The spring is here and Delhi Trees have shed their leaves in anticipation of long summer and water scarcity. The roundabouts , the rose garden , the trees which line the long sizzling roads are exploding with colors of spring flowers. The sight is intoxicating. Amidst all the traffic, heat, dust and stress of city life the flowers dance with the slightest breeze.
The golden shower from the Neem trees is a such a refreshing sight . It is amazing how the yellow leaves rain on the earth below creating magic in the air.
The Silk cotton and the Coral Trees are on fire and the Gulmohars and Laburnum are getting ready to bloom. Birds like koel,crows, pigeons, parakeets, It is a delight to watch these dazzling flamboyant red flowers blazing amongst the soothing greens of other evergreens like Banyan, Jamun, Ashokas and many more.
Spring flowers like roses, jasmine, Dalia, marigold, Poppies, bottle brush, Moulsari, calendula,
Along with the riot of colors that spring brings comes the festival of Holi .
Now a days Holi is not what it sued to be in my childhood. I remember the aromas that drifted from the kitchen with the breeze . The excitement of all the goodies like Gujiya, Dahi bade , poran poli, dal moth and more.
It was a family bonding session to prepare all the delicacies and savor them along with thandai and other coolants. Holi was never a vulgar, obnoxious display . We would keep plates of abir and gulal ready for the people visiting home along with the sweets. Water guns were in but no color filled baloons . Colors were mostly natural made with sandlewood, beetroot, black grapes, henna, bolied silk cotton (Semul) flowers or Tesu flowers.
Music was very much a part of Holi always. The special holi songs , tappas, the kumayuni Pahadi holi dance and song groups mixed with Bhang was a heady combination.
Bhang was used in pakodas, thandai etc.
I remember the JNU holi at a friend’s home and the Chat sammelan which was so much fun though I went there as a guest I really freaked out . It sure was spring madness come alive.
Gone are the days of Gulabi Holi( pink holi) and Aab-e-Pashi (shower of colourful flowers) when the holi Phags were sung. Songs like
Kyon mo pe mari rang ki pichkari, Dekho kunwarji doon gi gari! (Why am I with colour sprinkled/ By me now you will be abused!”)
Now all we hear are bollywood numbers , the local flavor is lost forever at least in big cities like Delhi. In the Mugal times also Holi was played with fervor and gaiety. India’s cultural heritage has been enriched by the harmonious amalgamation and assimilation of various faiths and ethnicities.
It was a frenzied carnival where people, irrespective of their caste, creed or any other religious or social distinction, forgot their restraints and joined in the festivity of the celebration.
I don’t much see that spirit of brotherhood and love anymore. The traditional Holi is restricted to some areas only like the famous Bruj ki holi, kumaun ki holi and Benaras ki holi.
The tradition of Thandai a cold drink made with a mixture of almonds, spices, milk and sugar and Bhang ( female cannabis sativa buds and leaves) is specialty of Northern India though now a days its used almost everywhere. Associated with Lord Shiva and in the city of Banaras one can find people preparing Thandai with mortar and pestle , singing holi songs. The festive spirit is enhanced by the bond of togetherness it creates. . Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a tasty green halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called ‘golees’. Bhang has medicinal properties also and much safer than drinking alcohol.
It is considered good omen and auspicious to drink a little bhang on Holi.
Its been a while since I played holi. I lost interest in it after someone poured a can of emulsion paint on my head and I had to wash it with kerosene. It was pathetic and burned my skin for days but the memory of the lovely times celebrated together still fill me with nostalgia .
Here is my Recipe for baked gujiya
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 kg Khoya ( thickened milk) ( I do not use khoya)
1 cup Sugar, according to taste
1 cup dry grated coconut
1 cup dry fruits ( cashewnut, almond, raisins), finely chopped
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1 tbsp clarified butter
For making dough
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda and clarified butter. Start kneading until smooth and stiff textured dough. To test press your palm on the dough and remove immediately. The dough should bounce back. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it sit for sometime.
In a deep heavy bottom pan, fry khoya with 1tsp ghee until golden in color. Add shredded coconut to it. Fry for sometime. Add the dry fruits and fry again, until you start getting nice aroma. Add sugar and cardomom powder to it. Mix well. Fry for few mins. Allow the mixture to cool.
Assembling and Baking
Divide the dough in small balls. Roll these balls into small, thick 6″ diameter circles. I use small bowl to cut into perfect shape or use gujia molds available in market.
Put a tbsp of filling in the one half of the circle and brush milk all over the along the side. Fold one side of the round over the other. Pinch the edges to seal it.
Preheat the oven to 375 degree Celsius arrange the gujiyas in a oven safe greased dish and bake till golden brown from both sides.
I know Holi festivities are over but still wanted to share this with friends. I miss the fun, the aromas and bonds of love and warmth , the eager anticipation of new clothes , music and dance. The laughter and carefree longings and to some extent the teasing ( nok jhok) . I miss mom’s home.