Hanumān Jayantī

हनुमान जयन्ती

Lesson 3: Seasonal Ayurvedic Prasāda

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An amazingly powerful way to nourish our connection with Śrī Hanumān at many levels is through the beautiful ritual of preparing an offering of food, which will become prasāda to relish and share with others. Your experience will be exponentially heightened if you chant or listen to the name of Rāma while you prepare this offering.

The traditional prasāda associated with each sacred celebration actually plays a meaningful role related to good health. If we look closely we see that each prasāda highlights foods or ingredients that are ideal for building and maintaining health in the season when the celebration occurs.

As we have seen, Śrī Hanumān has a deep affinity with the forest and the elements of nature. He is immensely strong and healthy, yet chanting the name of Lord Rāma is his favorite form of nourishment. His senses don't run around looking for excessive fulfillment.

So it seems appropriate that one of the main traditional food offerings for this spring celebration of Hanumān Jayantī is something very simple: light, crunchy little balls called sweet boondi (būndī), made from channa (chickpea) flour. Its ideal ingredients have an important relationship with spring.

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Spring

Hanumān Jayantī is celebrated in the first half of spring. Take a moment to look at how the landscape around you is changing. You may see snow melting, or parks that look more lush with new growth by the day. Your may suddenly catch the fragrance of a flowering tree that has just burst into bloom.

From the perspective of Ayurveda, this is a time when the wetness that has accumulated in our bodies during winter begins to "melt." It is called kapha prakopa (कफ प्रकोप). Along with this, our digestive fire is slowly losing its winter strength with the onset of longer, warmer days.

It's not a sign of being unhealthy, but a natural response to the movement of the seasons. It creates a sticky internal environment that can quickly lead to coughs, runny noses, allergy attacks and itchy rashes: all those familiar wet spring conditions that disrupt our enjoyment of this beautiful season.

Another way to understand this is in terms of the five elements of nature. In spring there is an abundance of the elements that make up kapha: earth (which is heavy and associated with fragrance) and water. Put them together and they love to make things stick together and grow.

In the science of Ayurveda, this means we need to bring about balance within ourselves by introducing the elements of fire, wind and space.

One of the main ways we do this is by changing our diet in spring. We introduce foods that are light, dry, and warming, with plenty of digestive spices. Black pepper and turmeric, for example, are great friends in spring.  At the same time we cut way back on sweet foods, and get plenty of the green vegetables that are abundant in spring. Their bitterness and lightness is just what we need at this time.

Spring is also a great time to get plenty of exercise, both to lose weight if that's what’s needed, and to build strength that might have been lost being cooped up indoors in winter. It's also a great time to benefit from a spring detox.

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Sweet Boondi Ingredients & Their Role in Springtime Health

Now let's look at the main ingredients of sweet boondi and how they help us in spring. These ingredients have their own great qualities, both separately and together.

In the cooking instructions, you will see that the chickpea flour is deep fried in little balls. Deep frying in oil is not recommended in spring. However, since prasāda is served in fairly modest portions, most people can handle this small amount of oil. It is also easier to digest in this prasāda because the accompanying ingredients are light and help boost digestion, so they create a nice balance to the qualities of oil.

Channa (चणक): Chickpeas

In the lesson on making prasāda for Holi, we looked at the qualities of channa dal: small split chickpeas, called चणक in Sanskrit. This humble, everyday legume looks like a sunny yellow split pea, and comes from the same immediate family as the larger garbanzo bean. While channa is a popular yet very simple staple in kitchens across the Indian subcontinent, channa is actually considered an āhāra dravya, a medicinal food.

The key qualities of channa are that it is rukṣa, drying, and laghu, light to digest: the perfect balancing power to the wet, heaviness of kapha. Its taste has a subtle sweetness, with pungent and astringent undertones that help it kindle the digestive fire and support the process of absorbing and removing toxins from the body.

At the same time, channa is nutritious. Roasted channa lightly tossed in turmeric, black pepper and salt is a popular spring snack in India. You often see it sold from carts on the roadside. Besan, or chickpea flour, which is used to make sweet boondi, is another kitchen staple.In Western terminology, channa is a good plant-based protein with a low glycemic index. It's gluten-free, high in dietary fiber and rich in antioxidants.

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Elā (एला): Cardamom

Cardamom is a delightful, fragrant spice. While it is great for digestion and for avoiding gas, it isn't overly heating and it even has a slight sweetness. It is very helpful in dealing with coughs and colds. In fact, there is a well-known formula for coughs and colds called Sitopaladi Churna. One of its five ingredients is cardamom, and it is taken with honey.

Madhu (मधु): Honey

The most common way to make sweet boondi is by dipping the tiny balls in sugar syrup. But since sugar is just the opposite of what we should eat in spring to stay healthy, we are making a version sweetened with honey.

The wisdom of Ayurveda highlights honey as one of the greatest medicines for spring because of its ability to bring aggravated, excessive kapha under control. Honey is praised as the nectar of the sun.

