March 11, 2012

Sweet Gaura Purnima

March 11, 2012
For a bhakti-yogi, every day is a festival. Celebration is a state of mind. It is an attitude by which we perceive, act and experience reality. A permanent liberation from suffering is a state of consciousness. It is available for everyone, despite the external circumstances. Out of ignorance we are prone to blame others – either persons or situations – for the misfortune that comes our way. Whatever fortune we meet, we take personal credit for. However, happiness and unhappiness are but two sides of the same coin. Like changing seasons, they appear and disappear in the cycle of time. There is a level of existence that is unaffected by such temporary dualities. To inquire about it makes life worthwhile and jubilant.

In the medieval Bengal there were several sages who taught self-realization. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the most prominent. Gaura Purnima is an annual festival dedicated to him. This year it coincided with the International Women’s Day. Mahaprabhu’s message is that we are men or women only by dress. The equality, eternity, knowledge and blissfulness of soul pertain to all species of life, not only human. It is against the nature's law to oppress any living entity. A fact easily forgotten, wouldn’t you agree?

Besides sophisticated culture and philosophy, Bengalis are known for their milk sweets! Particularly those made of chenna cheese. To the pleasure and honour of the Bengali vaishnavas (Vishnu-bhaktas) led by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I cooked down ten litres of organic full-fat milk for misthi doi, sabudana payesh, rasgolla, sandesh and Ganga-Yamuna laddoo. I didn’t have an opportunity to photograph the misthi doi, which is thick, sweet yogurt. I will post the recipe another time. Instead, I will share a cream burfi recipe. It is a modification of the traditional Vrndavan peda. Because the milk and goor (palm sugar) separated from the ghee during the last minutes of boiling, I added a little bit milk powder and fresh cream to it. It turned out wonderful and tasted authentic.

As expected of anything boiled and soaked in syrup, rasgolla is a hyper-sweet dessert. To make it fresher and less intense, I added orange juice and zest to it. The flavours absorbed beautifully.

Fresh flower garlands are tied as a token of devotion towards those loved and admired.
GP-rasgollaGP-mahaprabhu
If you are not a friend of kheer (sweet rice), you might be pleasantly surprised by sabudana payesh. It is lighter but equally soulful.  During the spiritually important days, like Gaura Purnima, Janmashtami and Ekadasi (twice a month), we fast, cook and feast without grains.  Sabudana refers to either tapioca or sago pearls. For payesh tapioca works better.

While stirring and boiling down the milk I entertained myself by the philosophical narration of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta by Krsna Das Kaviraj Gosvami. It is a fascinating portrayal of simple living and high thinking in rural Bengal and Orissa, recorded about five hundred years ago.  
GP-payeshGP-book
Ganga-Yamuna laddoo gets the name from the famous holy rivers of India. It is also known as manohara laddoo. Creamy burfi is wrapped in moist, soft sandesh. I added roasted almonds to the burfi and rolled the laddoos in finely chopped almonds and raw sugar-powder.

Every prominent occasion begins with an auspicious sound of a sacred conch, shankha.
GP-laddooGP-sankha
Waking up before sunrise, bathing and quietly meditating on a rosary, japa-mala, pacifies the consciousness. With a content and clear mind it is a pleasure to cook cream and milk sweets for hours. 
GP-burfiGP-japa
The fragrance of natural Radha-Madhava incense made by the monks of Mayapur purifies our home.
GP-dhupaGP-recipe
Thank you for participating in the festive mood!

36 comments:

  1. Dreamlike post, as always!

    Have a great day.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Manohara ladoos are a treat for any sweet lover..get it in many temples in Udaipur and Nathadwara, Rajasthan. Waking up before sunrise and following the routine you mentioned is a dream I wish I can fulfill once out of my Grahasth ashram. Lovely pictures, Lakshmi.

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  3. Beautiful post again! I love your photos!

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  4. I had never heard of vrindavan laddus. The addition of Orange juice is also new. This is indeed a great post lakshmi :)

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  5. Beautifully written post - your spirituality is very inspiring. And gorgeous photos as always. I can always count on your posts to bring peace and calm to my day.

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  6. A stunning post as always Lakshmi! Absolutely beautiful!

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  7. i wish i had faith like you.

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  8. Everything looks so divine! Beautiful post Lakshmi...

