Friday, April 3, 2009

Kovil Mavu

As a child, going to the temples was an event, an adventure I looked forward to enjoying with my cousins. We'd all be spruced up, neat and clean, with much too powdered faces, running ahead of the adults amidst huge blocks of sculpted stone. Religion hardly fit into it. We were along for the ride...and the kovil mavu.

Tamil ladies make this simple dessert and place it as offerings to the gods. The priest blesses it and returns it to us and the fun begins. I love that mavu. Literally meaning 'temple flour', its a sweet grainy bite that we distribute to the other people who come to the temple and take just enough back home. The theory behind the distribution is the Indian version of the Golden rule, a symbol of generosity.

This week, we visited our ancestral clan temple. Usually these temples are simple structures way out in the middle of nowhere, as ours is. The goddess is a green faced beauty, richly covered in bright jewelery and shiny clothes- I always love looking at her. The "Patchai Amman" or green mother goddess is famed for a few miles around for her Deiva Vaku- where flowers are heaped on her and the priests chant and ring bells around her. The person who prays at that point asks a question, silently or aloud and waits for a flower to fall. If it falls to the left, they take it as a yes, permission granted. If it falls to the right, it means no. Now, as an engineer, I can talk about acoustics and sound vibrations and all that to explain the falling flower, but then as a spiritualist, I believe that nothing is a coincidence or an accident. Whatever the reason behind the actual falling, the people who pray there derive some comfort and guidance and as long as they're happy with it, I'm content to watch the almost magical event.

Photography is prohibited in the inner sanctum, but I took snaps of the guardians of the Gods who stand watch outside. They are huge- 20 feet or so and are quite imposing to look at....

Kovil Mavu

1 Kilo/2.2 lbs Rice- ground into Rice Flour
5 cardamom pods
3/4 kilo/1.5 lbs Jaggery OR sugar
1 cup water
1 pinch salt
1 cup Black sesame seeds
1/2 a fresh coconut, grated
1 cup Split Roast Gram

If store bought rice flour is extremely fine- like face powder, that can be used. Otherwise, its better to make one's own. Simply soak rice for atleast an hour. Spread out on a newspaper and allow to dry partially. It must still be a bit damp and cool. Grind into very fine powder. It's best to grind the cardamom pods along with the rice flour. Its a wonderful way to get fragrant flour.

Seive the rice flour into a bowl. The traditional method to sweeten this is with Indian jaggery. The big lumps are broken down to smaller ones or powder. If you can't get jaggery, use white sugar. Place the jaggery in a pan with the water, add a pinch of salt and boil a bit till you get a simple syrup. Add to the rice flour.

Roast the sesame seeds lightly and add, along with the split roast gram and grated coconut, to the flour mixture. If you plan on keeping this for awhile then its better to slightly roast the grated coconut as well, as it'll keep longer.

Mix with your hands and slowly gather it as you mix so that it forms one big lump. The damp rice flour and the sweetener will almost always give off enough moisture for the shape to hold. Break into small lumps when serving it.

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