You may wonder how something sweet can be an agent of balance in spring. While sugar creates more clogging and congestion in spring, honey does the opposite, particularly raw honey that is at least six months old. It has an amazing ability to penetrate deep into the minute channels of the body, where it helps clean up that unhealthy stickiness that gets accumulated in our body's fine channels during the winter.

This is because honey is also astringent, subtle and drying, giving it a lekhana (लेखन) or scraping ability. Honey is also a yogavāhī (योगवाही), meaning that it enhances the qualities of other herbs it is taken with by carrying them deep into the channels of our amazing bodies, and catalyzing the action of those herbs.

At the same time, it's an remarkable tonic for our body, mind and senses. Honey may not make us immortal like Śrī Hanumān, but it certainly promotes longevity.

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Additional Hanumān Jayantī Prasāda Traditions

In Gujarat, these tiny balls of fried channa flour are not only then coated in sugar syrup, but shaped into balls the size of golf balls. They are then called boondi laddus. It has become popular to add nuts as well. But eating nuts is not a great idea in spring, when we are advised to eat light, drying foods. So if you receive this version as prasāda, just eat one, or share one with a friend.

In many parts of South India, Hanumān Jayantī is celebrated in late December/early January, at the height of winter.  Their traditional prasāda is made from urad dal, an ideal winter food for building strength. They prepare small, flat cakes of urad with black pepper. Each disc has a hole in the center so they can be strung together to make a garland to offer Śrī Hanumān.

This image of Hanumān garlanded with urad dal discs, along with the taste of this prasāda on a chilly winter morning makes a lasting impression. It reminds us of the connections between Hanumān, strength, urad dal and winter. Unfortunately this tasty prasāda is much too heavy for spring, or even in the Southern Hemisphere where it is early autumn.

If you don't have access to the ingredients for sweet boondi, sweet seasonal fruits that grow in your region are always appropriate to offer.

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How to Make Sweet Boondi

The ideal way to prepare any food to be offered to a form of the divine is to make it from scratch. This gives you the opportunity to infuse the food with your sacred intentions and devotion. This prasāda is actually quite easy to prepare.

But for the time-challenged, using pre-prepared plain boondi is a way to speed up the cooking time, or if you are not confident about your cooking skills. You can buy packaged unsalted boondi at Indian grocery stores or online. Here we will describe both methods, so it's easy for everyone to try.

Whichever version you make, remember to make it even sweeter by chanting, or listening to chanting, of the name of Rāma while your hands are busy.

Short version:

Ingredients:

  • Unsalted, prepared boondi: 1 cup
  • Cardamom seeds, freshly powdered: ¼ teaspoon
  • Honey (raw, unfiltered): 2  tablespoons, or to taste. It works best if the honey is a bit runny. But do not cook honey to make it runny.

Preparation:

  • Mix the honey and cardamom together.
  • Pour this honey mixture over the boondi, the little balls of fried channa flour.
  • Gently mix until all the little balls have a light coating of honey.
  • Place is a nice bowl. The sweet boondi is ready to serve.

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Longer version

Ingredients:

  • Besan (chickpea flour): 1 cup
  • Turmeric powder: a pinch
  • Water at room temperature: 1 cup (approx.)
  • Cardamom seeds, freshly ground: ¼ teaspoon
  • Honey (raw, unfiltered): 2  tablespoons, or to taste. It works best if the honey is a bit runny. But do not cook honey to make it runny.
  • Oil that can be heated to a high temperature, or ghee.

Preparation:

  • Sieve the besan flour into bowl to remove any lumps.
  • Add the 1/2 cup water and mix well.
  • Add a pinch of turmeric.
  • Keep adding a little water at a time and mixing thoroughly until you have a medium thin batter with no lumps. The batter should be just thick enough to drop through a perforated spoon, but not so thin that it runs through like water.
  • Whisk the  batter by hand or with a small blender until it gets sticky - about 3-4 minutes.
  • Cover the batter and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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  • Heat at least a cup of oil or ghee in a deep pan.
  • Test the heat of the oil by dropping in a pinch of batter. If the small ball of batter rises up instantly in the oil, then the oil is ready. If it sinks to the bottom, wait a short while so the oil heats up sufficiently.
  • Hold a perforated spoon or metal sieve with holes a little above the pan and pour a tablespoon of batter on top of the perforated spoon. This batter will then drop into the oil and form small circular droplets.
  • You can tap the edge of spoon to help the small droplets fall into the pan.
  • Gently stir the little balls of batter in the pan so they don't stick together, and fry them till they become light brown and crispy. It takes just a minute or two.
  • Remove them from the pan with a perforated spoon or a small strainer and set them on paper towels.
  • Keep cooking in batches.
  • Meanwhile, mix the honey and cardamom together.
  • When the little balls of fried channa flour are completely cool, pour the honey mixture over them.
  • Gently mix until all the little balls have a light coating of honey.
  • Place is a nice bowl. The sweet boondi is ready to offer.

Teacher: Hema Patankar

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