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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pillayar Nonbu - Part 2 - The Origin Of Pillayar Nonbu

The Origin Of Pillayar Nonbu

Traditionally we Nagarathars belong to the Saivite branch of Hinduism. Our clan temples are all Saiva temples.

Fifteen centuries ago our Nagarathars lived in Kaviri Poom Pattinam and worshipped a Maragatha Vinayagar (Emerald Vinayagar). That particular Maragatha Vinayagar is not with us anymore and it is believed that it is with a branch of Nagarathars who left the main stream Nagarathars and settled down in the Nagercoil area.

A Nagarathar gentleman of Kaviri Poom Pattinam took a second wife after the death of his first wife who left him a with a daughter. In due course of time the second wife was blessed with a son and daughter of her own and then she started ill-treating her step-daughter.

When the second wife's son came of age they decided to conduct a Karthigai Puthumai ceremony for him.  A Karthigai Pudumai ceremony is like an initiation ceremony for boys in the month of Karthigai.  A similar function for girls called Thiruvathirai is conducted in the month of Markazhi.  On the morning of the Karthigai Pudhumai celebrations the second wife was busy making arrangements for the ceremony.  When she was working with her hands, she felt it would be better to remove the costly diamond ring that she was wearing on one of the fingers.  She removed and left it nearby.  But when she finished and looked for the ring it was missing.  At once she concluded that her step-daughter must be the culprit and started accusing the poor girl in front of all the relatives and guests.  Despite the repeated denials by the girl, everyone taking part in the function started accusing the poor girl. Even her father did not do anything to defend her.

Unable to stand the insults and accusations, the poor girl went without telling anyone to the Margatha Vinayagar Temple in the centre of the town and prostrated before the Maragada Vinayagar and pleaded thus with all her heart and soul - "Oh Margatha Vinayagar, I neither saw nor touched the Diamond ring belonging to my step-mother. But she refuses to believe my words. No one including my own father has raised a finger to defend me.  You know I am innocent.  If you are truly the supreme deity which our Nagarathars worship with such devotion, prove my innocence to all".

The chief priest of the temple was very moved  by the devotion and faith of the distressed girl and assured her that Maragatha Vinayagar will certainly prove her innocence.  He also tried to persuade her to go back home.  But she said in reply "I will not leave this temple until I am proved not guilty. I will neither eat nor sleep until my innocence is established".  Thus saying she began a long period of penance and fasting in the temple, putting all her faith in the Lord Maragatha Vinayagar.  On the first night of her fasting Lord Maragatha Vinayagar appeared in her dreams and bade her thus - "I am very much moved by your devotion and faith.  Commencing from today you must observe a period of fasting and meditation for a period of 21 days.  During this period you must eat but only one meal a day and pray to me wholeheartedly.  On the 21st day your innocence will be established".

The girl started her prayer and fasting at once but did not reveal to anyone about Maragatha Vinayagar appearing in her dream.  Each day of her fasting she took out a thread from her sari, made it into a thread and planted it into dough made with rice flour, jaggery and ghee (maavilakku in Tamil)  and then lighted the thread in front of Lord Maragatha Vinayagar and offered her prayers with great devotion.  Twenty days passed but there was no sign of the lost ring being found.  On the morning of the 21st day she made a vow to Lord Maragatha Vinayagar thus "If by the end of this 21st day the lost ring is not discovered I will surely end my life rather than lead a life of disgrace". 

Nagarathars who came to the evening prayer noticed with astonishment a long line of ants emanating from the 21 lighted doughs (maavilakku) used as offerings by the girl to Lord Maragatha Vinayagar.  Everyone became curious and followed the long line of ents starting from the 21 maavilakku to see where it ended.  The long line passed through the temple and streets and finally ended in an ant hole in the girl's house.  When they looked into the ant hole they noticed something bright inside.  When they dug into the hole they were surprised to find the lost diamond ring.  Only then the girl's step-mother remembered that she removed the Diamond ring from her hand and placed it on a stone step near the ant hole to prevent it from being soiled.  It was not so difficult to guess what had happened after that.  The ring had slipped from the stone and had fallen into the ant hole.  The girl's stepmother and father felt very sorry for unjustly accusing the girl.

