Karkidakam, the last month of the Malayalam calendar, has got a number of specialties . The first day of the month falls in mid July, when the south – western monsoon in Kerala reaches its peak. In the past, the main source of income for the people of Kerala was Agriculture, that comes to a standstill with the onset of the heavy rains, and they depended mostly on the food stored during the previous months. It doesn’t mean that people spend those thirty days idly, but were engaged in some other activities, to rejuvenate them physically and spiritually, which is actually a recharging process that makes them active during the succeeding eleven months. Still, in this busy world, we try to follow such activities and rituals to a certain extend, as a part of our culture.
Karkidakam is also known as the Month of Ramayana. Ramayana, one of the great Indian epics, written by Sage Valmiki, that narrates the story of Sri. Rama, who is the seventh incarnation of Lord Mahavishnu. Though the great book is written in the form of a story, (supposed to be written about five thousand years ago), it can be followed as a guide for leading a blissful life by each one of us, even in this modern world. It is considered auspicious to recite the Ramayana in the month of Karkidakam, which starts on the very first day, for which preparations are to be made on the previous day itself, by cleaning the house and premises. The recital starts on the first day evening, in front of the lighted holy lamp. The book contains seven Chapters (called Kandas), and for convenience, the whole content of the book can be divided into thirty parts, for reciting each part a day, thereby completing it on the last day of the month. During this time the whole family adhere to a purely vegetarian and easy to digest (Satvik) food, and the scientific fact behind it is clearly understood. Medicated hot oil massage, followed by a bath in warm water (the sukhachikitsa) is a routine during this time. Ayurvedic hospitals and resorts are now offering the sukhachikitsa during the month of Karkidakam as a package of seven, fourteen or twenty one days.
With the onset of monsoon, a number of greens begin to sprout all around, which are the main sources of nutrition during the month of Karkidakam. A special porridge, prepared with broken rice, and a variety of herbs and coconut milk added to it known as Karkidaka kanji, with side dishes made of leafy vegetables, is the main menu during these days.
Shown in the pic below is one of the most common herbs found in this region during rainy season, known as Thazhuthama in Malayalam and Punarnava in Sanskrit (Botanical name: Boerhaavia diffusa). The meaning of the Sanskrit word Punarnava is ‘the one which is capable to rejuvenate or rebuild’. It is highly nutritious and hence widely used as a vegetable for making variety dishes. In Ayurveda, every part of the plant is used for making medicines for the treatment of various diseases.-
Try this simple and healthy Thazhuthama recipe. ( thoran )
Preparation and cooking time. 30 Minutes
- Green gram dal. 1 Cup
- Chopped Thzhuthama leaves. 3 Cups
- Grated coconut. 1 Cup
- Green chilly. 1
- Garlic 2 Pods
- Turmeric powder ¼ Teaspoon
- Cumin seeds . ¼ Teaspoon
- Salt As needed
- Water As needed
- For seasoning:
- Cooking oil. 2 Tablespoons
- Mustard seeds. ½ Teaspoon
- Curry leaves. 2 Stalks
How to prepare:
Half cook the green gram dal in water, drain the excess water and keep aside. Grind coarsely the grated coconut, green chilly, garlic, turmeric, and cumin seeds without water. Sauté the chopped Thazhuthama leaves in one tablespoon oil, add the ground coconut mixture, salt, half cooked green gram dal and a little water. Keep on a low flame, covering the pan with a lid. After five to ten minutes, remove the lid and mix all the ingredients well with a spoon till it becomes a little dry. Season with mustard seeds and curry leaves in the remaining oil and add it to the thoran. You can have it with hot kanji, and lemon pickle.
The stories of Karkidakam are not ending. Karkidaka vavu (paying tribute to the departed souls, on the new moon day) Pillaronam (Onam for children, which is actually a curtain raiser to the most important festival of Kerala, ‘Thiru Onam’ that falls in Chingam, the first month in Malayalam calendar ) and a lot more, that I will try to share with you later.