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The tale of Janmashtami – Traditions and Foods

Krishna Janmashtami is the birth celebration of Lord Krishna which falls on the eighth day of Krishna Paksha part of the month. The festivities in Mathura and Vrindavan, the towns in which Krishna spent much of his younger days, involve aarti, puja, bhajans and dances. Nightlong mantras from the temples sound heavenly on Janmashtami. Though the grandest celebration takes places in the Dwarkadhish Temple in Gujarat, each Hindu household looks like an abode of God on this auspicious day as it is decorated and illuminated to welcome Bal-Krishna at midnight. Janmashtami is one of the largest celebrated Indian festivals with 100s of millions taking part in the festivities across the world. 

Each region in our vast country has a few peculiar ways in defining this auspicious festival. In North India, the day reverberates with chants and community games. Maharashtra is famous for Dahi Handi, where a human pyramid is made to reach and break the earthen pot full of buttermilk and cream, the favourite foods of Krishna. In Gujarat, the festivities start a month before with people gathering to play ‘teen patti,’ a card game of flash and fold played with three cards. Hotels are booked and friends invited to home and farmhouses just to play this game in full fervour. They end on the day of Janmashtami when more devotional activities take over with bhajans and food offerings to the Lord. Each household has an idol of Bal-Krishna adorning ‘pitambar’ – yellow-coloured clothes and flower jewellery, perched on a colourfully decorated swing surrounded by miniature games. Flower garlands are made by the women and children of the house during the day, mostly with Krishna’s favourite flower – Mogra. Most Hindus fast through the day and at midnight the joy breaks loose. Enthusiastic chants of “Nand Gher Anand Bhayo, Jay Kanaiya Lal Ki” are heard through the streets and temples with ‘Chappan Bhog’ offered to Bal-Krishna.

In South India, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala celebrate the festival with its own traditions. The decor includes vibrant rangoli designs drawn with hand in front of god and the entrance of the house. In Tamil Nadu, these designs are called ‘Kolam’ and are made with plain/coloured rice powder. Games like climbing an oiled pole which is tied with a pot of money on top are played during this festival. Boys of different ages dress up as Lord Krishna and climb the poles to retrieve the money while people splash water on them. In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, this festival is popular as Gokulashtami. Here, a miniature silver idol of baby Krishna is placed in a silver swing decorated in various flowers and is worshipped by performing aarti, singing various devaranama (songs praising the gods) and offering Krishna’s beloved foods. Various sweet and savouries are prepared using poha also called as avalakki as the main ingredient. Snacks like chakli, benne muruku, ladoos made with various ingredients and many other sweets and fried snacks are prepared. Small footprints using rangoli are drawn from the entrance of the home to the pooja room to welcome Golkula. While many perform strict fasting rituals, few perform phalahara by eating just fruits and break their fast after the midnight pooja. By the end of the day, before breaking the fast, few devotees chant Srimad Bhagavad Gita. 

Midnight is the time to feast once again with 56 different savouries and sweets prepared as offerings to the Lord.

Recipes from the North

Moraiyo – Barnyard millet Khichdi

Preparation time: 15 minutes Serves: 3


Moraiyo (Sama/Barnyard Millet): 200gm

Potato: 1 small, grated

Oil: 2 tbsp

Jeera: 1 tsp

Cinnamon: 1 inch

Cloves: 3 pcs

Green chilli: 2

Ginger: ½ inch

Groundnuts: 1 tbsp crushed

Water: 3 glasses

Curd: 3 tbsp

Salt/Sendha namak to taste

How to make:

Step 1: Mix water with moraiyo and grated potato and keep aside.

Step 1: For ‘tadka’ heat the oil and add jeera, cinnamon and cloves.

Step 2: When the jeera turns slightly brown and leaves an aroma, add the chopped green chillies, grated ginger and crushed groundnuts.

Step 3: When the groundnuts roast slightly, add it to the moraiyo kept aside and start cooking it.

Step 5: Add curd and keep stirring on slow flame till the water evaporates.

Your piping-hot moraiyo is ready to be eaten with the next recipe.

Suran-Bataka nu shaak – Vegetable curry

Preparation time: 20 minutes Serves: 4


Potatoes: 2 medium, boiled and diced

Suran (Yam): 200gm, boiled and diced

Oil: 3 tbsp

Jeera: 1 tsp

Green chilli: 2

Ginger: ½ inch

Coriander powder: 1 tsp

Red chilli powder: ½ tsp

Lemon juice: 1 tsp/ or a pinch of citric acid

Groundnuts: 1 tbsp crushed

Water: 1 cup

Sugar: 2 tsp

Salt/ Sendha namak to taste

Coriander leaves: a handful, chopped to garnish

How to make:

Step 1: Boil potatoes and yam, dice and keep them aside.

Step 2: Heat the oil and add jeera.

Step 3: When the jeera turns slightly brown and leaves an aroma, add the chopped  green chillies, grated ginger, coriander powder, red chilli powder and crushed groundnuts.

Step 4: When the groundnuts turn slightly brown, add water to the ‘tadka and let it simmer.

Step 5: Add the diced potatoes and yam along with salt and sugar. Bring the curry to a boil till the oil separates.

Step 5: Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Pair this vrat dish with the Moraiyo.

Bataka no Sheero

Preparation time: 20 minutes Serves: 4


Potato: 500gm, boiled

Ghee: 3 tbsp

Milk: 500 ml

Water: ½ cup

Sugar: ¾ cup

Cardamom: 2-3, powdered

Kesar (Saffron): a few strands

Almonds: 5-6, blanched and slivered

How to make:

Step 1: Mash the boiled potatoes thoroughly and keep aside.

