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Urad Dal Ladoo to Bhoondhi Ladoo

November 4, 2015

Post originally penned the Diwali eve last year. Edited this feb, finally ready for release.

Added some You Tube video links of Obama’s Diwali greetings. Looks like they’re systematically disabled. Okay it’s quite simple to search for the same in You Tube so I quit.


A little girl I know is now a young lady and the love and affection her family lavishes on her transports me to another age. Gifts of sweets, flowers, fruits, clothes, shampoos and soaps and cosmetics keep pouring in for the girl who is not yet 13. Since I have no daughter, I got the girl a pair of small earrings in gold. I wanted to give dresses but she has too many already. How the cherubic girl’s mother dotes on her brings back another flashback for me. In my case, my mother was working and had to start her day too early. So mostly my granny looked after us girls. Foodwise, it was my granny who got me everything – never my working mom!

Why now Urad Dal Ladoos? I was already impressed with some Diwali posts on Urad Dal ladoo over regular ‘bhoondhi laadu’ and wanted to make an entry here, and now I have a reason to think of Urad Dal ladoo again:


Someone posted this Diwali recipe: Urad Dal Laddus

Very easy to make at home, and delicious and nutritious at the same time.

‘Urad dal laddu’ brought me memories of my granny this morning. By my 12-13th year, my granny made it and stored it in tin boxes – not of such a small size as shown in this picture…. the laddus were big, like 3-4 of this size combined into one.

For a continuous 48 days-90 days cycle (1-2 mandalams as we say), I was fed this laddu on empty stomach, and some more laddus made of other kinds of dal, jaggery etc  balled by fists with pure ghee that would smell and taste like heaven. Since we were vegetarians, I learned this was the way grandmothers in our homes built a budding young lady in the house into a robust woman.

How the Ladoo is made: The method is quite simple. Roast the dals dry to golden brown in a shallow pan/wok/kadai. Powder the jaggery. Dry-grind coarsely the roasted dal. Mix it with nicely powdered jaggery. Pour hot molten ghee for binding everything into atta consistency (nearly). Make round balls out of the same and store in a dry air-tight jar. The balls will have a touch-feel like the ‘Rava Ladoos.’ Powdery yet holding good. Nuts roasted in molten ghee can be added if desired.

Recall my granny telling me a 1000 times, ‘this will strengthen your pelvic bones, hip bones, make the uterus work well, and you will have an easy delivery. think of me then.’  (But no I did not have an easy delivery; labour lasted over 12-18 hours). The words registered in my mind so very well because it was repeated almost every single morning – but the meaning was never ingested. Back then, whatever the elders of the family said bored us right?

Really I never thought of my gran in all these years. But someone posted the Urad dal laddu recipe kindling something in the backburner of my mind. The ladoo that was made with so much love, fed with so much love, day after day – i miss that kind of love in my life now… It is at times overwhelming when you think you have been on your own too long – with none to ask if you have eaten or how you feel. No, this is not self-pity. At times, I too want to become the cherished daughter, spoilt granddaughter…

Yeah sad to think, I’ve really forgotten what it is to be pampered like, what it is to be fussed over…. With a jolt, it came all rushing back to me – all that fuss, that care, that pampering, that spoiling…. everything…

Or may be one day my son will think of me this way too…

My family continued to feed me with such nutritious laddus for over 3 months at a stretch. I never realized then what they were working at. It was a short time before my mother left. The dal laddus were fortified with ghee and assorted, roasted nuts. The dals were a variety and the laddus also were a variety but this Urad dal laddu was like the crowning glory. Minimum one Urad Dal Laddu on empty stomach every morning was a must.

With that stopped healthy eating for me somewhat.

After delivery, all my friends spent 3-5-7 months in their parents’ place, being taken care of by their families. Some even had hired masseurs for giving them ritual bath, etc. My aunt took care of me for 1 month – I still am grateful to her for that. No special treatment – I think God makes us girls stronger – those of us who have to fend for ourselves… Soon by 4th month I returned to working.

