On the morning of the wedding, preparations were on for the Devgon – a ceremonial cleansing of the self to get ready for the next phase in one’s life – entering the grihasta (family) ashram. In India, it has always been said that a marriage is a relationship not just between two individuals but between two families. The living members and those who have passed on to the other realm. On this day the groom and his family first seek the blessings of their ancestors by performing the pitr pooja.
Hindu philosophy believes agni (fire) to be the ultimate cleanser – it can never itself be sullied or polluted, and all are equal before him. Devgon is performed around this sacred fire. The groom-to-be sits by the fire after a ceremonial bath and offers prayers to Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. All the elders of the family participate in the ceremony and fast till the conclusion of the havan.
Daughters of the family are always a part of the ceremonies with the bua (father’s sister) enjoying an enviable position. She prepares kheer and monjjvor (flattened moong dal vadas) on this day which are offered to the Gods and then distributed to all family members to break their fast. The function is usually followed by a simple vegetarian meal of rice and vegetables. Our lunch that day comprised of a yellow subzi of pumpkin, a fiery red dish of radish and potatoes cooked with nadur (lotus roots), and served over steamed rice with yoghurt. (Read more about Devgon and Kashmiri wedding rituals here).
The raatlagun (night wedding) lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Only a few of us were able to keep vigil, amongst them my younger sister. The bride came home and, later, returned to her parents’ house for lunch (phirlat or saathlat).
The wedding reception hosted by my uncle that evening was grand to say the least. Food, food, and more food. We snacked on fruits, rotisserie chicken (better believe it!), chicken kabab, paneer tikka, something-manchurian (the new snack-food at all functions), tikki, papdi chaat…There was more but I just couldn’t bear to find out. The bar flowed. At dinner there was traditional fare: tchok tcharvan (tangy liver), nenya kaliya , rogan josh, mutsch, dum olu, tchok wangun, tchaaman kaliya, nadir yakhin, rice pulao, and steamed rice. I may have missed some of the dishes on the vegetarian side since I gave them just a cursory glance.
The most popular dessert was obviously kulfi. Not the kind that is frozen in an earthen pot, but the one on a stick! TH lost count of how many he had. We made sure the bride and the groom got to have some too.
I forgot to mention that before reaching the wedding venue we had taken a detour to the engagement function of another cousin, where we caught up with my mother’s side of the family. This meant we arrived at the wedding venue after the barat (the groom’s party) had been formally received by the girl’s family with much garlanding.
The partying was not yet over. The following day was the first birthday of a cousin’s son – a rather important milestone. With so much of the extended family around, it seemed hardly likely that we were going to let it pass…without a party. So, another dinner followed. This one included a Birthday cake as well.
My aunt (the groom’s mother) came to this party with dry fruits and roth to share with all of us. This is the tradition of roth khabar where specially baked roth, studded with dry fruits, sent by the bride’s family is distributed to family, friends, and neighbours, to announce the coming home of the bride. I got a gigantic half of a roth that we enjoyed with kahva on a couple of mornings! You can find my mom and sister’s recipe for this type of roth in the comments section of this post.
After partying ceaselessly for seven days, it is little wonder that we decided to defer TH’s birthday celebrations till we were more up to a feast.
But I don’t want to leave you without a recipe. Again.
This traditional Kashmiri breakfast of tcur tsot with a cup of kahva invokes leisurely Sunday breakfast memories. It always reminds me of the many summers I spent in Kashmir at my grandfather’s house.
You will probably find echoes of this breakfast crepe in many of the regional cuisines of India, but the use of mustard oil makes it uniquely Kashmiri. The spicing is fairly simple, and yet again, mustard oil becomes an important flavour, providing not just a mellowed pungency but also the golden colour. So don’t be skimpy with it.
The tsot ((ʦŏ̈ṭü) likely gets its name from the sound of the batter hitting the hot tava, to give us tsur (the sizzling sound) tsot (Kashmiri, for roti). There was a time when a good tsur tsot was one that would un-spiral as you ate – a feat only possible when you use oodles of oil. You do need these to be crisp and golden; about a teaspoon and half of oil per tsot can achieve that.
(A rice-flour crepe)
makes 12 seven-inch crepes
1 ½ C rice flour
3C + 2 T water
1 t cumin
½ – ¾ t red chilli (cayenne) powder
Take the flour, spices, and salt in a bowl. Add water and mix to form a smooth batter of pouring consistency. The amount of water may vary with the type and age of the flour; the final batter should not be too thick. A thick batter will make the crepes soggy. You should be able to judge after the first one – add flour if too thin, and more water if too thick. The best part is that rice flour is easy to mix, and never goes lumpy. The flour does tend to settle as the batter sits, so give a good stir before every pour.
Swirl ¾ to 1 teaspoon of oil on to a hot (9 inch) cast iron or non-stick pan. Make a crepe starting from the center and poring outwards in a spiral (I tend to go clockwise) using about 1/3 cup of batter. Drizzle a half teaspoon of oil around the edges. Cover and cook on medium-high for 2 minutes. Uncover and cook a further couple of minutes till golden and crisp. Flip and cook for a minute. Serve hot with a cup of spicy kahva.
Traditionally, no chutney or pickle is served with tsur tsot, and I have been able to convince my family to stick with tradition. That is how nostalgia works out for me. You, on the other hand, have no such baggage and are free to try your own variations.