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Posts Tagged ‘south india’

Nagapattinam is a small port town in the east coast of Tamil Nadu. It hit the headlines three years back as one of the places most affected by Tsunami. My story also has some connection with the destruction caused by the sea waters.

Soundaraja Perumal Kovil in Nagapattinam is one of the 108 divya desams of the Vaishnavites. Almost all temple towns have the temple at the center and the houses built in rows around the temple to form Veedhi or streets. Our ancestors lived in the street which is on the right hand side of the Soundaraja perumal koil. Adjacent to their home is the Krishnar koil. They owned almost an entire village by name Perungkadamanoor, a few kilometers away from Nagapattinam.Very affluent, some of them also took up employment as officers in the port as a hobby. They had taken interest in a small temple built for Lord Krishna by some Raja in 14 th century. They spent all their time and energy to revive the glory of this temple. Nithya pujas (Daily pujas) were performed elaborately by the men of the household as all of them were highly qualified in vedas to be priests.

But then this peaceful life came to an abrupt end when all their property was destroyed by the sea ingress in 1875. They shifted to Srirangam town to built a new life leaving behind the large house for the temple trust. They literally stuggled to build back their fortune. This large family always stayed together, but unfortunately very few descendants are left! What surprises me most is why none of the later generations ever feel like visiting the temple so lovingly taken care of by their fathers and grandfathers!! We either visited Tirupathi or Uppali appan koil in Kumbakonam during special occasions. Srirangam being the 1st of the 108 divya desams and also called Boolooga Vaigundam (manifestation of LordVishnu’s abode on earth) , may be there was no urge to visit other places. I grew up hearing stories of our ancestors from my parents and grandma. For long, I too did not develop any interest to visit the Krishnar koil in Nagapattinam. Some of my uncles and aunts who visited Nagai Soundaraja Perumal Kovil as a part of their piligrimage, could never get a darshan of Lord Krishna as the temple was closed everyday around 10 am after a simple puja! The temple did not have enough funds for elaborate pujas and maintenance after our ancestors left the place.

Around 6 years back I started practicing meditations. One day while I was meditating I got a glimpse of an image of Lord Krishna holding a cup of butter in one hand dancing on Kalinga Nagar, which I had never seen any where! By some strange intution I knew that it was of the image of Lord Krishna in the Temple at Nagapattinam. My husband says may be the image was stored in a gene I inherited from my ancestors! I tried convincing my father to visit the temple but did not succeed as he felt he was very weak to travel. My urge to visit the temple grew but I definitely wanted to take along some of our family members. When I spoke to my sister in law Padma, she decided that we should visit the temple. We decided to take along my nephew on his birthday to the temple. Suddenly it seemed like the lord was pleased by our devotion, with the help of my aunt Komala, we could organize everything for the visit coordinating with the people taking care of the temple and arranging for special pujas! It so happened that we visited on the first purattasi sanikizhamai, an auspicious day to have a darshan of the Lord! I found the same image of Lord Krishna doing the Kalinga Narthanam in this temple! Now a few members of our family have decided to do their best to bring back the temple to its original glory.

One of the best loved tales on Krishna’s childhood involves his defeat of the serpent Kalingan whose poisonous presence on the river Yamuna terrorized villages on the banks. Little Krishna’s dance on the five headed serpent Kalingan hood is a popular piece in almost all classical dance forms. The image of Krishna at the Krishnar Kovil at Nagapattinam is of Krishna doing the Kalinga Narthanam or dance on the serpent Kalingan’s head.

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Krishnar Temple entrance, Nagapattinam

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Vimanam over Sanctum Santorium, right above the place where the idol of Krishnar is placed
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Images of Twelve Azhwars (Vaishnavatite saints) In the sanctum sanctorium of Lord Krishna

There were many photos of Krishna’s childhood tales in the Temple Praharams(premises)

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Kalinga Narthanam

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The uthsava murthy of Lord Krishna at the temple

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Kolam or rangoli drawn by devotees at Soundaraja Perumal Kovil

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Dwarapaalakas at Soundaraja Perumal Kovil

We also visited the Soundaraja Perumal kovil and Desikar Kovil in Nagai. On the same evening we visited Ranganatha Perumal Kovil in Srirangam where my aunt* and uncle* settled down with their family, after retirement.

*Father’s sister and father’s brother.

Raja Gopuram at the entrance of the Srirangam Town built around the temple.

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Gopuram at Srirangam Kovil entrance

On Saturday and Sunday when we visited the temples our breakfast, lunch and dinner was the prasaadams offered at these temples. The venn pongal sarkairai or kalkandu pongal, puliyodarai (tamarind rice) and dhidyoannam(curd rice) tasted heavenly!

A replica of the Image of Lord Krishna in Nagai. We bought this for the puja to be performed at home.

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This version of sambhar is usually served as a side dish for dosa and idli varieties. In weddings this is served with Venn Pongal. I learnt this from my daughter’s mother in law.

