Diwali, or Deepavali, is a wonderful festive time celebrated by Indian people all over the world. It is a time of lights – the word Deepavali means garland of lamps and everywhere in India lamps and lights of all forms (including fireworks) dominate homes, shops, streets.
Wikipedia has a lovely explanation of Diwali.
While Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant spiritual meaning is “the awareness of the inner light”.
Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this inner light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (inner joy or peace).
The gunas are the underlying forces or tendencies which one needs to have unaffected, direct relation with in order to find effectiveness and righteousness in life: they are lines of potential and illuminate thought and action, thus the inner meaning of Diwali being the festival of lights.
Diwali celebrates this through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship. While the story behind Diwali varies from region to region, the essence is the same – to rejoice in the inner light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman).
It is certainly a joyous time of family, friends, food and firecracker mayhem. Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami says:
“My guru, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, was very fond of Deepavali, and he referred to the festival of lights as “Hindu Solidarity Day” as it is a day celebrated by all the four denominations of Hinduism, Vaishnavism, Saivism, Shaktism and Smartism.
Deepavali is a celebration of the inner light within all of us, and on this day we honor the light within each other by giving new clothes, sharing sweets and snacks, cleaning the house, lighting oil lamps and bursting firecrackers.
Many business communities start their financial year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.”
US President Barack Obama also acknowledged Diwali, the first time for a US president:
A Bengali Kheer (Milk Dessert) for Deepavali
One of the beautiful traditions of Diwali is the making and sharing of sweet things. I had been given some raw milk by a friend. This milk is so wonderful I always like to do something special with it.
Indians have a deep understanding of the properties of milk and its products e.g. yoghurt. They use these products in ways that are not very common elsewhere.
For instance, who knew that if you reduce milk by boiling for an hour or two, you get the most sweet liquid – condensed milk, but so very different to the tinned condensed milk that we can buy.
So I took the precious raw milk and reduced it, added rice and cardamom and made the most precious Indian Rice Pudding. Happy Diwali.
A note on ingredients
The recipe uses Indian Bay leaf, tej pata. This is not the same as the western bay leaf. If you cannot lay your hands on tej pata, the best substitute is a cardamom leaf, though these are hard to find. Leave it out if cannot locate tej pata or cardamom leaf.
The rice needs to be a sweeter rice, like basmati. Don’t replace it with a different rice.
Chaler Payesh (Bengali Rice Kheer)
Source : inspired by
Cuisine: Indian (Bengali)
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: several hours
Serves: 4 people
1.5 – 2 l Milk
100 g Basmati rice
1.5 tspn Ghee
100 g Sugar
1.5 Tblspn Cashew nuts
1.5 Tblspn Raisins
3 – 4 green cardamom pods
1 – 2 Indian Bay leaf (Tej Pata)
Place the milk in a large heavy saucepan, bring to the boil over a low flame, and allow to boil slowly until it is 3/4 of its original volume or less.
Melt the ghee and add it to the rice and mix it well through the rice.
When the milk has reduced enough, add the rice and cook on high flame, stirring often.
When the rice is cooked and the mixture is thickening, add the sugar, salt, cracked cardamom pods and Indian bay leaf.
Stir until the sugar dissolves, and allow to continue to cook for 5 minutes or so. Add the cashew nuts and raisins. Stir them through, remove the bay leaf, and allow the rice to sit for 5 minutes.
Serve hot or cold. You can garnish the rice with raisins, cashew nuts or fresh or dry fruits.
For other Chaler Payesh Recipes, see:
THE DESSERT SERIES
- Baked Strawberries
- Beetroot Halwa
- Blueberry Shrikhand
- Butter Glazed Apples
- Fresh Pink Strawberry Frappe
- Indian Eggless Custard
- Rizogalo – Greek Rice Pudding
- Roasted Rosemary Pears
- Thick Thick Yoghurt – how to make