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Thiruvathira is observed in Tamil Nadu and Kerala on the full moon during the month of Dhanu (December-January).
The way the festival is observed differs entirely, though. Tamil Iyers celebrate Thiruvathirai to commemorate the birth of Lord Shiva. It’s also called Ardhra Darshnam. Both genders participate in the rituals. (See this post)
In Kerala, some Hindus like Nairs and Namboodiris celebrate Thiruvathira to commemorate the death of Kamadeva, or Cupid at the hands of Lord Shiva. Kamadeva allegedly made some advances towards Shiva’s wife, Parvathi. Shiva destroyed him, but relented on Parvathis’ pleas. He restored Kamadeva to life on the condition that he would be formless.
Thiruvathira in Kerala is basically a girls’ night out where they sing, perform the famous Thiruvthirakali (dance), ride swings and have a blast under the guise of ‘fasting’ for their husband’s long life. Unmarried girls pray for a good husband.
It’s a benign version of the north Indian fasting ritual or karva chauth, where women fast until moonrise and then indulge in specially prepared foods. The Tamilian ritual of Karadayan Nonbu has a similar intent, but is observed with a different set of rituals. As with most time-honoured traditions, men are not required to reciprocate for the women in their lives in any way, shape or form.
The men will claim that the women do it on their own, and that they couldn’t care less if their wives gave it a pass. They may be right. A lot of women observe these rituals because of peer pressure or to ‘keep the peace’ with the in-laws. (Scroll down this link to read Vikram Doctor’s piece.)
For Thiruvathira in Kerala, fasting actually means going without rice. That is a huge deal for the Malayalee, ‘cos every meal of the day has rice as the major component. The word for ‘cooked rice’ (‘choru’ ) is synonymous with the word for ‘food’.
Going without rice means means gorging on a whole array of goodies from bananas, to starchy tubers, beans and legumes.
There’s no real ‘fasting’ or sacrifice involved here except for the 4.am. dip in the ‘kulam’ or pond for the song session. In most traditional Kerala homes, baths were taken in a dug-out pond near the home. On Thiruvathira day, this ritual takes place really early, and it is so not fun on a chilly winter morning.
In my immediate and extended family, we do not observe Thiruvathira for two reasons.
1. The embossed wrapper of the tradition manual tells you that it is an innocuous little hen-fest where the women get together to have a good time. What it won’t tell you is that widows are excluded from the festivities.
Besides, my grandmom, mom, aunts, and I never got the whole fuss about proclaiming your devotion to your husband while all he is required to do is sit on his hiney and gloat about how privileged he is for being plumbed differently.
Yeah, there are convoluted “scientific” explanations on why this tradition, or karva chauth, or karadayan nonbu is not sexist and/or was never intended to be, and we’ve heard them all. We just don’t buy them.
2. Those who don’t observe rituals seem to have an equally good or better success rate at snagging smart, kind, good-looking partners. Look at who Jai (he’s allergic to rituals) ended up with. :devil:
Thiruvathira is a dying tradition in Kerala, and while we’re not going to shed any tears when it becomes extinct, there are a few recipes associated with the festival that are worth preserving.
The main one is Thiruvathira Puzhukku, also called “ettangadi puzhukku“.
‘Ettangadi chuduka’ is an important ritualistic act of women. On this day, eight different tubers are roasted in the fire. Through this ritual, it is believed that Kamadeva’s body represented by the tubers is regained. This delicious preparation known as Thiruvathirappuzhukku, a special dish prepared by these tubers forms the main item for lunch.
ettu = eight, angadi = store, chuduka = roast.
Puzhukku is a type of warm salad where starchy veggies (like tubers or green plantains) are cooked with spices and coconut, mashed (while retaining their shape), and served topped with curry leaves and a drizzle of coconut oil.
Malayalees make puzhukkus often, usually with a single veggie. (See Kappa Puzhukku at my favourite online Thattukada – street snack shop.)
This recipe has myriad veggies, often with the addition of beans like red cowpeas (chori) or whole moong beans.
For Thiruvathira puzhukku, the tubers generally used are koorka (Chinese potato), kaachil (English name, anyone?), elephant yam (telinga potato/suran), and a host of other tropical root veggies. Sometimes, these can be found in southeast Asian stores.
This recipe is from Ammini Ramachandran‘s Grains, Green and Grated Coconuts. She uses red cowpeas, along with green plantains and 4 cups of assorted root veggies. She recommends substituting the traditional ones with potatoes, yams, taro (colocasia/arvi) and cassava (closely related to yuca/manioc and sometimes used interchangeably. Also called ‘tapioca‘, which is actually the starch derived from this tuber).
We used a combination of taro and cassava. The traditional dish is on the drier side (see pic on
Ammini’s website). You can make it wet or dry, based on personal preference.
Kappa (cassava, also sometimes called yuca/manioc/tapioca)
There is a certain protocol to boil kappa (cassava). See step-by-step instructions at Ginger and Mango. As Inji points out:
Do not ever boil Cassava with skin.
Some Cassava is poisonous depending upon the variety …
Removing the skin, boiling, discarding the water, then boiling it again makes it safe to consume and digest.
Plain boiled kappa with salt is our favourite way to eat this veggie. From time to time, in many Kerala households, there will be a meal where kappa replaces rice as the main starch.
recipe from here
4 cups of cubed root vegetables (we used taro and cassava. see note above)
1 medium size green plantain peeled and cut into cubes (about 2 cups)
½ cup of red cowpeas soaked overnight (whole moong works too)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 ½ cups of freshly grated coconut (we used 3/4 cup)
2 to 3 fresh hot green chili peppers
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
A few curry leaves
1. Combine all the cut vegetables in a pot and add enough water to cover. Add salt, turmeric and red pepper powder and cook over medium heat till the vegetables become fork tender. Drain water if you want a dry curry, use it if you want it wet.
2. Cook the red beans separately until they are soft and combine with the cooked vegetables.
3. Grind the coconut, cumin and green chilies to a coarse thick paste and add to the pot and stir gently. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes over medium low heat.
4. Pour coconut oil over the cooked vegetables and stir gently. Garnish with fresh curry leaves. Serve hot with cooked cracked wheat or brown rice.
We had ours with rose matta rice.
Thiruvathira B!tchfest and Puzhukku go to dear Jyothsna of Currybaaar for the Regional Cuisine of India: Kerala event.
Legumes and starchy veggies go really well together. This dish also goes to sweet Susan @ The Well-Seasoned Cook for her Legume Love Affair.
Filed Under: Ammini-Ramachandran, cassava, chori, cookbook, Curry leaves, ettangadi puzhukku, festival, Grains Greens and Grated Coconuts, India, kappa, Kerala, manioc, Nair, Plantain, Puzhukku, red-cowpeas, Taro / Arvi / Colocasia, Thiruvathira, vegan recipes, vegetarian recipes, yuca