When the ring was found everyone was overjoyed.  All the Nagarathars assembled in the Maragatha Vinayagar Temple and offered a prayer of thanks to the Lord Maragatha Vinayagar for establishing the innocence of the girl.  They praised Lord Maragatha Vinayagar as the redeemer of lost things.  To commemorate the above touching episode in the Nagarathar Community they decided to celebrate it every year and appropriately named it "Pillayar Nonbu".

Note : The above is a brief history of how Pillayar Nonbu originated.  There is no written record about this festival.  The story has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.

Information Source :

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tangy Manathakkali Kuzhambu

Manathakkali is called "Black Nightshade" in English. It  has a great lot of medicinal value. Both its leaf and its fruit in the raw and dried form is used in cooking. It is very effective in curing stomach ulcers. We get it very easily in Tamil Nadu. 

IIndia, the berries are casually grown and eaten; but not cultivated for commercial use. The berries are referred to as "fragrant tomato," or மணத்தக்காளி - manathakkaali in Tamil, 'ganike gida' in Kannada, Kamanchi in Sanskrit and Telugu, and makoi in Hindi. Although not very popular across much of its growing region, the fruit and dish are common in Northern Tamil Nadu, Southern Andhra and Southern Karnataka. In North India, the boiled extracts of leaves and berries are also used to alleviate the patient's discomfort in liver-related ailments, including jaundice(Source - Wikipedia)

Manathakali has a distinct flavour. Since we don't get its fresh seeds here in Gujarat,  I keep a stock of it in the dried form i.e. in the vathal form. This Manathakkali Kuzhambu has a tangy taste with the goodness of the seed.


Onions (peeled and chopped) - 1/2 cup
Manathakali Vathal - 1 handfull (fried in little oil)
Medium Tomato - 2 (optional)
Tamarind - 1 lemon sized (soaked in water)
Sambar Powder - 2 to 3 heaped tb.sp
Salt - to taste
Curry Leaves - few (optional)
Black Mustard Seeds - 1 t.sp
Black Gram Dal (Urad Dal) - 1 t.sp
Fenugreek Seeds - 1/2 t.sp
Asafoetida - 1/2 t.sp
Oil - 3 to 4 tb.sp


Heat oil in a Kadai. Add Mustard seeds to the hot oil and let it splutter. Then add Black Gram Dal, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. Add curry leaves, after about 5 seconds add the onions and saute till it becomes translucent. Then add the tomatoes and saute till it gets cooked. Add the tamarind extract, sambar powder, salt, fried Manathakkali vathal and let it boil till the raw smell is gone. 

If you are using Manathakkali vathal then have a check on the salt you are adding since it already contains salt.

If you don't have sambar powder then use 1to 1 1/2  t.sp red chilli powder and 3 to 4 t.sp of coriander powder.

Serve hot with hot and steaming Rice.

I have served it here with Rice and Crispy Raw Banana (Ennai Vazhakkai)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crispy Raw Bananas (Ennai Vazhakkai)

It is raining cats and dogs here in Vadodara for the last 3 to 4 days. Very nice climate for the otherwise hot Vadodara. The city has become comparatively very cool and is very pleasant. So thought of making something hot, spicy and crispy for lunch today to compliment this pleasing weather. Decided to make Hot and Spicy Vathal Kuzhambu, Crispy Raw Bananas ( we call it Ennai Vazhakkai) and Steaming Hot Rice.

Thinking of Raw Bananas, I remember an incident which happened in the early days of our marriage. My HD is a very picky eater in those days. He used to like only Rasam, Potatoes and Podi otherwise nothing else. We and some of our other friends had been invited for dinner by one of  our friends.  And they had prepared Chettinad Special dishes for us. Some of the dishes were Idiyyappam, Kosmalli, Rice, Crispy Raw Bananas etc. And these are those dishes which he used to hate in those days. Out of compulsion he had to eat there and was praising them for nice virundhu (feast). With great difficulty I had compressed my laughter in their house. Back at home, I burst into great laughter and was teasing him. At last I had to prepare a special dinner for him.