Step 2: Heat up the ghee, preferably in a nonstick pan and add the mashed potatoes to it.

Step 3: As the potatoes fluff up, add the milk and water to it and keep stirring.

Step 4: Once the milk evaporates, add the sugar and cook till the ghee separates.

Step 5: Garnish it with powdered cardamom, kesar and slivered almonds.

Panjiri (Panchajiri) – Prasaad offering after the midnight Puja

Preparation time: 15 minutes Serves: 4


Dried Ginger powder: ½ cup

Roasted Jeera powder: 2 tbsp

Roasted Fennel powder: 2 tbsp

Roasted Dhaniya (Coriander) powder: 2 tbsp

Black pepper powder: 2 tbsp

Ghee: 2 tbsp

Crystal sugar (Misri): 2 cups, powdered

Tulsi leaves: to garnish

How to make:

Step 1: Mix all the powders except the crystal sugar and sieve it well.

Step 2: Heat the ghee and saute all the powders in it for five minutes.

Step 3: Once it is off the flame, add the powdered sugar to it and mix thoroughly.

Step 4: Garnish it with tulsi leaves.

Panjiri is served in its powdered form as prasaad after the Janmashtami midnight puja, but if you wish to make small ladoos out of this, then add a little more ghee to it to make it malleable.

Recipes from the South

Huli Avalakki / Gojjavalakki – Tamarind poha

Preparation time: 30 minutes Serves: 4


For soaking poha

Thick poha: 4 cups (ground course)

Tamarind paste or juice concentrate – 2 to 3 tsp

Jaggery (powdered) – 5 tsp

Rasam powder – 3 tsp (for spiciness, you can add 4 tsp)

Turmeric powder – ½ tsp

Masala Powder (Roast and grind)

Jeera – ½ tsp

Methi – ½ tsp

White Til – 4 tsp

For tempering 

Cooking oil – 1 tbsp

Groundnut – A handful

Curry leaves – 6 to 7 leaves

Dry red chilli – 2 to 3 chillies

Mustard seeds – ½ tsp

Urad dal – ½ tsp

Chana dal – ½ tsp

Salt to taste

Dry coconut (grated) – ½ cup

How to make:

Step 1: Take 2 cups of water and add tamarind juice or paste, jaggery powder, rasam powder, turmeric and salt to taste. Mix well and keep aside. 

Step 2: Grind the poha till it is coarse and soak it in the masala water for 10-15 minutes. (Use the masala water as required to avoid making the poha soggy.)

Step 3: Take a pan and heat it in low flame. Add oil and let it heat.

Step 4: Firstly add groundnut, mustard seeds, then urad dal and chana dal till they turn colour and make a popping sound.

Step 5: Add red chilli, curry leaves and hing, stir. Continue keeping the pan in a low flame.

Step 6: Add the soaked poha mixture into the pan. While adding the mixture, squeeze and remove excess water and sprinkle so they break apart and not form lumps.

Step 7: Now add the masala powder and dry coconut and mix them well.

Step 8: Stir till the poha turns hot and turn the stove off.

Serve hot with sprinkled dry coconut or you can also serve it with a bowl of curd on the side. You can grind the poha as per your preference. You can grind it to keep it coarse or completely smooth.

Mosaru Oggarane Avalakki – Curd Poha

Preparation time: 30 minutes Serves: 4


Thick Poha – 4 cups

Curd – 4 cups

Cashew – A handful

Salt to taste

For tempering 

Cooking oil – 1 tbsp

Cashew – A handful

Curry leaves – 6 to 7 leaves

Dry red chilli – 2 to 3 chillies

Mustard seeds – ½ tsp

Urad dal – ½ tsp

How to make:

Step 1: Soak the poha in water for 5 minutes and then squeeze out the excess water.

Step 2: In a large vessel, add 4 cups of gently whisked curd and add the poha into it. Mix it well and keep it aside. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before adding the tempering.

Step 3: Take a small pan and let it heat on a low flame. Then add oil to it.

Step 4: Once the oil heats, add mustard seeds, urad dal and chana dal. Stir them till they turn colour and make a popping sound. 

Step 5: Break the red chilli and add it into the pan with curry leaves. Stir them 5 seconds and turn off the stove.

Step 6: Add the tempering and salt to taste into the curd poha and mix it well.

You can roast cashew and add it to the curd poha to add some crunch. You can also add dry raisins or pomegranate seeds to bring a bite of sweetness. If you want to make it spicy, you can crush fried stuffed chilli and sprinkle it on the curd poha while serving

Ghee Mysore Pak

Preparation time: 20 minutes Serves: 4

This is a famous sweet in Karnataka, known for its soft texture and golden colour. This sweet is known to melt in the mouth with every bite. Mysore Pak is made of ghee, besan and sugar and is easy to prepare. It can be cut in any preferred shape and served. 

Find this recipe here on BigBasket cookbook

Sweet Shankarpoli or Shakkar Pare

Preparation time: 40 minutes Serves: 15

Shankarpoli is a crispy and mildly sweet snack which is prepared in the form of a small diamond. They are also prepared as a savoury dish. This fried snack is a quick and simple recipe and is delicious to munch on. It is prepared in various parts of southern India during festivals.

Find this recipe here on BigBasket cookbook.


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3 comments on “The tale of Janmashtami – Traditions and Foods

  1. Wow….love the recipes from different regions

  2. Deepa Patel

    OMG, I am super excited with this article! My whole family fasts on Janmashtami and this time i am going to use this recipes for the special fasting food. Payal you are doing a great job by writing such wonderful articles. Please keep it up. Am a huge fan of your recipes. Love trying them!!!

  3. Priti Sharma

    All Recipes are good nd looking yummy. Shall try each nd evry recipe. Tku BB.

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