I think what gave me energy in those days was the good and nutritious food my granny fed me in those younger years. I was a poor eater really and never touched vegetables and fruits that are my favourite food now. So my gran would daily give me dal chawal with loads of ghee on it hot, hot. That was the only thing I ate ever plus the dahi bhat. With papads. If not for Aloo roast. Dal was a major constituent therefore of my pre-teen diet. In the critical time of start of adolescent phase came the Urad Dal laddoos. I really regret foregoing greeny leafy vegetables and fruits in my younger age. Would be having better stamina today in that case.

“Urad Dal Laddu’ is every tamil girl’s special food when she flowers into a woman. Its so power-packed, improves our blood circulation and increases the efficiency of working of a woman’s internal organs. Our womb keeps expanding & growing to full capacity until our 21st year. It starts working by our 12th-13th year with menarche, the onset of menses – so now I understand the significance of being fed the yummy nutritious laddus at the right point of my  life.

I wonder how many continue this tradition until this day. Happy to note, a few like the girl’s mother are continuing this healthy habit. Some of my friends have given up.

I understand, non-vegetarians give chicken soup or whatever to their young daughters.

Idli and Dosa – these have Urad dal. DAL IS THE CHIEF SOURCE OF PROTEIN FOR US VEGETARIANS. Including urad dal regularly in food can delay Osteoporosis in women. Vada is another yummy urad dal recipe. It is not without a reason our breakfast is so packed with calories and nutrition. Our other staple south Indian dish ‘Sambar’ (a kind of stew) plies us the proteins of ‘tuar dal.’

About south Indian food going heavy on carbos, I have this to say: We need to expend energy on daily chores. How many of us care to supplement our diet with fruits and vegetables rich in minerals and vitamins whatever diet we may follow. Wheat-based supper in evenings with light carbo is ideal which many of us prefer (like samba wheat upma for instance). No diet is 100% perfect. Some are over-fatty, some are heavy with carbs like typical south Indian. I think we have to learn to strike the right balance. In a pyramid-like diet structure, it’s wise to have the broader base of dal proteins, nuts and vegetables and fruits at the bottom  and trim the carbohydrate rich at the top. I personally prefer a north-south combo with both wheat and rice alongwith pulses (dal). Thankfully Indian Thali, from whichever state, consists of a variety of vegetables and greens. So far as I have observed from my limited foreign exposure, none eats fruits and vegetables like we Indians do! We consume the rarest of the rarest, the most exotic really. Vaazhai Poo (banana flower) and Vaazhai thandu (banana tree stalk) for one thing… Lotus (north indians do) flower for another… For others, veggies are like pickles! For us Indians, vegetable menu is our ‘mooladhara!’

In Malaysia I have seen, Indian breakfast used to be a great hit. Whereas my NRI friends from Chennai would sulk and eat a bowl full of cereals there! Beginning the day with heavy breakfast like idli/dosa/parathas is the correct way to live life. Roti-channai (roti-dal) was another staple hit breakfast in Malaysian menu. Second came Nasi Lemak, the Malay rice with a dried fish and boiled egg.

Back in India, our vegetarian food habits are so special. Girls are so special in our homes – the Lakshmis of our families. Celebrated like princesses. Raised with so much care and thought. In every way we girls were prepared to counter adult life by our parents and grandparents. By my 12th year, I had already started cooking unaware that very shortly i would be running my family taking over from my mother and even grandmother…

Urad Dal Laddu is not a Diwali recipe for us in Tamil Nadu. Its a girl’s secret recipe for getting tougher and stronger hip & pelvic bones and muscles and uterus. Urad dal also cools our body, reducing body heat.

It is shocking how girls today have very poor eating habits. Young age eating of health food goes a long way in standing us in good stead for life. It decides the quality of our eggs, our blood stream, our future generation in short. Girls today are poisoning their bodies, poisoning their blood stream.