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  9. "Celebration is a state of mind" - words of wisdom, truly.
    I try my best to be positive at certain circumstances & remind myself of the quote "anywhere is paradise; it's up to you".
    I have immense faith in God, but I don't burn incense sticks, offer flowers, or light up diya, chant verses, or perform any prayers like my mom does regularly; not sure if I'm still a favorite of God ... or not :D
    It was really nice to see all these pictures and the sweets you made, Lakshmi. Amazed at your devotion. God bless you :)

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  10. Beautiful beautiful post, as always :-)Love Bengali sweets, any desi sweets for that matter. But as you said Bengali milk sweets are the most popular ones :-)

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  11. i cant find one flaw with your pictures Lakshmi! What beautiful pictures. I just posted mishti doi on my blog but made it with dulce de leche and if i may say so myself it turned out very well! I have many copper utensils like yours but with the steel inside they are so reflective, you on the other hand tackled it so well.

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  12. Your photos are simply impeccable Lakshmi, adore your minimalist styling. I've been going crazy pinning your photos :) Really tempted by your rasgolla and peda recipes, hope to make it soon!

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  13. Just two words to discribe this post: LOVE and DEVOTION. Wish to spend this Gaura Purnima in your small apartment cooking down the milk and debate philosophy with you.

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  14. Inspiration comes to me in more ways than one.....

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  15. What a beautiful post and such lovely photos!

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  16. It's simply DIVINE! Your narration, the photos, and the recipes makes this place truly wonderful and serene...

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  17. Mmmm, the incense's perfumes have invaded my home office, and your post and pictures are nurturing my soul as well as my senses. Thank you.

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  18. The whole post has had this effect on me. I feel the calm and peace you try to talk about in your post. I absolutely feel it Lakshmi.

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  19. Lakshmi this is such a pure and gorgeous post.
    I feel so calm and peaceful... Beautiful!!!!
    Celebration is a state of mind.... Very well said. I will remind this to myself very moment now....

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  20. Hi Laksmi, your sweet look so special....and spiritual, thank you for sharing recepies and thoughts.
    Can you please share where you got those stamps to decorate the laddhus, are thryu easy to find?
    Thank you again

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  21. Thank you!

    Anonymous - The stamps or moulds are from Loi Bazaar in Vrndavan, India. I've not seen them sold elsewhere, although I'm pretty sure they are from Bengal. I believe they are for sandesh, fresh cheese sweets.

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  22. I went back home and to Mayapur too with this post. You have done so much! I am not too fond of any sweets, but do enjoy them in little bites. I am going to add orange zest to my roshogolla next time for sure. It is going to make it so much easier for me to love them ;)

    The sandesh moulds are def. found in Bengal, but only in certain places. I found them in the Dakhineswar temple site this time.. of dark stones.

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  23. Amazing post -- it touches the soul in the purest way possible. And the menu, absolutely mouth-watering!

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  24. This post reminds me of home,.beautiful post :) made me nostalgic,will try Ganga jamuna ladoo,.sometime tapioca.kheer is my fav,,.,and the rasgullas look delish can imagine the flavour in orange zest

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  25. Thanks for adding gratitude, patience and gentle awareness into my day. Lovely thoughts and recipe. I practice yoga and am forever grateful to the abundance it has added to my life. Namaste.

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  26. Laskhmi,
    You have such a beautiful blog with insightful write ups and stunning photography. I will be spending some time exploring more of it!

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  27. Namaste Lakshmi, I am new to your blog. I loved reading about Guru Purnima. I am a Bengali Hindu and was brought up in a semi religious atmosphere. My parents do not have any gurus, but sometimes we would visit an ashram on Guru Purnima. Reading your post took me back to those days...the brilliant marigold garlands, the sweet smell of incense, the bhajans, the prasad...feeling rather nostalgic now! Have a lovely day. Cheers, Suchi

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  28. Suchi, welcome and thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories. Your good fortune and natural piety of having taken birth by Ganga is respectable. Bengal is such a spiritually potent destination of pilgrimage.

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  29. I love reading your blog, and all the posts have some spirituality... Visiting your blog, is like visiting a temple!!!

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  30. i feel inspired by your spirituality. I hope i can follow your path sometime in life..

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  31. Spandana and Neha - human life is meant for self realization. In this path nothing is lost but everything is gained.

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  32. There is just so much in the Indian culture that is intricately fascinating! From their customs, food, architecture, music, religion, and now even their sense for fragrance! I was surprised to have come across a burberry cologne for men there that is just amazing! It wasn't like those regular ones that I'd get from the malls here in South Carolina.

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  33. Your beautiful photography and words are so inspiring! Thank you.

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  34. I am unable to travel to India but wish I could find that all natural incense. It is easy to find Indian incense perfumed with chemicals - I am looking for 100% natural. Can you recommend a source?

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    Replies
    1. It may be difficult to find natural incense outside of India. Unfortunately I don't have experience of incense sold online. Even most of the incense sold as natural in India is not.

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