Celebratory Appetite: Diwali Sweet Tooth
Diwali is an auspicious day that celebrates the victory of good over evil. Astounding lights, fireworks, compelling customary desserts and exchanging amazing gifts mark the celebration of this festival.
While the Hindus commend this celebration to honour the homecoming of Lord Rama following after his 14-year-old exile in the jungles for ‘vanvas’ and his triumph over Ravana, the evil lord of Sri Lanka who kidnapped his wife, Sita. Whereas, for the people of Jain faith, this festival carries the essence of spiritual upliftment because it marks the achievement of Nirvana or Moksha by Mahavira, the last Tirthankara.
Diwali brings with itself a bucketload of traditions, customs and really delicious sweets. Alas, the thing about Indian food is. . . when you’re introduced to it for the first time, it’s not uncommon to be surprised when dessert arrives at the table. Indian sweets bear little resemblance to traditional western desserts, and not having a point of reference can make it hard to decipher what’s on your plate and how to eat it but once you dig in, the burst of flavours take you on the best ride of your life.
There are various traditional sweets which are associated primarily with the festive atmosphere that takes over the air during the days of Diwali celebrations and they bring back all the most amazing memories that Diwali brings forth.
°The Diwali Special Sweets
Often referred to as Indian doughnuts, gulab jamun is deep-fried dumplings that are soaked in a sugar syrup laced with rose water. Intensely sweet, just one small dumpling will be enough to satisfy your craving (unless, of course, you have a major sweet tooth). They burst in your mouth and fill you with a sweet essence like no other. These are definitely a part of every major Diwali puja thali and hence, make the festival sweet and special!
Kaju Barfi also commonly known as ‘Kaju ki katli’ is one of the main mithais of Diwali. They are usually cut in a diamond or square shape and are a fudge-like Indian sweet made with condensed milk and sugar. They are also made extra special by adding coconut, almonds, pistachios and edible silver leaf. They are often made at home and gifted to guests as a token of love, celebration and respect during festivals and pujas.
°Various Types of Halwas
‘Halwa’ is a blanket term used across India for several puddings. Of these, gajar ka halwa(carrot pudding) and sooji ka halwa or sheera (semolina pudding) are the most popular for their flavourful, chewy textures. It is most often eaten in the north and west, but occasionally also enjoyed in the South. Most of these usually involve a mix of ghee, water, sugar, spices and sometimes milk. These puddings grace almost all auspicious occasions in India with their sweet fragrance and delicious presence.
Soan papdi is a popular gifting option on Diwali in the north—and with good reason! This flaky, light sweet melts on the tongue and is surprisingly easy to polish off (thank goodness everyone receives several boxes). Made with a mixture of gram flour, all-purpose flour, ghee, sugar, water, milk and cardamom, this delicate dessert is the perfect way to finish off a heavy Diwali meal.
°Various Types of Pedas
These can basically be described as Indian milk fudge and are made with condensed milk, ghee and dehydrated milk. It used to be a time-consuming process to make these at home but thanks to instant powdered milk, pedas are extremely easy to make and serve at Diwali and they sparkle the occasion with their sweet taste. They are usually made with khoya, sugar, nuts and flavourings like cardamom.
Kesari pedas, made with saffron, is a popular variety in the north, while the darker, sugar-covered Dharwad pedas is a delicacy unique to the south Indian state of Karnataka.
In East India, sweets are often called mishti, and of these, the most popular is by far the roshogolla or rasgulla. Made with chenna (cheese curds similar to cottage cheese) and semolina, the incredibly spongy, white spheres are then soaked in sugar syrup until it permeates the dough, giving you a burst of sweetness with each bite. They are said to have originated in Bengal, Odisha and what is now the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. This sweet often gets placed on the table as an alternate and cold as well as mighty sweet option for the hot and thrilling gulab jamuns.
Diwali is upon us and the sweets of the auspicious season are all set and calling upon us as we get closer and closer to the day. Alas, with the pandemic taking over the world and us being stuck inside, people seem to be compromising on their holiday spirit and cheer.
It’s time we undo that, let’s get together and make sure that this Diwali that all of us are spending with our families end up being the best one ever along with a lot of sweets in our stomach!
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