As a child, I remember waiting eagerly for Gudi Padwa. It is a Maharashtrian festival that signifies the arrival of spring and the beginning of the new year. Two weeks before the celebrations begin, my siblings and I would be tasked with spring cleaning to make sure the house is spic and span. The festival also marks the arrival of mangoes that would be turned into aamras, or mango pulp, in our kitchen. My family devours this delicacy, which would sometimes be flavoured with saffron or cardamom and would be eaten with pooris, rotis, and sometimes even steamed rice.
On the day of Gudi Padwa, I would help my family put up a gudi outdoors, made with a piece of saree cloth, mango and neem leaves, a sugar crystal garland called gathi, and an upturned copper vessel. I have fond memories of my ajji (grandmother), who would buy two gathis – one for the gudi and one for me to eat. She would tell me how every component represents different values, like the neem leaves for wellness, the saree cloth for prosperity, and the sugar garland for sweetness in relationships.
After the morning prayers, with a bitter-sweet prasad of neem leaves and jaggery, lunch is served, which consists of traditional foods that are a combination of sweet and savoury dishes, meant to symbolize the ups and downs of life.
This year, Gudi Padwa will be celebrated on 22 March. Here are some dishes that will feature on my family’s festive table:
My mother tried making sheera, a sweet dish made out of semolina or sooji, when she met my father’s parents for the first time on Gudi Padwa. In her nervousness, she added so much water to the semolina that the whole thing turned into a wet, sticky mess. My Ajji, after salvaging it, showed her how to make sheera so it had the perfect taste and consistency.
To make this dish, fry one cup of semolina on medium heat until golden brown. To this dry mixture, add half cup of ghee and pour two and a half cups of water, stirring continuously until both are absorbed completely. Cover the pan and cook until the semolina has a fluffy texture. Then, add a cup of sugar and a pinch of cardamom powder. After cooking on low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, mix in raisins, nuts, or fruits like pineapples, bananas, and mangoes. As a family, we enjoy this dish with mango or chili pickle.
Kothimbir vadi, which is served as a snack, is easy to make and delicious to eat. The recipe has been passed down from my great-grandmother to my mother, and it now features during family festivals, like Gudi Padwa and Diwali.
The batter is made by blending two cups of finely chopped coriander leaves with a cup of gram flour, spices, like one-fourth teaspoon each of red chili powder, turmeric powder, and cumin powder, and three tablespoons of ginger garlic paste. This should be of a thick consistency and can be flavoured with one tablespoon of ground peanuts too. While the recipe usually calls for shallow frying, we prefer to steam the batter for a healthier twist. After steaming, cut the vadi into square or diamond shapes, and enjoy.
Katachi amti is a spicy lentil-based curry which is a mainstay in our household every Gudi Padwa. The amti is made out of the strained stock of chana dal. The dal is used for puran poli, a sweet flatbread, which is the perfect accompaniment.
The curry is made by adding two cups of the stock to one chopped tomato and one teaspoon of garam masala, half a teaspoon of mustard seeds, and half a teaspoon of cumin seeds. We like to add one-two teaspoons of fresh coconut for an extra depth in flavour. After simmering for 10 minutes, the amti is served with puran poli or steamed rice.