Bohri Milad Un-Nabi Meals Begin With This Yoghurt & Rice Pudding
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THE Bohri cuisine is famed for certain distinctive characteristics, like the shared meals that are served in thals; the rituals — like eating a pinch of salt at the very start and end of a meal, ceremonial washing of hands in a ‘chelamchi’; the myriad courses; and the diverse array of delicious dishes. One specific custom that is followed by Bohri families all over the world has to do with the meal served on the occasion of Milad un-Nabi. 

In Dawoodi Bohra households, the Milad un-Nabi meal invariably begins with a sweet dish known as ‘kalamra’ (or ‘kalamro’). Eid Milad-un-Nabi is a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth; throughout the month of Rabi ul-awwal, Bohri families mark the auspicious occasion. The kalamra, according to some lore, was the Prophet’s favourite dish. Hence, a celebration of his birth would certainly be incomplete without the presence of the pudding. 

Yet another origin story states that Dawoodi Bohras were looking for one dish that would be ideal for commemorating the Prophet’s birthday. The kalamra, made with easily accessible ingredients and requiring little effort to prepare, developed as the natural choice. Over time, individual cooks tweaked and made their own additions to the recipe, and these methods were passed on from one generation to the next.

What is kalamra? In essence, it is a simple dish — a sweet rice and yoghurt pudding. But variations on the recipe can make it as rich as any other kheer. A bowl of kalamra will come garnished with pomegranate, raisins and other dry fruits, even khoya, and its consistency is often thickened with the help of milk, milk powder or condensed milk. Charoli and rose petals are other favoured ingredients that make it into the mixing pot. 

Each ingredient in the kalamra serves a purpose and/or has some significance. Rice is believed to keep 72 illnesses in check; curd is cooling for the body; pomegranate because — as per belief — each fruit contains one seed that comes from Paradise; and so on. While the composition of the kalamra may differ from household to household, one thing remains constant: it is the first dish the family partakes of. Without kalamra, Milad un-Nabi is incomplete.