Monday, November 4, 2013

Light in the Darkness, and Doodh Peda (Indian Sweets)

"Your first night driving home in the dark," my boss commented, nodding towards the window as I gathered my things to leave work.

I said something dismissive about having driven home in the dark before, because I've spent a few late evenings at events on campus, but as I crested the mountain in the middle of my drive, in the pitch black, tensely hunched over the wheel as I scanned the road ahead for deer, I realized he was right, in a way; this darkness felt different than it had just three weeks ago.  More permanent.  Or at the very least, more sustained.  I could sense winter coming.  There would be snow in these mountains.

Diwali, the five day Hindu festival popularly known as the "festival of lights" and the first in a two month series of  light-filled holidays from various traditions, began on Sunday this year.  The festival celebrates the victory of light over dark, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance, honoring of the return of Hindu god Rama and his wife Sita to their kingdom after years of exile.  During Diwali, celebrants clean the house and light small clay lamps filled with oil to make the goddess Lakshmi (of prosperity) and Ganesh (remover of obstacles) feel welcome, and there are lots of sweets shared with friends.

More importantly, perhaps, the holiday celebrates awareness of the inner light, the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the awakening that brings compassion, awareness of the oneness of all things, and eventually, ananda (which my yoga teacher translates as "bliss").

While of course the parallels between the celebrations and the daylight hours depend on the hemisphere in which you live, there's something to be said for looking inward when the light outside wanes.  I've written here before about the practice of pratyahara, withdrawing from the senses, in order to better focus our inner awareness; though I haven't been to my beloved yoga teacher's studio in a while to practice there, I suspect that's what they're preparing to do this month and next.

So as I headed into the valley, I turned off the radio, slowed down, lowered my high beams, and listened.

The silence was wonder-ful.

Happy Diwali; wishing you all the light of andanda.  Enjoy the darkness.

Doodh Pedas
I love Indian sweets because they're so different from our cloying candy.   These are pretty easy to make, and the "dough" is fun to play with, whether you have kids or not.  Next time I might even add a drop or two of rosewater, just for the heady sent .

1¾ c. powdered milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 T. butter
6 green cardamom pods, peeled and seeds crushed to fine powder
small pinch of saffron, dissolved in 2 T. warm water or milk
small pinch of salt
nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachios etc)

Microwave the butter in a deep bowl for 20-30 seconds until just melted. Add the milk powder and condensed milk and stir well until you no longer see any lumps.

Microwave the mixture again for 1 minute. Mix well again, and microwave once more for 1 minute.

Add the cardamom, salt, and saffron, and mix well. Microwave for one more minute.

Allow the mixture to cool a bit, and dump it onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper or parchment, and roll the dough into a 1/2" thick round. Cut with a cookie cutter or into whatever shape you like, and press nuts into the center. (The dough, as it cools, becomes lots of fun for children to play with.) Cool completely.

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  1. Love this post.

    And I'm going to make this recipe as well - sounds fantastic, and by providence I have nearly all of the ingredients on hand. :)


  2. I love that there is a celebration of light - always great to be reminded that the light is there and it is ours - so long as we choose to accept it as such. Simple but not easy - right?


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