On the auspicious occasion of Ratha Jatra, I could not help but recollect all the fond melodies and memories associated to this grand festival. I found myself looking for ways to feel closer to home. Warm memories of the occasion swept over me, with the drum beats and jhanja kirtana being so distinct that I could actually feel the reverberation of those beats. For a short introduction, Ratha Jatra is the grandest chariot festival that takes place annually in the mystical coastal city of Puri in Odisha. The three deities- Lord Jagganath, Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra are decked up in their finest adornments as they travel out ceremoniously in their newly built chariots to visit their beloved aunt at Gundicha Mandira about 2 km from their abode at the Sri Mandira. I scoured the internet for any live broadcast of the grand event and was lucky enough to find one. Utter joy swept over me as I saw the three grand chariots with the deities on their way to their beloved aunt’s home. It brought back all the memories when as kids we would not understand the importance of this grandiose celebration and instead would secretly regret it for hogging all the television space. To top that, that day was a strict “Arua” day – a day where meals were prepared without onions and garlic. With underdeveloped taste buds, that simply meant bland food. How time changes and unknowingly changes us too..is completely beyond my comprehension. Every visit to the Puri Jagganath Mandira is almost incomplete if not followed by a mandatory visit to the “Ananda Bazar” or very aptly the “Pleasure Mart”. Ananda Bazar is a large open air mart where thousands of devotees throng daily to taste the Mahaprasad. The ambience of the Anand Bazar can only be described as electrifying and anyone who has ever been there will agree for sure. To my surprise, I was actually craving for some warm, fresh out-of-the-earthen-pots delicacies. So, to recreate the feel of the Ratha Jatra, I decided to make this lentil dish which features in the “Chhappan Bhoga” (56 offerings) list of dishes which is offered to Lord Jagganath as a Mahaprasad. The whole menu at home comprised of the Nadia Chana Dali, Mitha Khechudi, Baigana bhaja and podina amba khatta.
This slightly sweet earthy dish made of split yellow peas simmered with a paste of fresh coconut paste and assorted spices springs to life with the final aromatic touch of a ghee tempering with fennel, cumin and mustard seeds. This hearty lentil soup melds together the wonderful aromas of jaggery, coconut and fennel seeds together with the al dente texture of the chana dal to pair with sweetened rice pilaf or Mitha Khechudi.
Tips: Using the pressure cooker I used the pressure cooker for this step for fast and efficient way. Put all the above ingredients in the pressure cooker along with the water and wait till one whistle. Let it release the pressure before proceeding to the second step. To further ease the process, I also soaked the lentils for about 20 minutes to cook in a shorter time. For those using a pressure cooker, after step 1, let the pressure release. Add in the paste and put the cooker back on the stove for another whistle. No more than 2 whistles in total for the dal. If the lentils need further cooking, cook it with the lid open for whatever time needed. This rustic dish pairs wonderfully with Mitha Khechudi and is perfect for days when you would want to relive those delish moments in the Ananda Bazar. A great dish to prepare for the family and sermonize them with the importance of this festival in the life of an Odia 😉 So as I leave you with this soul soothing delicacy, I sincerely hope that it warms up your heart too.
Apana samstanku Ratha Jatra ra hardik subechha!
About the author: A full time Ocean Scientist & a cook at heart, Jagruti shares her passion for Odia food through her blog “The Turmeric Kitchen”
Jagruti Vedamati, PhD
Dept. of Environmental Earth System Science