Vitamin D deficiency is common among youngsters today. Many school children pampered and sent to air-conditioned convents miss out on sunshine. 7 and 9 year old kids have severe deficiency which is not good.

The steps we ladies in 40s are doing in Zumba, the bending we are doing in Yoga, young girls and boys today are unable to do in their teens. Why?

After all, I am a vegetarian from birth. I take eggs only in cakes (in indirect form thus). I took Horlicks woman special only for 1 month and saw extra bone growth in my hands and ankles. I was asked to stop taking food supplements immediately by my BIL who is my doc. And again, I am a vegetarian who mostly draws strength and energy from plant-based food and ofcourse diary products as well (want to quit diary products but i am unable to. soya quality is dubious in India and soya is also a GM food essentially so its difficult for me to completely switch over). For the fish oil i am missing as a vegetarian, I am taking Omega3 (not regularly – taking breaks inbetween). (Not yet started with blood thinners – me and my husband).

Pulses are better than red meat (guess!). Every young Indian girl must be fed this urad dal ladoo – something your gynaec will never tell you, something my granny told me a long, long time back. Taken at the right time between 12-21 years, it can work wonders for a woman’s reproductive system keeping her fertile and strong.


Deepavali until my mom was around:

Day would dawn for us at 2 am. Started with the ritual bathing – head bath, oil bath with customary shikakhai. On Diwali day, goddess Lakshmi is said to reside in the bathing oils and Ganga Mata is said to reside in our bathing waters. Having the bath in the ‘Brahma Muhurth’ (before dawn) is the most important factor. We had no electric heater in those days. Only a big copper water boiler. It is also customary for neighbours to ask each other ‘Ganga Snaan aachaa?’ (meaning have you had a Ganga snaan/bath in river Ganga).

By 4 am would be the Diwali Pooja. With the new clothes offered to the Gods first with sweets, savourites. (Never mind my sister was in habit of stealing and eating well before the Diwali day the yummy sweets!). Even the fire crackers would be kept in the Pooja.

Then a round of touching the feet of the elderly – like grandparents. By exact 5 am, my father, the hero of the house would lead us to start bursting the fire crackers. We bought them always through the cooperative in his office that procured it for us at subsidized rates. (He worked for a central govt. undertaking). I can recall Diwali cracker budgets for years hovering around a mere 20 bucks,then 30 bucks etc. Only when I got married, did my Deepavali fire cracker expense exceed 500 bucks ever.

Diwali is mostly about the previous evening and the next morning. It is precisely the intervening late-evening and the early morning dawn. Atleast that was how we observed it in those days.

Tamils mostly celebrate Diwali a day earlier on ‘chaturdashi’ (14th day of the moon) before ‘Amavasya (new moon day). Rarely for us Diwali coincides with Amavasya day as it is for rest of India. My north Indian friends always therefore tease me how Tamils always stick out like a sore thumb even when it comes to Diwali. Like only 1 out of 4 times, we have Diwali on the same Amavasya day as rest of India. Diwali on new moon Amavasya day marks the birth of Hindu New Year. The New Hindu Calendar year officially commences with ‘shubh, labh’ signs and symbols everywhere … New books of accounts are opened, and no wonder BSE bell also tolls at the appropriate ‘muhurat’ hour marking the first auspicious trading hour for Indian nation for the following accounting year (as per Hindu calendar).

Back in those days when my parents could have died of shame at the mention of words like ‘share-trading’,  Diwali was truly a spiritual, cultural and celebratory phenomenon unmarred by commercial interests. It was a festival we observed as a community. When we did not confine it within the 4 walls of our home or wrap it cozy with expensive gifts. There was a brief period in my life, when not even the 1 or 2 black & white tv channels had a role to play in our Diwali. That was until my 9th year I guess. We bought our first tv in 1977 and that year, for the first time on Diwali, we spent a couple of hours before the idiot box that was not customary until then. Little did I know then, at some point of time later in life, Diwali would come to mean mostly tv for most of us!!!

