I got married into a family believing strongly in family rituals. I see This family, is like a fabric woven intricately by very strong bonds. Each of the families lives in towns not far from the other. When it comes to some occasion everyone in the family joins in to celebrate. A smallest of celebration gathers a minimum of 50 members in the family and when it comes to a Deo family wedding, it calls for a good number of 150 members, I must say including a baby in diapers :).
What amazes me in this family is, preserving the family traditions. I have watched my mother-in-law make vaan (packets of sweets) endlessly for each of the married girls during Sankranti. Initially, I failed to understand the reason behind her striving industriously in the kitchen after her day job as a headmistress in a school. This is a joint family I must stress (even though the families do not live under one roof) and has at least 20-25 married girls who need sending a vaan! However, almost a couple of decades later I have acquired the same feeling quite indirectly. I believe those small gestures made the bonds even more stronger between the families. It also meant the girls could connect to the sweets and the care packages sent by their kakus’, atyas’, mavshis’ or mamis’. This is possibly how they could do away with all the feelings for being away from their parents.
There are so many rituals I must say that are still in focus and followed by the family. My father-in-law, who is well in his seventies, visits his sister for raksha-bandhan every year. My sisters-in-law, try to make sure they come down to their parents on Padwa during Diwali, for giving the much-awaited tel-utne and abhyang snaan to their father. Such beautiful occasions get their extra dimension, once everyone strives to fulfil and make it possible.
The most interesting part was the ritual of making rukhwat which includes five types of khiri/valvat/gavhale. This hand rolled pasta are made with flour (either with whole wheat or plain flour). Valvat/gavhalya made using 4:1 ratio of semolina and wheat flour/maida and made into a dough using milk. Rolled with fingers, making this is the most enjoyable part of creating the rukhwat. My mother makes some intricate gavhale. She even rolls dough in fine noodles and plats them into a veni.
- Pearl shaped called as sabudana
- Sadhe Valvat
- Clove shaped called as Lavanga
- Cardamom shaped called as Veldode
- Tubes called as Suralya
- Shell shaped shankha
- Fanolya shaped like leaves and scored with a comb
- Melon seeds shaped tarbujachya beeya
- Twisted pasta called as Maltya
- Flower shaped called as phula
- Plated pasta which is my mother’s favourite, veni.
I am glad my family still treasures this ritual where the bride’s family puts in the herculean effort, to set up a table with some beautiful pieces handcrafted either by the bride or her aunts and cousins. The display of goodies like ladu, chivda, karanjya, anaarse was for the young ones in the new family, who looked forward to some special treats after the wedding. This ritual probably began so that the bride could please her in-laws with the intricate work she displayed.
Valvat or gavhale are classified as ole rukhwat more because they are edible and of course perishable. Traditionally they are a part of rukhwat and called as ole rukhwat, ole literally means wet. I recall my visit to Italy. I was amazed with the array of shapes and colours of pasta the country has. This is synonymous to the hand-rolled pasta traditionally in our families!
Valvat prepared specially for wedding is called as kheeri. The bride’s trousseau must have a set of these kheeri twisted and rolled in different forms. At times, the women folk explore their creativity with different food colours added to the dough. Dextrous fingers twist the dough into various shapes and symbols which they normally see around them or are in the environment. Combs and other tools like sticks are used to get other types ready for the bride’s new family.
There are a few of interesting stories about a couple of these valvat. Suralya, the tubular pasta is made during the wedding preparations with the wish ” Suralit pane paar padu det” that there is no hindrance in the auspicious occasion. This pasta is made on a fine stick. Maltya are used to give as a vaan for vihin’s((groom’s mother) oti bharne as well as the bride.
As a part of the rukhwat, the hand rolled pasta is placed in containers of five, seven or eleven, always in odd number theme and at least five. The number five has association with many Hindu concepts. Hindu calender has five parts hence is called Panchang; Dieties are offered a Prasad of five called as Panchamrut , we know five definite products of cow, namely milk, cream, ghee, yogurt and gomutra and even Panchmahabhut namely jal, vaayu, agni, aakash and prithvi which are of great importance in Hindu culture. Quite interesting to research indeed. The odd numbers are symbolic and considered “shubh” meaning auspicious.
When the men folk go out to work and the elderly doze off after the lunch, the ladies in the house sit down together with the dough and a handful of tools including comb, wooden stick and others which are clay tools esque. A paat (a low levelled table) in the centre and the dough rolled and twisted between the finger. Dextrous hands of ajjis’, atyas’, mavshis’, kakus’ and mamis’ trained obviously by the previous generation sing some traditional songs to celebrate the bride’s special occasion.
This gathering essentially comprised of gossips, chitchats and occasional teasing for the bride-to–be. I could term this as a subtle way of hen- do in the family, since the would-be-bride is not allowed to go out (a week before the D day). By tea time, the ladies would have assortments of these hand rolled and twisted pastas ready in plates to dry these valvat. Some shaped like rice grains, pearls, rings, shells, teardrops others twisted too bring in variations. Combs and other tools are used to get the other types ready for the bride’s new family. I recall the types maltya, fanolya(using phani/comb), mohol, nakhavlya.. each shape has a name of that can be used to refer. The hand rolled pasta is a part of ole rukhwat, offered to the groom, before he visits the temple to pay his obeisance to Lord just before tying his nuptial bond. The same hand rolled pasta is served in Vihinichi pangat when the marriage vidhi(ritual) is complete. The bride’s family serves kheer made with this hand rolled pasta to the groom’s family.
My mother-in-law makes sure she has a stock of valvat at home. When time is the constraint, Valvat prepared all in advance and stocked in the pantry helps make a quick kheer for Puja or some festive occasions. These make a great resource, when it comes to prepare a quick upma or a savoury rice preparation. Every visit to India, I have my pack of valvat set aside to travel back with me by my mother-in-law. The stock helps me throughout the year.
I lost my mother-in-law a couple of months ago. This article is my way of celebrating the times we spent together, especially this summer. Learning the intricacies to Gavhale / valvat is the last activity we shared together. She always kept a stash of gavhale packed in an air tight jar for me, to bring into my English kitchen. Unfortunately, this year I had no such jar to bring back. I now have a jar of beautiful memories of our times in the kitchen. Oh! For some more time with her.
It took me while, but now I understand the emotions involved in the family rituals. This has been a gradual process. My beliefs and the rituals of my childhood, which I have learned from my mother, have blended well into the family too. I feel proud to carry on with the traditions, values and beliefs that are still meaningful to the next generation, in a country far away from where I was born. Rituals certainly build up self-esteem in the youngsters, as they see the different ways a family follows traditions and connects.
Here is wishing you all a prosperous Deepawali and may Goddess Laxmi shower her choicest blessings on each one of you.