India is known as the land of festivals. We Indians love and revere our gods, mother earth and nature in equal measure and have something or the other to celebrate around these the entire year round. But of course some festivals take precedence in preparation and celebration for us. Diwali is that one big festival when we start planning much in advance. From cleaning and decluttering our homes to preparing snacks and sweets to wearing new clothes. We decorate our homes, offices, vehicles and places of worship for this 5-day extravaganza.
Maharashtrian dishes, also called 'faral', are specially made for these 5 days in advance. The reason for this is simple; the ladies of the house want to enjoy the festivities to. They don't want to spend their time in the kitchen like usual. The traditional Maharashtrian food of 'faral' includes savoury and sweet dishes like chakli, chivda, tikhat (spicy) sev and Maharashtrian sweets like besan ladoo, karanji, rava ladoo and more.
Each of these 5 days has its individual importance too. On these days, specific pujas are done to seek blessings from the gods. Along with that, diyas are lit throughout the house, and kandils and fairy lights are used as decoration on the balconies. And rangolis are made to welcome gods and goddesses home. These 5 days of the waning moon may be the darkest days of the year, but the people's brightly lit homes and hearts more than make up for the darkness.
Day 1 of Diwali – Dhanteras
Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi is the 13th lunar day of the Krishna Paksha or the dark quarter of the Kartik month as per the Hindu calendar. As per Hindu mythology, Lord Dhanwantri came from the sea with Ayurveda – a medical science for the good of humanity. On this day, we worship the lord of medicine and buy gold and silver or new utensils and clothes to celebrate dhan or riches. We also perform puja for the existing 'dhan' we have. On this day, we pray to the Lord of Death, Yama Raj, by lighting a Diya at the sacred Tulsi plant.
Enjoy this day with Aazol's Mahua ladoo, a sweet fragrant ladoo coming from the tribal region of Maharashtra. This is truly a ladoo with a difference, made by the tribal people from foraging the flowers and seeds of the Mahua tree.
Day 2 of Diwali – Choti Diwali or Narak Chaturdashi
This day is a celebration of Lord Krishna's win over the demon Narkasur and of freeing the world from his terror. On this day, most people massage their bodies with oil and have a fragrant bath to prepare for the next day's main festival. It is a time to get the final preparation done for Diwali and be rejuvenated mentally and physically for Diwali.
Plan to celebrate this day with Aazol's Dink ladoo - a high-energy sweet, so that we are warmed from the inside with dink or gondh and energised with nuts, ghee and coconuts in the ladoos to fight the demons we encounter!
Day 3 of Diwali – The Actual Diwali Day
On this day, everyone rises before sunrise for Abhyanga Snan, a traditional bath with oil followed by a scented water bath. The oil massage boosts blood circulation, removes dead skin, and calms the mind. This is followed by scrubbing the body with ubtan, a mixture of gram four and herbs. The ubtan is rinsed with warm water mixed with fragrant oils. Everyone wears new clothes only. And thus, we get ready for a day filled with puja, fun and food. We all know this day marks the return of Lord Ram from exile. And he is welcomed with rows and rows of diyas in each household. For the business community, this day also marks the closing of the old books of account and starting the new year. This is done with 'Chopda Pujan', where Lord Ganesha and Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati are prayed to.
A day of celebration ends by bursting some crackers and lighting diyas with friends and families. On this day, we recommend you keep your energies up and about with Aazol's Soft Coconut Chikki, which is made with only two pure ingredients: fresh coconut and liquid jaggery.
Day 4 of Diwali Govardhan Puja or Vishwakarma Puja
The fourth day is celebrated differently in different parts of India. In Gujarat, it marks the beginning of the new year. People clean and worship all the instruments, equipment, and arms in northern states. This day also celebrates Lord Krishna saving the people of Gokul from the wrath of Lord Indra by lifting the Govardhan mountain on his little finger.
We would like to celebrate this day by making some delicious kheer with Aazol's Indrayani rice. A favourite of all Indians, kheer, made with the aromatic Indrayani rice, is a must-have on this day.
Day 5 of Diwali – Bhai Dooj
Bhai Dooj marks the closing of the Diwali festival, and it celebrates the strong bond between a brother and a sister. It is said that Lord Yama went to meet his sister Yami after many years. While at his sister's home, the lord was touched by the hospitality and warmth his sister showed. Similarly, all sisters welcome their brothers home with a tikka and feed them the choicest delicacies.
We would like to end these festivities by having a 'beeda' of the best Magai betel leaves with Aazol's Amla Gulkand. A sweet and delicious way to strengthen the brother-sister bond and end the festival of Diwali.
Diwali – the festival of light is enjoyed by one and all, whether in India or outside. These days we hear even non-Indians participating and enjoying this festival as the world becomes more global and local at the same time. As we move towards celebrating the diversity in our universe and in our festivals, Aazol too wants to spread the love and taste of the food of Maharashtra far and wide. We believe each of our food products is not mere food but a true celebration of local roots, traditions and ancient wisdom.
Aazol wishes you and your family a very Happy Diwali!
Author: Jinal Aidasani