Tubers are the veggies of choice to celebrate Thiruvathira

Ettuangadi consists of eight kinds of tubers that are steamed or roasted   | Photo Credit: special arrangement


Ever had ‘Ettangaadi chuttu nivedyam’? This is a special preparation that celebrates tubers. Kachil (purple yam), chena (yam), koorka (Chinese potato), nanakizhangu (lesser yam), cheru kizhangu (lesser yam), cheruchembu (colocasia), valiyachembu (colocasia) and madura kizhangu (sweet potato) are steamed or roasted and then cooked in jaggery syrup and garnished with sliced or grated coconut. This is eaten by women on the day before Thiruvathira. In some temples, ettangaadi chuttu nivedyam is given as prasadam. The ingredients and the cooking method, however, varies from place to place.

On the day of Thiruvathira festival, a puzhukku made of tubers, raw banana, pumpkin and so on is cooked in many houses. It is made with grated coconut, jeera and other spices.

Observed mainly by women, Thiruvathira is believed to be the birth star of Lord Shiva. The Thiruvathira festival in the Malayalam month of Dhanu, which usually coincides with a full moon day, is celebrated with music, dance, and, of course, food.

“Legend has it that Lord Shiva came out of his deep meditation after Sati’s self-immolation and married goddess Parvati on this day. Women observe a day-long fast and perform various rituals. Tamilians celebrate this day as Ardra Darshanam and worship Shiva and go to the temple before sunrise. There is also a version that Thiruvathira festival is celebrated in memory of the revival of Kamadeva, the mythological God of love, after he disrupted Shiva’s meditation that resulted in him being burnt to death due to Shiva’s fury,” writes food blogger Manjusha Pisharody.

Puzhukku, cooked wheat and pappadam is the staple in many Hindu households in Kerala for the Thiruvathira festival

Puzhukku, cooked wheat and pappadam is the staple in many Hindu households in Kerala for the Thiruvathira festival   | Photo Credit: Manjusha Pisharody

She continues: “My mother still fondly recalls the joyful Thiruvathira days during her teenage days. They used to wake up at 4 am. Women from other homes would come and they would go as a group, gathering other women along the way and singing songs in praise of Lord Shiva as they walked towards a pond, usually of a Shiva temple. They would carry clothes, a new set if it was available. Getting into the pond was not easy as the mercury would come down a little during December-January. While taking a dip, they would sing songs and rhythmically splash water (thudichu kuli). Towards the end, while still in the water, they would hold hands and form a circle. After a bath, they would wear their new clothes, visit the Shiva temple and eat a banana and chew betel leaves. They would sing songs and return home and take turns to sit on a swing in front of the house.”

  • Thiruvathira puzhukku
  • A special preparation is made of tubers and other vegetables during the Thiruvathira festival. The main ingredient is purple yam, which is harvested during winter.
  • Ingredients:
  • Purple Yam (kaachil) – 250 gm
  • Raw banana – 1
  • Pumpkin – 250 gm
  • Green gram – 1/2 cup
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Grated coconut - 1 cup
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Red chilly powder/green chillies – 1/2 tsp/4
  • Water – 1 glass
  • Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
  • Curry leaves – 2 stalks
  • Method:
  • Soak the green gram dal overnight and pressure-cook it. Keep aside. Cut the vegetables into cubes and put them in a cooking pot. Add some water (just enough to immerse half of the cut vegetables). Add turmeric powder and chilli powder. Close and stir occasionally.
  • Grind the grated coconut and cumin seeds to make a coarse paste. If you are using green chillies, add that along with the coconut and cumin seeds. When the vegetables turn tender and well-cooked, add the cooked green gram, ground coconut paste and salt. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the fire and add the coconut oil and fresh curry leaves. The dish should give out a pleasing aroma.
  • This dish is a self-sufficient meal in itself and there are many variations to it.
  • A sweet dish made of arrowroot powder, which is usually made from home-grown arrowroot plant.
  • It’s a lengthy and tedious process of pulling out the root, cleaning, chopping, grinding, adding water and distilling the powder. At the end, however, you end up with a little quantity of arrowroot powder.
  • Ingredients:
  • Koova (arrowroot powder) – 100 gm
  • Jaggery – 200 gm
  • Water – 3 glasses
  • Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
  • Cardamom powder – 1 tbsp
  • Method:
  • Melt the jaggery in water. Strain to remove impurities. Mix the arrowroot powder in some water and make a smooth and thin paste without lumps. Add this paste to the jaggery syrup and place the mixture on the stove. Stir continuously on low flame. The mixture starts thickening. Turn off the fire when the mixture becomes a fine paste. Add cardamom powder and grated coconut. Mix well. Ghee or cashew fried in ghee can be added. Cooked moong dal can also be added along with the arrowroot powder.
  • There are regional variations to both the recipes.
  • By Manjusha Pisharody