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Cooking is one thing, taking photos of food that you cook is quite another. Let’s see the amusing story behind the photo. My brother who had come down from Delhi was scheduled to leave in the morning to attend a conference. So the first time I set the sambar in a lovely serving bowl all ready to shoot, I was told that “attending conference” was priority – the photo needed to wait till Sampath finished his breakfast. After my brother finished his breakfast, I garnished it once more and pulled out a “jerige veshti” to set the scene for the much needed snap for the blog. Hunger pangs hit my husband, he wanted to eat. And so the Sambar had to wait again for its photo shoot. Just as he finished, and I went about transferring to another smaller bowl fair enough for the quantity left behind, my son arrived from his bath and said, “Amma, that looks very tasty. I’ll eat and then you take snaps”. Poor Sambhar, it had wait yet again for its moment of glory. Mid way through my son’s breakfast, my stomach started growling. Now who could resist rava idlis with sambhar. I finished my portion of the breakfast too.

All that was left was two ladle fulls, and this absolute amateur with the camera was left to salvage whatever was left. I transferred into a soup bowl, garnished and took a few snaps. Dont miss the “jerige veshti” in red, although I am still not sure what it is doing in the snap. I put this as part of the composition because my daughter said that ethnic stuff like this will pep up the presentation. 🙂

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • Toor dal – 1/4 cup
  • Moong dal – 1/4 cup
  • Turmeric powder – 1/8 teaspoon
  • Onion – 1 nos
  • Brinjal – 250 gms
  • Hing – 1/8 teaspoon
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil 3 teaspoons
  • Red chillies 2 nos
  • Coriander leaves – 2 twigs

For the paste

  • Tomato – 1 medium
  • Green chillies – 2 nos
  • Coconut grated – 2 tablespoons

Method

  1. Wash and pressure cook the dals with turmeric and 2 cups water.
  2. Slice the onions into thin pieces and chop brinjal into small cubes.
  3. Heat oil in a kadai and add the vegetables, hing and fry for 3 minutes stirring continuously.
  4. Pour 1/2 cup water and cover and cook on a low flame till brinjal is soft.
  5. Grind the ingredients for the paste.
  6. Add the cooked dals and the paste to the vegetables and mix well.
  7. Add salt and simmer for 5 minutes.Transfer to a serving bowl
  8. Garnish with red chillies fried in 1 teaspoon oil and finely chopped coriander.
  9. Serve with

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After my first enthusiastic attempt at cooking, the kitchen dint seem to excite me any more – especially during my teenage years. I was a highly rebellious person. Like all rebels who love their independence I seemed to follow the law of every action has an equal and opposite reaction! So when I was nine and not allowed into the kitchen, I wanted to cook. But at 14 when I was expected to help in the kitchen, I wanted to be miles away from cooking. Tch, tch….Not something desirable in a “brahmana ponnu” (Brahmin girl). Predictably my amma (mother) and patti (grandma) were highly unhappy and would wait for an opportunity to lament on how I was failing miserably on an “oh so crucial” front – women of the Ranganathan household were known for their delicious preparations. Adding to their misery was the fact that my cousins were becoming experts in the kitchen.

Obviously no amount of nagging, lamenting and authority could counter my fiercely independent nature spiced up by generous amounts of feminism, though I did have my spurts of dabbling with food. Obviously amma and patti dint have the energy to nag me all the time :).

Once on a lazy afternoon on the rare occasion when I was not being pestered (amma was taking her afternoon nap), my brother and I made some Kesari Bath – a delicious sweet made of rava, sugar, milk and generous amounts of ghee. Amma wasn’t that easy to please though, she complained that both of us had wasted all the ghee in the house – she could hear the ladle clattering against the ghee vessel. The truth however was that there was very little ghee in the house and my brother and I took to scraping whatever little was left. I thought we did quite well, given the strained resources at hand :).

My amma is a typical Brahmin lady with her “as shiny as marble” skin, big red pottu, “vaira thoodu” (diamond studs), “vaira mookutthi” (diamond nose ring) and nine yard podavai (saree). Her expertise in the kitchen is legendary. She’s never had good eyesight, with one blind eye and a high power that no technology can counter in the other. Her culinary skills are so highly developed that she cooks with the aid of an impeccable sense of smell. So you can imagine how difficult it is to beat her standards.

This cacophony of “oh my, how will she manage cooking” reached obsessive heights once my marriage had been arranged. Great lengths of time were devoted to voluminous discourses on “How will Latha manage cooking after marriage?” – and as with typical Indian festivities, my large family of dozens of uncles, aunts, grand uncles, grand aunts and cousins soon joined in this never ending conversation.

Finally the great and grand Ranganathan family decided that I should stay with each of my aunts for week and learn new recipes. Besides I was the “chella penn” (favourite daughter) of the household and I could spend time with family.

Well, I definitely did end up having a great time, pampered with all the yummy delicacies my aunts cooked up. The only work I was allowed to do as a “to be” bride was to scribble notes. I did end up experimenting most of the stuff I wrote down in the first year of my marriage – with little intervention from my husband (though my husband insists that he taught me cooking to this date). Ah but to match my amma’s legacy….now that’s another story…

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