This year, even more than previous years, it was very important to me to celebrate each of the five days of Diwali, starting with Dhanteras, Kali Choudas, followed by Diwali, Sal mubarak (New Year), and ending with Bhai Bij (or Bhai Dooj). Many of you have asked me about the significance of each day, so I want to share a bit about how we celebrated each day this year despite being far away from family.
On the first day, Dhanteras, we cleaned the house and followed the tradition of making rangoli, beautiful colorful designs that are drawn at the doorstep to welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, into the home. Rangoli patterns can be geometric or floral and are traditionally outlined in white using rice flour/paste and then filled with colored rice flour/paste. It is said that rangoli should be filled entirely, leaving no gaps through which evil spirits could enter the home.
Of course I have none of these things at home, including an entrance where rangoli can be drawn on the floor. So we improvised and made rangoli using what was around: rice, turmeric, vermillion, and a brown lentil or dal known as masoor. And a very large graphite cheese board. And chalk.
We drew the outline in chalk, traced the lines with grains of white rice and filled the outlines with colored rice, alternating colors. We placed tea lights in the center of the design and in each of the four corners. The rangoli was absolutely beautiful, especially once we lit the candles, and we kept it at the balcony door throughout the celebrations.
In continuing with traditions, we protected ourselves against the evil eye and "washed away" laziness and other evil from our lives on the second day, Kali Choudas. Then on the third day, Diwali, we lighted diyas or oil lamps and tea lights, wore new
On the fourth day, New Year's day, we called our family and friends to wish them "Sal mubarak." I missed my mom dearly on this day because she used to always make black eyed peas or chora on the new year, both January 1st and the Indian new year following Diwali.
Apparently in the South, as in Texas, eating collard greens or black eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring good luck and prosperity. According to this Wikipedia entry, the tradition of eating black eyed peas on the New Year is actually Jewish and was first brought to the South by the Sephardi Jews in the 1730s. Across the South, it became a widespread practice to eat black eyed peas for good luck during the Civil War. In true Southern style, black eyed peas are cooked with greens like collard, mustard or turnip greens and ham.
So it is only natural that I, being my mother's daughter and growing up in Texas, made Indian spiced black eyed peas or chora nu shak with braised collard greens to celebrate Indian new years this year! It's going to be a lucky year :)
Sal mubarak or happy new year!
In case you are curious: On the fifth and last day, Bhai bij, we celebrate the love between a brother and a sister. The sister prays for her brother's protection and the brother reaffirms his duty to protect his sister and offers his blessings to her.
The recipe below can be made with or without greens. Also you can substitute collard greens with any green like mustard, spinach, beet or turnip greens.
Chora nu shak (Indian spiced Black eyed peas)
1 cup black eyed peas, soaked about 8 hours and pressure cooked about 10 minutes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
optional 1 bunch collard greens (OR mustard greens or spinach or beet greens or turnip greens)
1 roma tomato, diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asofetida (hing)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp red cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 tbsp cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Optional: Add collard greens and 1/2 cup of water. Season with salt, stir to coat well and cover partially. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 45 minutes if using collard greens, 8 to 10 minutes if using mustard/beet/turnip greens, and 5 minutes if using spinach. Stir occasionally and add water 1/4 cup at a time as needed.
Add cooked black eyed peas with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cooking water, just enough to cover the beans. Season with turmeric, red cayenne pepper, ground cumin and ground coriander. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, until the liquid thickens. Add chopped tomatoes and fresh lemon juice, cook for about 2 minutes. Taste, adjust salt and seasoning as needed.
Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with roti or rice.