So coming back to the topic, so today I am presenting here

Crispy Raw Bananas (Ennai Vazhakkai)


Raw Bananas - 4 to 5
Ginger Garlic Paste - 1 tb.sp
Turmeric Powder - 2 t.sp
Red Chilli  - 1 t.sp / Sambhar Powder - 1 to 1 1/2 tb.sp
Salt to taste


Peel the Bananas and cut them in thin circles. Put them in a bowl, add all the ingredients except oil and marinate for about half an hour to one hour. Heat a kadai (I prefer Non-stick, since the amount of oil used is considerably less). Pour some oil. Once the oil is hot put the marinated Bananas in it and keep turning them for some time, keeping the gas on medium flame. Do it carefully so that you do not break the bananas. After sometime you can leave it open on a sim flame till it turns crispy turning it in between after 5 minutes. It will take about 20 minutes to half an hour.

I transfer them to a preheated oven once they are about half done. This also reduces the oil used to an extent. So this was simple and easy isn't it.

Next Comes Manathakkali Vathal Kuzhambu.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pillayar Nonbu - Part 1

Pillayar Nonbu is a very unique and important festival for the people of Chettinadu i.e. Naattukottai Nagarathars. On this day Lord Vinayagar/Ganpati is worshiped by observing a fast. It is celebrated once in a year in December, on the 21st day after Thiru Karthikai or Periya Karthikai as the way we call it. The Nonbu / fasting which is for 21 days begins on the Thiru Karthigai day. On these days, only one meal (palagaram) a day is taken. 

I hope to write about this function elaborately and in parts, since it is a very important function as far as Nagarathars are concerned and the upcoming children don't seem to have the exact direction of how and why the function is to be done. Hope these posts will be helpful to everyone. So today, in this post I am starting with the Organizing of the function.

Organizing Pillayar Nonbu.  

The 21st day, the last day of the nonbu, is the day when Sashti converges with Sathaya Nakshatram.  It is a day of total fasting and the regular meal recommences after the final prayer has been offered to Pillayar.  During the 21 days a thread from a new Veshti/Dhothi is drawn and kept before the God. On the 21st day all these 21 threads are collected and twisted together to make the wicks needed for the function.

On the day of the Nonbu a special pillayar is placed on the Nadu Veetu Kolam (a special kolam which is put only for auspicious occasions) in the pooja room together with a bunch of auspicious flowers (avvarampoo), tied around a small stick. The pillayar is beautifully decorated with flowers and garlands. The prasadams are placed before the God.

The very important prasadam on this day is Karupatti Paniyaram, which is a paniyaram made using rice, jaggery and karupatti. This dough is also used make small pyramid shaped pillayars with a small wick, consisting of 21 threads, dipped in ghee is kept in centre of the pyramid. This is called Elai. Then comes  Vellai Paniyaram made using raw rice, Ulundu vadai, Thirattupaal made using milk. The other offerings are puffed gingerly seeds, puffed rice, puffed maize, puffed millet, Kadalai(peanuts) urundai, Ellu Urundai, fruits, beetle nut leaves, paaku, etc.  

Then the eldest couple make a house using strands of threads dipped in kolamaavu, on the walls of the swami room or where the pillayar is placed. This is called "Thumbu Pidithal".  

After all the preparations for the function is over, the ceremony/function is started with the blowing of the sacred conch shell/sangu. The eldest person in the function lights the Elai Lamp i.e. the small pyramid shaped maavu with the wick in the centre. The first one he takes in the name of the God. Then the next one he takes for himself. And then gives one Elai for each those present in the function. It is the custom of the recipients to worship Pillayar, then receive the Elai and swallow it whole which symbolises that the Holy Spirit will become part of the devotee. An expectant mother receives two Elais. The number of Elai should be in odd numbers. Supposing you are 4 members in the family, then the no.of Elai should be 5. If you are 2 or 3 still the number of Elai should be 5. 

After the Elai distribution is over, the prasadam distribution is done to the people present in the function. That is the food items which had been placed before the Pillayar during the Poojai. 

So this is the way Pillayar Nonbu is celebrated by the Nagarathars of Chettinadu. 
To summarise the function.
1) Preparation of the prasadam, mainly Karupatti Paniyaram and Elai Maavu.
2) Nadu Veetu Kolam (Click on the link for the Kolam)
3) Thumbu Pidithal
4) Distribution of Elai by the eldest male member in the group.

