Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in honor of Lord Shiva. On this auspicious day, devotees perform Abhishekam to the Shivalingam(An abstract representation of Lord Shiva). Abhishekam is a ceremony of bathing the idol of god with either water or milk or Panchamrutham(A mixture of milk, yogurt, honey, sugar and ghee). Some devotees observe Fasting/Upvaas/Not eating food for a period of time. Some devotees observe Fasting and Jaagaran/Stay awake all night. Special pujas and celebrations are held at the temples during Maha Shivaratri. Some devotees spend the night at temples singing devotional songs to honor Lord Shiva.
Every family has their own customs and traditions for this festival. Some people fast without eating any food and without drinking even a drop of water. My sister used to do that. I have never done that. Some people follow a diet of fruits and milk. At our home, we do not eat any food during daytime. We were allowed to have tea, coffee and milk during the day. In the evening, we offer specific fasting foods like Sabudana Upma, Coconut Chutney, Sweet Potato Halwa, fresh fruits, dates and milk to the god. Fasting food/dinner is served after the evening prayers.
Fasting food is served in a ‘Vistharaku/Thali/A leaf plate made with broad dried leaves of Banyan tree(Marri Chettu Aakulu in Telugu). ‘Thali’ is an Indian style platter. It is a meal consisting of small portions of healthy, delicious and nutritious dishes served together on one plate. Upvaas Thali might sound like an oxymoron(combination of contradictory words), but it is a tradition(at our home) to fast on Maha Shivaratri, followed by a feast(made with specific foods) in the evening. I try to follow some traditions(at least sometimes, whenever it is possible). As I didn’t have Vistharaku/Leaf plate at my home in US, I served the food in a metal plate. Today I am sharing the recipes of the special traditional dishes served at our home on Maha Shivaratri.