Some women fast on the day of Thiruvathira by abstaining from rice-based food and have only preparations made of wheat, millets, sweets and tubers. Manjusha adds that although puzhukku made of tubers and other vegetables is made in north Kerala as well, the Ettangaadi is more common in the south. A sweet dish made of arrowroot powder (koova) and jaggery is also a speciality of this festival.

Octogenarian Janaky Nair, a homemaker from Edappally, says that in Kochi and certain places in Kerala, women from the entire neighbourhood would get together to celebrate the festival. The women were supposed to chew 108 betel leaves and adorn themselves with Dashapushpam (10 kinds of herbs and plants with medicinal value). She recalls with a laugh how even girls got a chance to chew betel leaves on that day.

The tubers that make up the ettuangadi for Thiruvathira festival in Kerala

The tubers that make up the ettuangadi for Thiruvathira festival in Kerala   | Photo Credit: Lakshmi Arvind

“All our relatives and neighbours would get together in my grandmother’s house and we would stay awake all through the night by singing songs, reciting shlokas and prayers and performing Thiruvathira dance. Age was no bar. Right from great-grandmothers to little girls, everyone would pitch in. The first Thiruvathira of a bride is called Poothiruvathira and is a special occasion for her. Mine was celebrated in the city as we had moved to the capital city by then. Sadly, with the break-up of the joint family and loss of ponds, the Thiruvathira celebrations have lost its sheen. Now, it is mainly the food that revives those memories,” she adds. Manjusha speaks about the observation of a custom called Pathira poochoodal (wearing flowers at midnight).

City-based Priya Kolassery points out that as tubers are available in plenty during the ‘winter months’ in Kerala, that might be a reason why the different kinds are highlighted. “As children, I remember, we had steamed tubers of different kinds, many of which were grown in our house, during the festival of Karthika in the Malayalam month of Vrischikam (November-December). With the city expanding every day, we have lost touch with our roots. So, this time, my friend Sreedevi Padmajam and I offered kits that had six-seven kinds of tubers with two chutneys and it was sold out,” says Priya.


Arrowroot   | Photo Credit: Manjusha Pisharody

However, the fact remains that many of the tubers that were once commonly consumed are missing from our diet, points out Lakshmi Arvind, Editor, Agriculture World. She says that in the past, these tubers were usually found in homesteads and was part of the diet. “Due to urbanisation and migration to cities, unfortunately, we have forgotten those tubers and some of them have been forgotten. Now tuber melas in different parts of the country are trying to give the edible roots that are rich in nutrition a pride of place in our plates. There is a two-day ‘Roots and Tuber Mela’, which begins on January 11 at Nanjaraja Bahadur Chitra, Mysuru, while another tuber mela at Joida in Uttara Kannada will have on display tubers grown by the Kunbi community. This is the season when tubers are harvested and the planting is from February to March, before the onset of monsoon,” she explains.

To remind city dwellers of the roots that sustain us, many green grocers stock a wide range of tubers. Discover the roots of the season.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 2:15:33 PM |

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