DASARA, KOLU, & PAAL PAYASAM
Married women (Suvasinis) and young girls (Baalaas) are considered as the Goddess personified. They are invited and honoured with taamboolaas (Betel leaves, areca nuts, kumkum and turmeric powder, coconuts and flowers) as a mark of reverence. They are even treated to a grand feast at least on one day, if not on all the ten days.
Every day a special dish is offered to the deity during the pooja. Sakkarai Pongal, Ven Pongal, Curd rice, Tamarind Rice, and different types of payasams are prepared for the purpose. Sundal is prepared and offered in the evenings and it is distributed to the visitors who come to view the kolu.
Here is the recipe for Paal Payasam which I learnt from my athai (aunt) - who used to celebrate Navaratri with great religious fervour.
Paal Payasam is a rice and milk based porridge like sweet, cooked a in heavy bottomed bronze vessel called Urli (see picture below). Rice is cooked in milk on slow fire for a long time until it reaches the creamy and right consistency.
We can achieve more or less the same result by using a pressure cooker which is less time consuming and demanding less attention.
Rice – ½ cup
Sugar – ¾ cup
Cardamom – 4
Saffron – a few strands
Almonds – 8
1. Soak saffron in a tablesppon of warm milk and keep it aside.
2. Soak almonds in warm water, peel and coarsely crush and keep aside.
3. Dry roast rice until it acquires a reddish colour.
4. Wash the roasted rice and add the milk and pressure cook until three whistles.
5. Leave it on low flame for five more minutes and turn off the flame.
6. When the pressure subsides, open the cooker and add sugar.
7. Cook without the lid until the sugar blends with the payasam.
8. Add saffron, powdered cardamom and crushed almonds.
Enjoy the creamy and rich Paal Payasam after offering it to the deity.