Holi re Holi, Purnachi Poli!
Updated: Mar 17, 2018
As the State Transport bus coughed and clattered into Ratnagiri Bus Stand most of the passengers rushed to get off, eager to freshen up and indulge in some refreshments before the bus set off again on a laboured journey to its next destination. While many made a beeline for the stalls serving sweet milky tea, a few – mostly youngsters – ambled up to the ubiquitous jingling machine pressing fresh juice from sugarcane. The last to get off the bus with a rucksack slung over one shoulder, I stretched and flexed my limbs out of their stupor and made my way to the ticket counter, where, as pre-decided, my childhood buddy awaited my arrival. A warm welcome with bear hugs and pumping of hands over, I rode pillion on his motorcycle through winding dusty roads, finally arriving at his village after a good half-hour ride.
Right from the outskirts itself, the village looked in quite a festive mood; humble shops and quaint houses all being decked up for the upcoming Holi celebrations. A warm and traditional welcome awaited me at my friend’s home, and by the evening I had settled in comfortably, blending into the festal spirit of the villagers.
As is true of most festivals in our country, Holi, marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring, too is celebrated in diverse ways in various states. In this village in interior Maharashtra, the celebrations known locally as Shimga, commenced on that full moon night or Pournima of the Hindu calendar month of Phalgun, with the entire village gathering around a bonfire made of firewood and cowdung cakes. After a small puja the bonfire was lit – signifying Holika Dahan, which is symbolic of the victory of good over evil – with the villagers singing and dancing around the bonfire to the beats of traditional dhols and tasha. Handfuls of puffed rice, thick slices of watermelon, wedges of coconut roasted in the bonfire, and Puran Poli (a traditional Maharashtrian flat bread made of wheat flour, stuffed with a mixture of mashed split Bengal gram and jaggery, delicately flavoured with powdered cardamom, and pan fried) were distributed as prasad.
During the day, the ladies drew colourful rangolis outside their homes and villagers in all their livery held processions in the streets with palanquins carrying the village deities. Prayers and puja were then conducted in the local temple seeking blessings of the Almighty for the well-being of the entire village, followed by a community lunch. On the fifth day, or Panchami, the entire village came together to celebrate Rang Panchami, where people smeared each other with colours called gulal; the gaiety peppered with plenty of light-hearted banter and much singing and dancing, thus culminating the festivities on a high note.
Many reluctant goodbyes said, after having spent a truly wonderful week with the affectionate people of the village, I found myself in yet another State Transport bus headed back for the daily grind of the city. And of the many delightful memories, the one when an elderly village lady taught me how to make Puran Polis over a khapar (a large earthern pot with holes), stays foremost in my mind. So here, dear readers, is the recipe of the traditional Puran Poli for you to make and enjoy!
Puran Poli Recipe
Makes 16 puran polis
Cooking time: 90 minutes
For the puran:
chana dal (split Bengal gram): 250 g
gur (jaggery): 250 g
elaichi (green cardamom) powder: 5 g
For the dough:
whole wheat flour: 250 g
salt: 5 g
vegetable oil: 50 ml
water: 150 ml
rice flour (for dusting while rolling out polis)
oil for frying: 20 ml
1) Soak chana dal, in enough water to immerse the dal, for 2 hours. Wash and drain dal. Boil dal in ample quantity of water till dal is cooked (about 30 minutes). Drain off the cooking liquid. Transfer dal to a bowl.
2) Add gur to dal. Stir continuously till the mixture thickens and becomes homogeneous. Add elaichi powder. Mix. Cool partially and grind into a smooth paste without adding water. Remove in a bowl and keep aside. The puran is ready.
2) Sift flour and salt together. Knead into a smooth dough adding oil and water, a little at a time.
3) Make a small ball, about 3 cm diameter, using about 20 g of the dough. Flatten and place 30 g puran in the centre. Bring together the dough to cover the puran and form a ball about 5 cm diameter. Press to flatten the ball between your palms. Roll out into a 18 cm diameter round on a floured board with a rolling pin, dusting regularly with rice
4) Put the puran poli on a pre-heated tava. Fry poli over medium heat, turning it frequently, basting both sides with a little oil (total about 1 ml oil), till both sides turn evenly golden with a few brown specks (about 4 minutes). Make all puran polis in the same way. Serve the puran polis with a drizzle of hot ghee.
Wishing you and your dear ones a Happy Holi!
Team - Food Stylist - Bijal Jobanputra, Photographer - Mansi Jesrani, Assistant stylist - Dereeka Adhikary