Diwali, also known as Divali, is a major holiday celebrated in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, which means ârows of lighted lampsâ.
The story of Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil, and is believed to be related to the ancient harvest festivals in India. This important festival usually lasts for five days. The date of Diwali changes every year and in 2021 it begins on November 1 and ends on November 6. Each date has a different meaning, but Amavasya, the new moon, which falls on November 4 of this year, is considered the main feast day of Diwali. . It takes place on the 15th day of Kartik, a month in the Hindu calendar that straddles October and November.
The legend of the festival varies from region to region. In northern India, he celebrates the story of Prince Rama’s return to his hometown of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile due to the intrigues of his mother-in-law, Kaikeyi. This happened after the rescue of his wife, Sita, an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, who had been kidnapped by the antagonistic king Ravana. Ayodhya residents celebrated the couple’s return with colorful lanterns and firecrackers.
However, in southern India, Diwali speaks of Lord Krishna’s triumph over the demon king Narakasura, who kidnapped 16,000 women. In western India, it is a celebration of the banishment of King Bali by the deity Vishnu to the underworld. In some legends, Vishnu allowed Bali to come back to earth on the harvest festival of Balipratipada on the fourth day of Diwali.
Although the main reason for the celebration varies by region, the way Diwali is celebrated is similar across India. Throughout the festival you will find houses, shops and public streets decorated with small, colorful oil lamps traditionally made of terracotta. It is also celebrated with fireworks, lit lamps, colorful sand art, and food.
What foods are eaten during Diwali?
No Diwali celebration is complete without food, and sweets and snacks are the most popular. At a celebration, you will likely find salty foods like samosas, bhaji (fried onion fritters), and masala peanuts, as well as sweets such as halwa, kheer rice, and gulab jamun, a candy to based on powdered milk, rose and cardamom.
The plant origins of Diwali foods
During Diwali, most of the food consumed is candy made from dairy products such as milk, yogurt, ghee, and paneer. However, many of them are, like many foods native to the Indian subcontinent, plant-based by default. Vegetarianism has been an integral part of Hindu and Buddhist teachings since ancient times, and many people will avoid meat during important religious holidays.
Curious about how you can make vegan treats for Diwali? LIVEKINDLY reached out to four bloggers of Indian descent for their favorite Diwali recipes and what makes the dish special for them.
Pakoras, also called pakodas, are a type of donut made from a vegetable coated in a spicy batter that is then fried and then served with a tamarind sauce, chutney, or raita. The most common flour for the dough is chickpea flour (gram flour) and spices can include cilantro, fenugreek, and chili peppers. They are often served as an aperitif or as a snack with tea.
Here, blogger Shruthi Baskaran coats collard greens, red onion and jalapeÃ±o in a spicy paste with garlic powder, chili powder and turmeric.
âDiwali is usually synonymous with pakoras in my house. Usually my mother would pick a few vegetables (onions, cabbage, peppers) and make a dough with chickpea flour and fry them, âsays Baskaran, who runs the Urban Farmie food blog. âThe great thing about pakoras is that they are already vegan (and gluten-free!), Super quick to prepare, and a good snack to enjoy with the family (with a dozen other snacks and sweets, of course!). “
Get the recipe here.
The use of paan, a preparation of betel leaves combined with garnishes, dates back thousands of years in India as well as Southeast Asia. Paanwalas, or paan makers, sell paan in street carts, combined with toppings such as areca nut, candied fruit, cardamom, raisins, and toasted coconut. But in this festival-ready recipe, blogger Srividhya Manikandan incorporates the flavors of the iconic dessert into a vegan vanilla sponge cake.
âPaan is very popular in India and we make it with paan leaves – betel leaves – with various garnishes. And this filling differs region by region. We usually serve paan after meals to refresh the mouth, âsays Manikandan, the blogger behind Vidhya’s Home Cooking.
âI love paan so much and wanted to incorporate the flavor into desserts. The first recipe that came to my mind was cake, âshe says. “Enjoy this Diwali with a delicious vegan fusion cake infused with the flavors of paan!” This chewy and spongy cake is so tasty and definitely a crowd pleaser.
Get the recipe here.
Known as chivda or poha chivda, this popular tea time snack is packed with spices and textures. The mixture begins with a base of poha (flattened rice) and can include mixtures such as fried lentils, nuts, seeds, fried onions, puffed rice, and curry leaves.
âMy poha chivda recipe has savory, salty and sweet flavors and is made with flattened rice flakes, dried fruits, peanuts, spices and seasonings. This popular snack is prepared in many homes during Diwali, especially in the Indian state of Maharashtra, âsays Dassana Amit, blogger at Dassana’s Veg Recipes.
She adds, âI like making this snack for Diwali because it is easy and can be personalized as you like. You can make a healthy version by simply roasting or broiling the rice flakes and nuts, or you can make a rich fried version by frying the rice flakes and nuts. You can also make it sweeter or spicier.
Get the recipe here.
These bite-sized treats are the ultimate Diwali mithai – the Hindu word for a candy made from flour, milk, sugar and nuts flavored with rosewater, saffron and cardamom. Gulab jamun are like balls of donuts dipped in syrup flavored with cardamom. Traditionally, they include mawa (powdered milk), but in this recipe, blogger and cookbook author Richa Hingle uses ground pistachios and almonds instead. They can be made in an aebleskiver pan, a Danish cast iron skillet used for making pastries, or you can fry them until golden brown.
âGulab jamuns, hot, melt-in-your-mouth sweet donuts that you’ll crave even after it’s all gone, are the perfect Diwali dessert,â Hingle explains. âThe cooler weather around the festival calls for warm, rich and sweet cravings, which is exactly what these jamuns satisfy. Often served between meals or after a spicy dinner, gulab jamuns can be served as is or with rabri to make them more decadent.
Get the recipe here.