Photo Credits: Jyotsna-world.blogspot.inKanjak used to be, and to a certain extent still is, one of my favourite festivals. I wake up to the sweet smell of hot halwa, fluffy pooris and dry masala chanaa, and it makes me smile. Seeing my expression my mother turns to tell me how I'm too old for kanjak but not too old for the food. Then, I casually walk towards the balcony and peep down the railing only to find little boys and girls with plastic bags in their hands and big smiles across their face going door to door, and being greeted with warm food and inexpensive gifts or money.
What is the Significance of Kanjak?
So what's the significance? Navratri is a festival that's dedicated to the nine incarnations of Maa Durga: Sailaputri, Brahmacharini, Andraghanta, Kusamanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalarati, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. And Kanjak is celebrated on either ashtami or navami (the eighth or ninth day) of Navratri. It's just another way of paying gratitude to the Supreme Goddess. Tradition says that the lady of the house welcomes nine girls into the house by first washing their feet and then tying moli (red thread) around their wrists. These girls are seated and given halwa, poori and chole (also known as 'bhog') along with all kinds of gifts: pencil boxes, hair clips, clothes etc. Young girls that haven't yet hit puberty are seen as the embodiment of goddess Durga.Mythological Roots
Legend has it that Kumari Puja or Kanjak is celebrated to mark the day when Goddess Mahakali killed the demon Kalasura. It is believed that he started to disturb both heaven and earth and nobody could defeat him. In an effort to stop Kalasura, the other gods approached Goddess Mahakali who was reborn as goddess Durga. She took the form of a little girl and approached Kalasura who then let down his guard, assuming he could fight her without much effort. At which point, Goddess Mahakali pulled out her sword and killed him. Another theory suggests that a young girl (kanya/virgin) is worshiped because that's her purest most auspicious form. Later, she goes on to assume the role of a wife and mother (Parvati, Lakshmi), the role of a teacher to her kids (Saraswati) and the destroyer of all obstacles (Durga).What to do on Kanjak?Traditionally, on kanjak you must feed seven to nine girls, but over the years these numbers seem to have gotten lost. Now, little boys are also part of the pack and accompany the girls in their morning Kanjak rounds. The traditional fare of halwa, poori and chana is made at home in pure ghee and served fresh. Here are some delicious recipes to try.
Kanjak RecipesIf you've never celebrated Kanjak before and would like to be a part of the festive fervour (if not for spiritual reasons, at least for the food), here's how you can make these delicious dishes at home:
1. Halwa - This suji halwa made by Niru Gupta is flavoured with cardamom and garnished with almond slivers. You can also add pistachio or raisins if you like.
2. Puri - Take your time frying these gorgeous puris till they're golden brown and fully risen.
3. Black Channa RecipeIngredients1 Cup Black Channa
1 teaspoon jeera seeds (cumin)
1 teaspoon red chilli
1 teaspoon dhaniya powder (coriander powder)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
Salt to tasteMethod1. Wash and soak the channa overnight, or till it it gets large in size.
2. Boil the channa in the cooker with salt.
3. Take a pan and heat some oil/ghee. Use more ghee/oil than usual so that it kills the bitter taste of the channa.
4. Add jeera, mirchi and dhaniya powder
5. Drain the channa and put it in the pan with the dry masalas.
6. Let it cook for about 10 minutes till the water dries out.The celebration of Kanjak in itself might not be something that'll carry forward from generation to generation, but the essence of the practice, the fact that girls of the house should be loved, respected and treated equally well, if not better than the boys should be treasured forever.