Ya devi sarvabhuteshu, shanti rupena sangsthita
Ya devi sarvabhuteshu, shakti rupena sangsthita
Ya devi sarvabhuteshu, matri rupena sangsthita
Ya devi Sarva Bhooteshu Buddhi Roopena Samsthita
She is preparing for her annual visit. Photo courtesy: Sanchari Sur
She is omnipresent as the symbol of peace, power, and intelligence. She is Gauri, who sheds light on our lives and she is Narayani who makes us conscious. We take refuge in her when in distress and she accomplishes all our objectives. She is Maa Durga, the universal mother. We bow our head to her and worship her power to fight against the evil.
Maa Durga will be coming home soon with all her kids to visit her parents. She must be counting the days like we all do. She must be packing her bags, buying gifts and making sure she has everything in place before she leaves. She must have called her mother and given her a list of things she wants to eat while she is home. I cannot help but think that she must also be having a tough life dealing with all the craziness around her. Just handling Shiva, her clearly bipolar husband must be sufficient to keep her busy all the time. Ganesh, the lovely son with a big tummy must be constantly nagging her for food. And what do you do if you have two unmarried adult children at home? She must have tried a zillion times to convince her son Kartik and daughter Saraswati to get married and settle down. Poor Saraswati, being too highly educated acted against her as she thought too highly of herself. Being excessively handsome didn’t work well for Kartik either. Thank goodness, Lakshmi was there for her mother. Being the epitome of goodness (and also having found an excellent husband in Vishnu) she must have been be a huge relief to the much-hassled Durga.
Photo courtesy: Sanchari Sur
But, she is Durga, the indestructible. She is Trinayani, and with her three eyes can easily keep an eye on everything around her. She is Durgatinashini who can eliminate any misfortune. She is Dashabhuja who with her ten hands can handle a thousand jobs simutaneously. Don’t we expect a lot from her? My troubles are not even a fraction of hers, but already I am dead tired. I really need eight more hands and two extra eyes to deal with all the things around me. I really cannot handle life the way it is now. I can only dream of visiting home and my parents annually. I haven’t been home for a while (I mean quite a while) and I always wonder and ask my friends “Is India still the same? The way it used to be?”. The answer, unfortunately, is probably not. On one hand we are planning for Devi Durga’s annual visit and on the other hand we are blocking roads because a real-life Durga, someone’s mother or sister was raped and molested. Someone has killed another female baby because they will take chances with a male child who may turn out to be an Asura (demon) rather than a Durga. I can’t open the daily news anymore without having to read about rape, molestation and domestic violence against women. Maybe in the minds of a certain section of Indian males, mortal women do not deserve to be treated as Durgas. Are we going to fight with these demons all our life but fail? Are our real life Asuras so destructive and powerful that they are invincible? Maybe not, as I read somewhere that divine power is slow but efficient. I believe one day we will all unite and with our divine power kill the demons. Their abode is already known- they reside in the darker recesses of our own minds. We can all celebrate a very real Durga Puja in our lives then.
Anyhow, being modern-day Durgas, we are also allowed to play with sociocultural rules a little bit, aren’t we? So I have added a little bit of meat to the traditional khichuri served at Durga Puja. Go ahead and break this one taboo- you will be OK, Durga is a mother and she knows that her kids get hungry.
You can read more about Durga Puja here, my last year’s post.
It’s a festive dish and requires a little bit of patience and time. The end result is delicious, so why not? The recipe was given to me by my friend Mita di who is from Bangladesh and it’s a delicacy in her home. Originally it’s her mom’s recipe . I have tweaked it very little. If you do not want to break any rule, you can make this traditional khichuri.
Short grained fragrant rice (like kalijeera/gobindobhog/kamini atop/chinigura) or basmati rice: 1 cup. I used short grained rice but basmati will work fine too. The rice has to be fragrant.
Chicken (bone in preferred): 1 pound. Cut into medium pieces (you can use beef/mutton too, you just have to cook it longer)
Red lentils/masoor daal: 1/3 cup
Yellow lentils/mung daal: 1/3 cup
Yellow split peas/motor daal: 1/3 cup
Water: 3 cups.+1 cup
Onion: One large, one small
Garlic: 4-5 fat cloves
Ginger: 2” piece
Or, two table spoons of ginger garlic paste
Cinnamon: 2”X 2 pieces broken in one inch pieces
Cloves: 6-8 nos.
Cardamoms: 6-8 nos.
Bay leaves: 4 nos.
Turmeric: 1 tsp.
Red chili powder: 2 tsp.
Cashews: a handful
Oil: 6 tbsp.
Fresh green chilies: as per you taste (I use 3-4 depending how hot they are)
Sugar: one big pinch
Ghee/clarified butter: 1 tbsp. or less.
Salt to taste
- Soak the split peas in water for about an hour and then drain.
- Dry roast the mung daals very lightly until fragrant and then wash several times, drain.
- Wash the rice several times and then soak it in water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and let it be a bit dry.
- Wash the masoor daal and drain it as well.
- Heat up 2 tbsp. oil in a wok or deep pan. Turn the heat to medium and add 2 one inch cinnamons, three cloves, three cardamoms and let them sizzle in oil a little bit. Add the bay leaves and let it sauté in the oil a little bit too.
- Slice the large onion real thin and sauté the onions with the whole spices until the onions turn a little brownish.
- Add the ginger garlic paste (if you are using fresh ginger and garlic, make a paste of them), chili powder and sauté the spices in the oil very oil. The spices should not have any raw smell.
- Add the chicken (make sure they are patted dry), the turmeric and mix everything well.
- Cook it on medium flame until oil starts leaving the edge of the container.
- Add a cup of water (hot), salt and bring the meat to a boil. Reduce the flame to medium and cover the meat. Cook it until the meat is tender and reduce the sauce. The sauce should cling to the meat, not soupy.
- While the meat is cooking, heat up three tablespoon of oil in a separate pot which can hold all the rice, lentils and meat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the rest of the whole spices (cloves, cardamom and cinnamon) and the two bay leaves. Reduce the flame to medium and let them release the fragrance.
- Add the small onion (very thinly sliced as well) and sauté until light brown.
- Add the rice and sauté the rice in the oil until a bit transparent.
- Add the daals and mix them well with the rice and again sauté them for couple minutes.
- Add three cups of boiling/hot water and bring the water to a rolling boil again.
- Add the meat with all the sauce/gravy, mix very well, add two tsp. or so salt, the sugar and the cashews and give it a gentle stir. Just enough to mix everything uniformly.
- Reduce the flame to low and cover the pot. Let the whole thing cook for 10-15 more minutes.
- Check in between to check if the rice is cooked or not and also for seasoning.
- Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and keep it covered for another ten minutes. The excess water (if any) will be absorbed by this time.
- Open the lid and fluff up the rice very gently and add the ghee and chopped green chilies. Cover for few more minutes and then serve with a side of salad.
The texture will be dry (bhuna=dry) unlike a traditional khicuri which is more moist.
The modern day Durga praying to the Goddess. Photo courtesy: Sanchari Sur
Many modern day Durgas. Photo courtesy: Sanchari Sur