Information Source :

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chettinadu Kolam For Pongal & Marriages

Here I am putting up some Kolams, which are used in some special occasions in Chettinadu. These kolams are called Nadu Veetu Kolams. We put it for Pongal, Pillayar Nonbu, Marriages, House Warming Ceremonies etc. These kolams carry a special importance in all our functions. It brings out the artistic creations in each girl. The kolams here in the photos have been put up by my sister, Kanthi Akka, in Madurai. And the photos have been taken by my Niece.

Pongal Kolam

Nadu Veetu Kolam

Pongal Kolam 

Pongal Kolam 

Here are some kolam by my maami Mrs. Mani Megalai. 

 Nadu Veetu Kolam

Pongal Kolam 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palada Payasam

A very happy New Year to all the Tamilians and Keralites. For this tamil new year I wanted to try something different than the usual things I make. So this new years special was "Palada Payasam", a Keralite special. After I had a chat with my friends over the phone I got a Recipe for it. Came out very excellent.

Palada Payasam

Ready made Palada - 1 1/2 cup
Milk - 2 lt
Sugar - 4  cups
Cardamom Powder - 1/2 t.sp
Broken Cashew - 1 tb.sp
Ghee - 1 tb.sp


Wash the Palada in water and soak it in hot water for about 10 minutes. Rinse it in cold water again. Cook the milk and Palada in a pressure cooker. Put the cooker in sim after the 1st whistle and wait for about 10 to 15 minutes. Switch of the gas later on. Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and put the cooker back on the stove. Now add the sugar, cardamom powder and let it boil. Keep stirring. Let it simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Strew the roasted cashews on top and serve it hot.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Thattai is a traditional South Indian snack. It is an all time favourite one. It is always welcomed and relished by people of all ages. Available in the sweet and snack shops round the year. But still always home-made ones get a thumps up compared to the shop brought ones. It is very difficult to resist our temptation from Thattais.

This recipe is from a blogger friend. When I was searching for a Thattai recipe some years back I came across this recipe. Didn't keep a track of the bloggers name and web address. This recipe is very wonderful and a never let down recipe. The Thattais always come out crisp. It is very simple and easy to make. Doesn't involve any strenuous process.



Raw Rice - 3 cups
Black gram - 1/2 cup
Roasted Bengal Gram dal - 1/2 cup
Bengal gram - a handful
Dry Red Chillies - 15
Shredded Coconut - 2 cups (optional)
Asafoetida Powder - 1 tsp
White Sesame Seeds - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Oil for frying


  1.  Soak the rice for 1 hour, drain the water and grind the rice in a mixie to a fine powder. Sieve it twice.
  2.  Soak Bengal gram in enough water for about 2 hours.
  3.  Roast the black gram in a dry pan to a golden brown colour. When cooled, grind it to a fine powder and sieve it once.
  4. Grind the Roasted Bengal Gram with the red chillies, asafoetida & coconut to a fine paste.
  5. Add the ground paste, powder, ghee, curry leaves and the soaked dal to the rice flour with enough salt & knead to a soft dough.
  6. Take a clean plastic sheet. Grease it with oil. Take a small ball of the dough and place it in the center of the plastic sheet. Place another greased clean plastic sheet.
  7. Flatten the ball placed between the plastic sheets with a rolling pin. Flatten it as thin as possible.
  8. Cut it with a round cookie cutter. 
  9. Make a small batch of it and fry it in the oil. Remove it and place it on a tissue paper.
  10. Allow it to cool for some time. Preserve them in an air-tight box.


Oats is also called as the "Wonder Grain". It is high in fibre. Oats have a rich blend of fibre which slows down digestion. That means your body gets a steady stream of energy as carbohydrates gradually flow into your bloodstream.

A bowl of oats keeps your blood-sugar at a high but safe level for a quite a while. So you feel energetic for a long time before wanting to eat again.

