in once the maakolam is done. Lovely kozhukkattais. I haven't made ellu kozhukkattai only heard about it. Now I have your recipe bookmarked.

  14. Nice spread of Dishes. i love vella koshukkattais.

  15. We didnt observe varalakshmi vratham. But your post brings back memories of pillayar nombu and the big, rotund, coconut filled kolakattais from back in the day :)

  16. hi, lata, lovely pooja, yummy dishes on the platter, we do not celebrate varalakshmi vratham, I make kozhukattis in pillyar festival and neeru thumba habba, after seeing yours i feel like making it now!!, devarmane looks gorgeous wtih so many flowers OH!, i miss India

  17. thank you everyone. It is an overwhelming response from all of you.@ Niki, Uploading on Face book.@ jarasri,Ghana being tropical, we do get most flowers and fruits as in India. Nam maneyalle thumba hoovu idhe. And i have a very eager-to-do-anything gardener and driver who went out and cut the young plantain tree and mango leaves.

  18. hi Lata,
    You have an amazing blog...wonder why I missed it for so long :) shall visit u more often :) loved this post shall come here to read ur post leisurely.
    hope to see u frequently
    Enjoy the week!

  19. wow nice rightup pic. s looks so divine.

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  21. Hi lata

    enjoyed your post and reminded of my mother who I miss dearly. she used to do every single tamil iyer houeshold brahmin pooja - big or small and i have such beautiful memories.
    it made me sad as i have never eaten kozhikattais since she died 14 years ago and i dont knowhow tomake them for my own children.

    thanks for bringing back some beautiful memories.

    god bless

    asha in dubai

  22. Hi. I have really liked your post. Could u please explain in detail as to how the kalsah can be decorated? I will be observing varalakshmi pooja on 20th August 2010. It would really help me. Thank You.

    Nitya, Mumbai.

  23. hi iam so happy to see and read all this

  24. I am so grateful to you for posting this. I am a malayalee and although we have never celebrated this vratham, I was thinking of starting to celebrate so my baby daughter will learn these things from me and will have nice childhood memories of some traditions passed from me to her. My mother never performed any pooja so I am greatly ignorant about poojas. Your post and the pictures are so beautiful & inspiring. I will surely make a sundal and vadas.


Welcome and thank you for taking time to drop by.
I appreciate your valuable comments and tips.
I sincerely hope to improve with them.
Hope we shall interact often.
Thanks once again,
Lata Raja.