In contrast, what a way Diwali unfolded for us in the late ’70s and early ’80s. By 5 am you could hear the temple bells ring – and a team of ‘Nagaswaram’ and ‘Mridangam’ players would keep moving door to door playing for each family specially in the auspicious dawn. Traditional carmatic music (nagaswaram is generally played either at temples or in weddings) and the aroma of sweets and the incense from the Pooja and the crispy new clothes and the sparkling crackers  – all these together made those Diwalis so colourful and special and divine and joyful.

By 5-6 am the entire street would be out like us lighting/bursting fire crackers in festive clothes (all having gone to bed late the Diwali evening just like us, hoping to catch a few winks of what would be left of the night,  after an evening of spectacular blitz…)

We kids were assigned one more job. We took the sweet/mithai boxes, all home-made, to our neighbours. Exchange of sweets was the most important aspect of the day. Every aunty vied to show off her culinary skills and there was real competition on this front between the ladies who also paraded the streets in gold-zari bordered saris and dazzling gold jewelry that matched the multi-colour firework display of the ‘chakras’ and sparklers.

Ofcourse, for us kids in those days, the run-up to Diwali started immediately when Navratri got over. Every evening after school, a couple of crackers would light up the sky, a distant reminder to Diwali on the anvil. The frequency and the sounds increased with each passing day, reaching a climax a week before. From 3-5 days to go, there would be no stopping the children. It was free for all! The Diwali excitement infected the air atleast from 10 days ahead.

I remember my mom availing leave for Diwali from 2-3 days before. That’s how significant the day was for us.

The process of ordering the crackers would have been over a month earlier – it used to be a big family affair with each of us opting for a variety of crackers to our taste. I went for sparklers always but my sis was for 500 walas, atom bombs, rockets and such stuff. Remember being so grateful for even that to our father. The very ordering of crackers was such an enthusiastic matter for us plans for which would commence in aug end/sep. So many revisions of the list, with an eye on the budget we had to strictly adhere to…

The 10th day of Dushera after Navrathri was always the shopping day for us for Diwali. We bought our new clothes every year only on Vijayadashami. My mother would order making of gold jewelry for each of us to go with our silk lehengas (a couple of months earlier, to be delivered before Diwali). Always for Diwali it was silk and gold for us sisters. I did not know it then, but with both parents working perhaps we were a bit affluent than many others but remained unaware…

That reminds me of one more thing: we got new clothes hardly for a handful of occasions every year, so the very idea of shopping would give us such an adrenaline rush… (not like today when we shop just for the heck of it). Diwali, Pongal, Navrathri & Birthday – these were the only times our parents bought us something fresh to wear. My sis got some hand-me-downs from me that she gratefully accepted without any complaints. Those 4 sets of clothes I recall were our DREAM! And of all, the Diwali dress was very special. My mom was a bit gracious, generous. She got us usually a lehenga as well as gown to wear for the evening and the morning of the day, a luxury not many could afford!

Every year my father’s office also disbursed bonus before Navrathri to enable us go shopping atleast 20-30 days before the d-day. The Diwali bonus was the highlight of my parents’ lives. Months before they would start anticipating what my father would net, plan the expenses and the savings component. A day of delay would make my parents brood all 24 hours! Middle-class life.

The regular Diwali sweets in my home were always the usual bhoondi laddu, wheat halwa, cashew nut halwa, jalebi and mysore pak besides half a dozen south Indian savourites like poha & other mixtures, Butter Murukku etc. My mother hired 2-3 cooks a week in advance and got made hundreds of each sweet and stored them in huge airtight stainless steel tins. But the bhoondi ladoos, my granny herself would make without any help. She was an expert in making ladoos. Playing with the bhoondi, watching all this, was a great hobby of mine as a little girl. After Dwiali my mother would take the sweets to her school to distribute to the children.