Source : Reader's Digest

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seepu Seedai

Seepu Seedai

Raw Rice Flour - 4 cup
Urad dal Flour - 3/4 cup
Roasted Gram Flour - 3/4 cup
Diluted Coconut Milk - 2 1/2 cup
Ghee - 4 tsp
Salt to taste

Basic Raw Rice Flour
Soak raw rice in water for about 2 to 3 hours. Drain the water from the rice and spread it on a clean white cloth in shade (not in sun). Let it dry for about 1 hr. Grind in a mixer. In South India we have special flour mills in many places to make wet rice flour. But then I mostly grind it in the mixer. Sieve the flour through a fine siever. Dry roast it in a low fire till it the raw smell of the rice is gone and it becomes like "sand", you should be able to draw line with it.

This is the basic rice flour for many snacks. You can prepare this rice flour before hand and keep it stored in an airtight box.

Seepu seedai
1) Mix rice flour, urad dhal flour, & ghee. Take milk from coconut by adding warm water to the same. Take about 2 ½ cups of milk, if it is not sufficient, you can add some boiling water. Boil this milk with salt, add to flour mixture & knead well . The should be soft.

2) Press in the seepu seedai achu into a long strip.
Since I didn't have a here I adopted the old fashioned way of making it with a comb. For this use a new, clean comb. Spread the dough like we do for chapatis, cookies etc in a clean greased plastic sheet. About 2 mm thick not very thin. Press it lightly with the comb, so that the lines of the comb get formed on it.

3) Cut into pieces of even length. Form it in the shape of rings using your finger. Fry for about 10 – 15 in hot oil (but not very hot) till it is done (i.e till the sound of the oil has stopped or is very little). Remove to kitchen tissue, cool & store.

Kalkandu Vadai - Sweet Medhu Vada

Kalkandu Vadai is a very famous Chettinadu vadai. This is a sweet vadai instead of the usual salt vadai. Tastes Great. In my native place whenever we want to do some group pooja or if it is an auspicious day like diwali, thiru karthikai like that then we prepare this kalkandu vadai.
It used to be originally made with kalkandu (Sugar Candy in English & Misri in Hindi) and hence the name Kalkandu Vadai. Nowadays it is replaced with normal sugar.

Kalkandu Vadai

Urad Dal - 3/4 cup
Raw Rice - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Or Kalkandu - 1/4 kg
Oil for frying

Wash & soak the urad dhal – rice mixture. After about 30 minutes, drain the water and spread the mixture on a clean cloth/towel. So that the cloth sucks the water. If using Kalkandu keep it ready in powdered form. 

Grind the dhal as fine as possible, using the sugar or powdered kalkandu. Avoid water as far as possible. 

Take a small ball of the grinded flour in your hand. Place it on a clean wet plastic sheet. Slightly press the flour and make a hole in the centre with your finger. Remove it from the plastic and put it into the oil for frying. Make small vadais (like medhu vada) & deep fry initially on medium & then low fire. The vadais puff up very well, so do not fry more than 3-4 at a time. The oil should not be smoking hot. The vadai tends be little more brown than the usual medhu vada, so don't worry.

The Kalkandu Vadai remains good for about 7 to 10 days.

Vellai Paniyaram

Vellai Paniyaram or Vellai Appam is a very famous chettinadu dish. And a very favorite evening snack. It is basically made from Rice flour. And tastes great. Goes great with Tomato Chutney or Varamillagai Chatni i.e. A Red Hot chutney made from Dry Red Chillies.


Raw Rice - 1 Cup (Flatten it with palm, i.e it should not be more than that cup)
Urad Dal - Heap the cup of Rice with Urad dal on top
Sugar - 1 tsp
Milk - 1 to 1 1/2 tb.sp
Oil - For Deep frying


Clean the rice and dal mixture in water. Soak it for about 2 to 3 hours. Then grind it in a mixer or grinder till you get a very very smooth paste. Add water little by little whenever needed. It should not become very watery. Transfer the grinded flour to a vessel. Add salt and sugar, beat nicely with a ladle. Add milk if needed.  The flour should not be too thick and it should also not be very watery.

Heat oil in a shallow kadai. When the oil is hot enough pour the flour into the oil with the help of a ladle. After a few seconds it should rise up automatically. Turn it to the other side and let it cook for about a minute. Remove it onto a tissue paper. Prepare this one by one. And serve it hot with chutney.

For recipes of
Another Version of Vellai Paniyaram Click Here.
Tomato Chutney Click Here.