No festival or religious occasion in India is complete without a lavish food spread, although the latter demands a certain degree of austerity. On Ram Navami, an important day in the Hindu calendar which marks the birth of Lord Ram, some devotees prefer to observe a 'nirahar' (no food) or 'nirjal' (no water) fast, others opt for 'satvik bhojan' or simple, vegetarian meals. On the occasion, many people also feed nine pre-pubescent girls a sumptuous fare of 'vrat' food in a ritual known as kanjak or kanya puja. The usual dishes on the Navami menu include poori, kala chana and sooji ka halwa among others. Let's take a look at some of the most popular ones:
1. Aloo tamatar curry
A comforting dish in which potatoes are cooked in a tangy tomato gravy without heavy use of spices. Very easy to make, this curry is a common preparation on fasting days. It can be served with vrat ki roti, paratha or poori.
2. Singhara poori
This poori or puffed bread is made with potato and water chestnut flour. It is best enjoyed with vrat ka kadhi, khatta meetha kaddu, pumpkin sabzi or aloo-palak sabzi.
3. Sooji ka halwa
This classic semolina pudding is made with a generous amount of pure ghee and dry fruits. Quick, easy and delicious, this halwa is a mainstay of festive menu in many households. Here's a quick recipe.
4. Kala chana
A common recipe across states in India that involves stir-fried black chickpeas cooked with dry spices. The dish is made with a variety of legumes and is mostly served during Navratri festival or Ganesh Chaturthi. A fine recipe you can try.
5. Puran poli
A flat bread that is stuffed with a mixture of chana dal and jaggery. Find how to make the Maharashtrian delicacy at home.
6. Rice kheer
Sweet and creamy, this humble Indian pudding is made with four key ingredients - rice, milk, sugar and dry fruits sauteed in ghee. Here's a recipe you may enjoy.