Besides, she always got atleast 4-5 hearing and speech impaired girls from their school hostel who wouldn’t be picked up by (NRI) parents even for Diwali. She and a few other teachers would seek the school permission for this. She got the girls who came home new clothes, bangles, everything and the girls would celebrate Diwali with us.

The Lakshmi Pooja (that we call ‘Gowri-Kethari Vratham) would be held the same day or a day after in certain years as per Hindu calendar.

By 9 am it would be time for temple visit. By 10 am we would be visiting friends and relatives and be visited by them in turn.

Upto my 13th year, I have celebrated Diwali with such an enthusiasm and zest with family and friends that I never found again in my life, not even begetting my own family. The Diwali rush truly died with my mother. It has somehow never been the same again.

I married into a family that slept until 10 am on Diwali days. Ofcourse we women would be busy in the kitchen. Diwali was my father-in-law’s father’s ‘devasham’ day. Every Diwali including on my 1st ‘Thalai (first wedding) Deepavali’ after marriage, a pundit would come home and religious ceremonies would be observed by my FIL for his father. After he left, kitchen would be washed again and fresh cooking commenced to celebrate Diwali. By then, it would be around 11 am already, half the day gone. Goes on to show how inflexible the oldies in our families are. The young are expected to oblige always, and we have for our part. But expecting next generation to tow our line will be asking for too much.

I wonder why my in-laws never could move the day to a previous month ‘thidhi’ out of consideration for rest of the family. With due respects to the great grandfather, frankly I have to say, Diwali was such a dampener in my our joint family home. Nobody remembered or loved Mr. Meenakshi Sundaram any more. But his ‘krias’ still had to be performed, exactly on Diwali day (as per Hindu calendar). Diwali lost its appeal for me entirely with my marriage.

Why cannot we compromise on certain things for everyone’s sake in joint families. This is the reason joint families are falling apart in India. Imagine doing the ‘devasham’ every year on Diwali day. This is how my husband and his brothers grew up and therefore they never got to discover the joys and fun of Diwali the way, I who lost my parents early in my life, did.

My husband and his brothers I found, settled in front of tv rather, not opting to light the fire crackers. For them, all professionals, it was a valuable day off. Good food, relaxation and maximum time in bed – this is what Diwali meant for them. After round-ups to our own (parental homes), the evening would see some lazy, reluctant rockets, the only thing that interested the men.

My son and his cousins had some great Diwalis, and I for the sake of my son, always shopped for fire crackers and encouraged him to celebrate the festival with zeal. Like his father & uncles, he took to rockets mostly. From his 8th standard, Diwali meant celebrating with friends in their homes for him. His gang expanded to some 20-25 girls & boys and from his 11th class, there was no containing him. He started talking about ‘Green Diwali’ once he stepped into college. And I agreed with him.

My Diwali was anyway occupied with ‘Muhurat’ session in BSE online for many years – for alteast 6-7 in a row. It was a phase I think. I was very much into trading then. That came to a close with 2009-10 I guess. Ever since Diwali has been very quiet in our home. If my parents could be alive today, they wouldn’t believe at the kind of Diwali we are having right now.

From such a sweet, sweet Diwali, how Diwali got transformed, commercialized in last 10 years is amazing. It has come to mean Diwali sale first and foremost. The festive season starts in India with Navratri. From then onto January Pongal, it is one long celebration time for us.

2 days before Diwali, I go for traditional gold/diamond shopping for ‘Dhanteras.’ Been the custom for 10 years now. Originally observed by North Indians, today, the occasion is very special to all Indian women.

Sweets – I have been making some light ones at home. That’s because, my aunt who is like my mother insists, that we should heat oil in kadai for sweets on Diwali day.  That it’s an auspicious sign. For her sake, I make either carrot halwa or gulab jamoon, the easiest of all. Otherwise we buy mithai boxes as has become habit even with our friends and relatives.

From the days of ‘bhoondi ladoo’ what a change today to ‘shop for ladoo.’ How much excessively sweet our Diwali used to be that we had to swallow the ‘Deepavali Legyam’ the first thing the morning….


