Halshashthi-Kamarchhath-Vrat Food!

Monsoon season in Chhattisgarh is starting of a long series of festivals, fasts and celebrations starting from Hareli. Each auspicious date has some or the other importance and is celebrated through various rituals, folklore and food. Kamarchhath (also called kamarchhat or Khamarchhath) or halshashthi pooja is one such fast that is observed by most married women in Chhattisgarh. It is also observed through out India. However, what sets it apart in Chhattisgarh is the food that is eaten here on this particular day. I have quite a fond memories of celebrating this day every year and waiting eagerly for the food that is served afterwards. Simple, satisfying soul-food!

This fast is mainly observed for the protection of children – both born and unborn – and for fertility and conception of healthy children. Mothers observe fast and prepare special food for this day.

Let’s now concentrate on the food and get to know the rules that are followed while preparing the food for kamarchhat pooja –

  1. All the food that is eaten on this day is from a non-agricultural land or so to say where the land has not been plowed. So most of the produce cooked on this day comes either from the wild or from the family garden that has not been plowed. In Chhattisgarh, most houses in the villages have special gardens that are not plowed and greens are grown there to be used during this special day!
  2. All the dairy that is used must not come from the cow or so to say that all the milk, ghee, curd or buttermilk used on this day is from the buffaloes.
  3. Only rock salt to be used in food.

So, now the question is so what all is prepared on this day and how. So here is everything that was prepared this Kamarchhat.

Red wild rice or pas-har chawal

The most important part of the food is the rice. That is the only grain eaten on this day and can be purchased from the local market. It is sold by local farmers who collect it from the wild un-plowed land. This rice is mostly red in color and is very flavorful.

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It is cleaned and washed before cooking and requires more water as well as more time to cook than the usual rice. It is cooked in water without salt and is mostly cooked in an open container rather than in a pressure cooker.

Once it becomes fluffy and is fully cooked, the excess water is removed.

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Greens and more greens

All typed of greens are cooked on this day. I have tasted more than twenty types of greens in my hometown and I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t. All types of greens are allowed on this day and the rule remains that the land that they are grown in should not be plowed.

To name a few the most popular greens used are bathua, chech, chowlai, drum stick leaves, kusum, khedha and karmatta bhaaji, etc.

The greens are thoroughly washed before cooking.

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Picture Courtesy: Priya Diwan

They are mostly boiled and then fried with green chilies in buffalo ghee without any other spices. The only other addition is the rock salt.

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Picture Courtesy: Priya Diwan

In most houses at least six types of greens are used to prepare one saag.

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Picture Courtesy: Priya Diwan

Apart from greens, sometimes we get to lay our hands on some jari or kheda which is also cooked with some buttermilk and ghee.

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Picture Courtesy: Priya Diwan

Finally, the rice is eaten with the pas-har chawal, saag bhaji, rock salt, ghee, buttermilk and curd complete with green chilies.

There is no specific recipe for these dishes. The procedure and taste depends on what ingredients are procured and how they are utilized to prepare one satisfying meal! 🙂

 

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