Celebrated in the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Thiruvathirai (also called Thiruvadirai) is a celebration of the sacred union between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, who are husband and wife according to scriptures. God might be an invisible force, but the centuries of traditions from days of yore are continued to this day by the devotees. There are many more reasons why this festival is celebrated, ranging from celebrating the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, the incarnation of Lord Nataraj, the death of the Hindu god of erotic desire — but here, we take note of the food eaten during the festival without delving very deep into the religious meaning.  

Women observe fast in honour of the festival. Further on, the underlying belief is that the practice of fasting shall also ensure the good health and well-being of their husband and family. There is one special dish that is specially prepared during the festival: a mild sweet made with jaggery, dal, ghee, cardamom, nuts and broken rice, known as thiruvathirai kali which is ‘naivedyam’ or an offering for god. It is served along with thalagam which is a tender stew that is rich in tamarind flavour.

   

The dish is cooked without any garlic or onions, but rather makes use of an odd number of vegetables. Cooks can use either seven, nine, eleven vegetables and so on. As the festival is celebrated during the winter, the devotees only make use of seasonal root vegetables that lend freshness to the thalagam. Here’s how you can make thalagam — 

INGREDIENTS 

1/2 teaspoon asafoetida 

1/2 cup raw rice  

1 teaspoon jaggery powder 

1 1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 

1 tablespoon sesame seeds 

1 1/2 tablespoon coconut, grated 

1 tablespoon toor dal 

1 tablespoon urad dal 

1 tablespoon channa dal 

1 tablespoon coriander seeds  

1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds 

1-3 curry leaves  

4-5 red chillis  

1/2 cup pumpkin 

1/2 cup sweet potato 

1/2 cup avarakkai  

1/2 cup brinjal 

1/2 cup french beans  

1/2 cup green plantain 

1/2 cup colocasia 

Salt, to taste 

METHOD 

  • Fill water in a large pot, and bring it to a boil.  
  • Cut all the vegetables into cubes.  
  • Add salt, once the water bubbles.  
  • Put all the vegetables in the pot.  
  • Simmer down the heat.  
  • Add turmeric powder and red chilli powder.  
  • Once the water returns to a boil, turn off the heat.  
  • In a pressure cooker, cook toor dal with turmeric powder.  
  • In a skillet, heat oil and lightly saute sesame seeds, coriander seeds, urad dal, channa dal, raw rice, coconut and red chillis.  
  • Using a blender, grind it into a fine powder. 
  • Heat oil once again in a skillet.  
  • Add mustard seeds and allow them to sputter.  
  • Then add the fine powder, asafoetida, curry leaves and the tamarind paste.  
  • Now add the vegetables.  
  • Add water to create a slurry.  
  • Allow everything to cook for 15 - 20 minutes. 
  • Serve.   

We hope that you’ll enjoy the recipe!