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The best of Janmashtami food

Made from fresh khoya (reduced milk), the soft pedas just melt in your mouth
Image courtesy: Wikipedia/ Prashant Sahu/CC BY-SA 4.0

On the auspicious star of Rohini and Ashtami on the Hindu calendar, Krishna Jayanti, or the birthday of Hinduism’s most-loved divine infant, is celebrated with great fervour across all parts of India by the faithful. While many devotees fast on the day, there is an array of special treats to mark the occasion. Here are some of the popular offerings for Krishna Jayanthi, also known as Janmashtami or Gokulashtami.


The offerings for Lord Krishna on Janmashtami focus on what the divine toddler loved: dairy products. Milk, butter, ghee, buttermilk, curd and lassi along with a platter of fruits are offered in temples and at homes. While the best treats are made at homes, sweetshops across the smallest towns and cities also turn out the region’s special sweets and snacks to mark the day.


North India has a few favoritie delicacies for Krishna. Malai peda with a swirl of cream and ghee and flavouring is a delish offering.  People in North India, especially around the Braj region of Mathura and Vrindavan, swear by the makhan misri, a sweet that’s a cloud of beaten butter with powdered sugar and a dressing of elaichi, pista and almond flakes. Another favourite, panjeeri is made of powdered coriander seeds and sugar mixed in ghee with almonds.


Maharashtra erupts with the dahi handi festival, a replay of the game that little Krishna and his friends were fond of: smashing an earthern pot of freshly hand-churned curds.  Shrikhand is a delicious soufflé of beaten curd and powdered sugar savoured during Janmashtami.


Nanda Utsav is marked in Bengal with taler bora (sugar palm fritters) because this is the season for the Asian palm fruit or tal to ripen. Its golden pulp is scooped, mashed with palm candy, coconut shavings and deep fried. Another treat for the occasion is the perennial favourite malpua (crisp pancakes coated with sugar syrup).


Gokulashtami in Tamil Nadu is marked by a large menu of fried snacks and sweets offered to the idol of Krishna at home marked by special shaped kolam (rice-paste designs) of infant feet across the homes. Savouries include the deep fried rice flour snacks of seedai (tiny pellets shaped snack made of rice flour, jeera, salt and butter deep fried), murukku and thattai (rice flour paste with butter and cumin seeds twisted by hand into curly and flat discs of rice flour, both deep fried snacks). Sweets include jaggery laced vella seedai (pellets of rice flour and jaggery deep fried) and vella aval (rice flakes sweetened with jaggery), a sweet reminiscent of the true friendship between the prosperous Krishna and his friend Sudama, also known as Kusela. 


Kerala’s favourite celestial infant, Guruvayurappan is offered special prasadam on Krishna Jayanti. The vella appam (rice flour and jaggery deep fried dumplings) and the delicious steaming uruli of paal payasam (condensed milk pudding) are famous Janmashtami treats.



AUTHOR'S BIO: Sudha is a Senior Commissioning Editor with Lonely Planet India.