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  1. Makara Sankranti Festival in Mysore
    Saturday, March 26, 2011
  2. News from Mysore No. 2
    Monday, February 28, 2011
  3. News from Mysore
    Thursday, January 13, 2011
  4. Book Launch in Mysore
    Sunday, November 07, 2010
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    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

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Mysore Style Cooking

Makara Sankranti Festival in Mysore

Our correspondent from Mysore reports on the recent harvest festival that is celebrated in South India. This festival is known under different names in separate parts of the country. In Karnataka is celebrated as Makara Sankranti, meaning ‘Farmers Festival’. This day ends the traditional farming season and farmers take a break from their routine. The Farmer will start his day by washing his cattle and resting from ploughing the field. The path to the house is decorated with painted floral art called rangoli to welcome the deity. Later in the morning all the family members gather to perform pooja (prayers) to the mother earth.

Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into Makara Rashi i.e. Capricorn Zodiac, hence the name Makara. This movement of the sun is known as Uttarayana (northern moment of the sun). The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makar in Hindi, this occasion is named as Makar Sankranti in the Indian context. This transition is considered as auspicious. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase that according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December and ends on 14th January each year. Sankrati marks the end of winter and the beginning of the new harvest season. The importance of this day has been signified in the ancient epics like Mahabharata also.

As with all festivals special food is being prepared, such as pongal. Pongal is cooked in earthenware pots from the grains and lentils grown on the farms. The pongal is cooked until it becomes soft and expands in size, spilling over the sides of the pot, indicating that the food has been offered to the deity. Also ‘Yellu Bella’ is offered. This is a mixture of sesame, jaggery, groundnuts and dry coconut pieces. The sweet is offered to everyone for good luck.

Young children under the age of five are also blessed by being given a special fruit called yalchi hannu (Indian jujube fruit) a kind of red berry. It is known to have a positive effect on the child’s health.

Back home at Ms Sandhya’s place the festival was celebrated with great zeal. Madam spoke of the importance and the reason behind celebrating this festival to all her guests. The day before she celebrated Bogi Habba which is celebrated on the first day of the four day Sankranti festival. On Sankranti day madam started her day by performing a special pooja in her temple at home. Sweet pongal, yellu bella, sakkare achhu (sugar moulds), sugar cane and yalachi hannu was offered to the deity.

For lunch she served pongal and sweet pongal. This happens to be the special dish for this festival. This special recipe is found in our cookbook Mysore Style Cooking. Every guest was treated with “Yellu Bella” as a sign of good wishes and good luck. By evening madam took her guests Criz, Saly, Leo and a few others to the nearest place where villagers celebrate Sankranti in a rustic style. They got to see cows colored yellow all over and were made to cross the fire. It seemed to be a most memorable Sankranti to our guests.

Sandhya and I exchanged ‘Yellu Bella’ with wishes of good luck.

The following week madam’s kitchen was overflowing with greens like avare kai (field beans) and soppina kadale (green tender chick pea), akki rotti (rice roti sprinkled with sesame seeds).   With a special request from a Jewish couple madam prepared Dosa for breakfast. Criz and Saly relished semiya payasa.

For more images of the Festival please follow go to the photo section of the blog.

News from Mysore No. 2

Our “correspondent” in Mysore Ms. Renuka reports on the latest news from Ms. V. Sandhya’s.


I visited Ms Sandhya after not having seen her for about a month. She was excited to see me as was I to see her. We spent a lot of time discussing how she spent her time with her new guests in her home.


January 2nd was Madam Sandhya's Birthday. She quietly celebrated by visiting her temple and did not let anyone know.

Right now, her house is full of new guests. Madam Sandhya and Jammay, her helper, are busy creating delicious food all day long. A Korean lady named Yoni, who is Ajay's student, visits Ms Sandhya's and is learning cooking right from selecting vegetables, cleaning up fresh greens, chopping and getting cooking tips from madam. She is excited every morning to find out more about South Indian cooking. Sandhya’s cookbook is in great demand.

This is a season for a local bean called "Avarekai" also called flat beans/ field beans. They are grown on farms. This plant is a creeper. From December and January the beans are widely available and ladies take time to peel and remove the seed and create a variety of dishes. Ms uses this bean in many different dishes such as Palyas, Sambars and rice dishes. The guests find this quite exciting as Sandhya creates new dishes with this bean each day. We can also relate the bean to the bean which we find in the fairy tale 'Jack and the bean stalk'. And just as in the fairy tale all of the vegetable prices have touched the sky as inflation is high in India. 


Still ‘Tomato Gujju’ is everybody’s favorite dish. 


One special guest named Kriz from Poland is fascinated with Ms Sandhya and her cooking. He happens to be a student of cinema and journalism. He asks questions all the time and says he will publish an article about Ms Sandhya and the experiences he had in India in Poland. He is planning to make a presentation about Ms Sandhya, hence has taken lots of photos.By his request Ms Sandhya is preparing herbal teas and sweet dishes like Payasam, Kesaribath, Banana Rasayana. Kriz is really enjoying his time at Sandhya's.

