the mythical churning of the ocean by the Gods and Demons to obtain Amrith (nectar of immortality).
During the process of churning the ocean, what came out first was halahal, a
pot of deadly poison. The Gods and the
Demons, terrified as the poison could destroy the entire world, ran to Lord Shiva
for help. He drank the deadly poison and his wife, Parvathi, held it in his
throat so he wouldn’t swallow it. It is said that the poison stayed in this throat
turning it blue, and giving him the name Neelakanta (meaning “the one with the blue
throat”) by which He is also known.
attributes Shivarathri to being the night when the Lord Shiva and Shakti got married . Another attributes it to a celebration of the Godess Parvathi”s
prayers and penance to ward off any evil that might befall her husband, the
The tradition of
performing the “abhishekam (ritual washing of the Shivalingam)” on Shivarathri
is connected to the legend of the Godess Ganga’s (personification of the river Ganges) descent from the heavens into the earth, and Lord Shiva’s locks of
that Shivarathri is celebrated in keeping with the Lord Shiva’s wishes, when
his wife the Godess Parvathi asked him how he would prefer to be worshipped by
There is also
another legend attributed to this celebration, that of Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma
(the other two Gods in the trinity) searching for the origin of the Shivalinga
(the symbol of worship of Lord Shiva). Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma got into an
argument about which one of them was superior. Lord Shiva intervened saying
whichever of the two could find out the origin or end of the Shivalinga would
be declared superior. The Lord Shiva appeared before both of them as a huge
pillar of fire. Lord Vishnu decided to go searching upwards while Lord Brahma
went downwards but neither could find an origin nor an end! Both gave up their
futile search and this appearance of the Lord Shiva is celebrated as
Whichever is the
story behind it, Shivarathri is traditionally celebrated all across by Hindus,
by observing a day long fast during which only fruit and sometimes milk is
partaken of. At dusk the fast is broken by eating light food, often with
something sweet. Depending on which part of India is celebrating, the
prescribed dishes will differ. The night of Shivarathri is usually spent by
staying awake, with religious and cultural activities.
As I mentioned
earlier, in my community, Shivarathri is synonymous with Parippu Kanji. Parippu
Kanji is made of split moong lentils/ moong dal (a rich source of protein) and jaggery
(unrefined sugar) and milk which make it light but nutritious enough to break a
day long fast.
the Parippu Kanji is made with just 4 ingredients – lightly toasted lentils,
water, jaggery and milk. It is essentially a light but energy giving drink that
can be tolerated after a day-long fast. We don’t fast so I like to add a little
cardamom to it, because I firmly believe that cardamom can make a lot of sweets
and desserts better. I also like to toast the lentils in a little bit of ghee
(clarified butter) because this lends more flavour to the nutty taste of roasted
The key is to let the nuttiness of the lentils come through without overpowering
it with the flavour of the ghee. Adding
a bit of powdered dried ginger (sonth) lends an interesting twist, to my mind,
but not absolutely necessary.
The Kanji should
be somewhat creamy, and a bit thinner than a regular porridge, and of a
consistency that can be drunk out of a glass. Traditionally it is served warm,
but try serving chilled on a warm summer day.|
Parippu Kanji (A Festive Lentil and Jaggery Porridge)
1/2 cup split moong lentils (moong dal) 1tsp ghee (clarified butter) 2 cups water 3/4 cup powdered jaggery (a little more or less depending on sweetness of jaggery and your taste) 1/3 cup water 2 cups milk (2% fat) 4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered 1 to 2 tsp powdered dry ginger (optional)
Put the ghee and lentils in a pan and toast them, on low heat, constantly stirring till they turn a light golden colour (do not brown) and give out a nutty aroma. Toasting the lentils not only adds nuttiness to the Kanji but also makes sure that they don’t become sticky when cooked. Take the pan off the heat. Cook the lentils in 2 cups of water, in a pressure cooker till they’re well cooked and mushy. If you’re cooking the lentils on the stove or the Microwave, you might need more water. However you cook the lentils, they should be well cooked with very little water left in your cooking pot. While the lentils are cooking, dissolve the powdered jaggery in the 1/3rd cup of water, and then decant or strain the solution to remove possible impurities in the jaggery. Put this jaggery solution and the cooked lentils in a pan and, bring to boil, stirring frequently. Turn down the heat and let this simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it does not stick to the bottom and burn. Add the milk and stir till mixed well, and turn up the heat a bit. Bring it to a boil, and let it cook for another minute. Add the powdered ginger (if using) and the cardamom. Stir well and take it off the heat. Let it cool a bit, then pour the Parippu Kanji into glasses and serve warm. This recipe serves 4 to 6 depending on size of serving.
Before I sign off this post, I’m happy to announce the winner of the giveaway of a copy of The Vegan Kitchen – Bollywood Style! the The lucky person whose name came up is Samruddhi. Please e-mail me your mailing address so I can send your book. If I don’t get a reply within the next 5 days, I will pick another winner for the book.