This is a bitter-sweet preparation for Diwali we used to make in TN always that we have to take on empty stomach on Diwali day. Since we eat too much sweets for Diwali, the legyam which is a traditional herbal-spice preparation will see to that we won’t end up with stomach troubles due to indigestion etc. A preventive measure. I don’t think anyone makes it at home these days. But it is sold in all sweet stalls now (in small packets).

Evenings, our whole street would erupt with rockets in my younger years.

My neighbour who we called ‘Murthy Mama (all neighbours were Mamas for us lolz) was famous for lighting 5000 walas and 10,000 walas.

We would wait for him in Diwali evenings to start the series that would make the entire street so bright and noisy for atleast 30 min each time. His crackers and rockets were very popular with the neighbourhood kids. Murthy Mama got no other cracker. Only the 5000-10000 walas that would last anywhere from 30 min to 1-2 hours non-stop and next-next. Such an excitement for us kids!

In one Diwali – I think the last one before my  mom left, I was bursting crackers upstairs in the terrace. My cousin’s family resided 2 doors away. The rocket he lit suddenly changed course and came and fell into my hair.It entered through the back of my ear and my hair burned from the roots! Remember how shocked and upset my family was.  They took it as a very bad omen. I lost over half hair in the process and got a hole in my new dress.

Still over all, our Diwali days were so fun-filled, so happy, so bright. And most importantly no tv or  internet in those days. TV was there actually but we would rather ignore it.

Its a kind of Diwali none in this generation can understand.

This is how I celebrated Diwali the first 13 years of my life. Unforgettable. I thought the magic would last forever. Diwali used to be that magical to us kids.

(Only our birthdays came next to Diwali when it came to the excitement factor. Our birthdays were also celebrated as per Hindu calendar & birth star – never as per English calendar. ofcourse no cake-cutting was allowed as cakes contained eggs. also no blowing of candles because we Hindus believed in lighting the diyas, not in snuffing out a glowing flame. It is only in this generation we are eating cakes containing eggs and cutting birthday cakes. Even now I prefer to buy for myself eggless cakes. For my birthdays, we always visited temples and did ‘archana’ for the deities first. Birthdays also were spiritual occasions. Evenings grand tiffins were offered to neighbourhood kids on banana leaf, traditional manner. Still I remember my birthdays were grand affairs. My grandmother used to cook for upto 100 people in our kitchen without help. My mother’s school colleagues came home always for my birthday as I was their first ever staff child).

Because everything was budgeted and rationed, we kids could appreciate the value of things then. Nothing was offered to us in silver platter. We had to pine for everything. Ask many times over. So we felt grateful for whatever we received. And we could appreciate first what we got. Every Diwali my mother got us girls silk lehengas (Kanchivaram silks) and matching gold sets. My son today would like to think we had led a poor life back then. The truth is, the quality of life I had until my mom was around was one of the best of those times. Inspite of us belonging to typical middle-class.

Finally when Diwali got over, we would be sad, really sad! One consolation was, we could wear our new clothes to school the next day.

In today’s world I see, everything is commercialized, everything comes with a price… It appalls me completely when even for Diwali people want to eat out. My folks are no different. I am making only simple sweets these days but I plan on great food.

Diwali is for us only when we are together as family in a sense.

Some friends and relatives observed why I never wear new clothes in India. I hadn’t realized that i had quit wearing new clothes locally a long time back. Always release my new kurthis/saris either in Doha or when my husband is in India. Done at a subconscious level – but until the observation was made, this never dawned on me. Power of love, power of family that creeps onto you without you knowing., what can I say. Real good clothes I reserve and preserve for family reunions … our real Diwali moments…

I think the last Diwali we celebrated together as family was in 2011 when my husband was home for the occasion. After my FIL passed away in 2002, the devasham ritual at home came to an end. But it was too late already. Children were grown up, men were disinterested…

This year for Diwali I am with my husband in Doha, but my son is abroad. Life.









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