This is it for this week. I shall visit Ms. Sandhya tomorrow, as it is a special day 'Makara Sankranti'. It is the South Indian harvest festival and I will write about how it is celebrated and how Ms. Sandhya celebrates with her guest.




News from Mysore

Hi Everyone,

With Christmas and the New Year over we can all get back to work. Therefore find belated a report from Mysore on the Festival of Lights (Diwali).

The lovely Ms. Renuka is our go-between for Ms. Sandhya and she will be reporting regularly for us on news from Mysore and Ms. Sandhya's kitchen.

Dear Yogis,

I am so excited to see our book launch photos. I visited ms sandhya this evening. She was also excited to hear about our blog.
Diwali (Dipavali, Divali or Deepawali), also known as 'the festival of lights', is an Indian festival that brings a series of festivals with it. Diwali falls on the day of 'Amavasyaa' usually in the month of October or November. On this day, people light tiny diyas (earthen lamps) to illuminate their homes with bright light and create lovely designs all around their home with colorful rangoli art.
Diwali is a five-day long festival, each day being significant in its own terms. The first day of this festival is called 'Dhan Trayodashi' or 'Dhanteras', wherein people worship Goddess Lakshmi and purchase utensils made of silver.
The second day of Diwali is called 'Narak Chaturdashi', which is popular as 'Chhoti Diwali'.
The third day of Diwali, which is also called 'Badi Diwali', is the main day of the celebrations of the festival. People perform Lakshmi Puja (worship of divine Goddess Lakshmi) on this day and offer prayers to her, to bless them with wealth and prosperity.

The fourth day of Diwali is devoted to Govardhan Pooja (worship of Lord Govardhan Parvat). We pray to cows and perform pooja.

The fifth day of the Diwali is Bhai Dooj, the time to honor the brother-sister relationship.
 Bursting crackers, social gatherings, exchange of greetings, sweets and gifts with loved ones are also part of the festival. During the festival, people following Hinduism offer prayers, and worship their favorite deity. Worshipping of Goddess Lakshmi, worship of Lord Ganesha, worship of Mother Kali, worship of Lord Chitragupta and worship of Govardhan Parvat is considered very auspicious for the occasion.
Ms sandhya  unfolds her memory of celebrating Deepawali with her family and remembers her son daughter-in-law  and grandson.

She performed pooja to god and goddess and the house was light by earthen lamps. In her kitchen she prepared special sweets - Gulab Jamoon and Payasa, which are few among  her traditional recipes. She had prepared south Indian snack called Kodubale which is made of gram flour  slight spicy and will be in ring shape fried in oil. Gulab Jamoon and Kodubale was stocked  for the entire week. For the main pooja day she prepared Payasa along with the regular meal served to yogis.
This week she has Prabhakar and his wife Fang with their one and half year old son, staying for almost a week. Mr Prabhakar is a yoga teacher in china and ms Sandhya knows them from past 3 years. They enjoy every meal at Sandhya's.

Another group from Israel had visited which was initiated by Ahmed who all are University students. Ahmed came to Sandhya's with his girlfriend. He was reluctant to eat at Sandhya's as he was a non-vegetarian. His girlfriend forced him to try veg at least once and for the first time he tasted and fell in love with food so much he continued to enjoy and bring all his friends to Sandhya's place and motivating all his friends to practice vegetarianism. This is the magic of Ms Sandhya's food.

On the day of festival lots of yogis from the main shala were at Sandhya's place to enjoy her festival food.
Yoga teacher from France Anna Maria who happens to be Mr Joseph's friend read the book word by word remembered Mr Joseph and with great love she bought five books.

Meanwhile French tourist group enjoyed dinner at Sandhya's.

Spanish troupe also enjoyed lunch at sandhya's.

A couple from London who came for holiday enjoyed lunch at Sandhya's. They were in search of salads and enjoyed at Sandhya's place. They enjoyed cucumber and carrot salad, with great pleasure that lady bought the cookbook.

So this is what the information i gathered from madam Sandhya about the week spent. I have tried to put across her experiences. Please let me know is this ok and what else to be done.

While the story being told me and Shaurya enjoyed gulab jamoons and kodubale and tea, at last i got a chance to taste her coffee.  Along with this ms Sandhya and me discussed about the Indian festivals and the importance of the festivals and the food cooked during that time. It was a nice evening.  
good day.

with regards

Ms Renuka and her son Shaurya

Book Launch in Mysore

The launch of Ms Sandhya's cookbook was a wonderful success. Yogis from all over the world attended and were thrilled to be able to finally purchase the recipes to the food they had been consuming on their many visits to Sandhya's kitchen. She was much honored by the attendance of such famous teachers as Sri V. Sheshadri and Ajay Kumar.

Please check out the photo album of the event.


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