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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 07/14/13

Sunday, July 14, 2013

RAKSHA BANDHAN FROM INDIA!


Rakhi: The Thread of Love

    In India, festivals are the celebration of togetherness, of being one of the family. Raksha Bandhan is one such festival that is all about affection, fraternity and sublime sentiments. It is also known as Raksha Bandhan which means a 'bond of protection'. This is an occasion to flourish love, care, affection and sacred feeling of brotherhood.
Not a single festival in India is complete without the typical Indian festivities, the gatherings, celebrations, exchange of sweets and gifts, lots of noise, singing and dancing. Raksha Bandhan is a regional celebration to celebrate the sacred relation between brothers and sisters. Primarily, this festival belongs to north and western region of India but soon the world has started celebrating this festival with the same verse and spirit. Rakhi has become an integral part of those customs.





An insight of Rakhi Rituals

    On the day of Rakhi, sisters prepares the pooja thali with diya, roli, chawal, rakhi thread and sweets. The ritual begins with a prayer in front of God, then the sister ties Rakhi to her brother and wishes for his happiness and well-being. In turn, the brother acknowledge the love with a promise to stand by his sister through all the good and bad times.
    Sisters tie Rakhi on the wrist of their brothers amid chanting of mantras, put roli and rice on his forehead and pray for his well-being. She bestows him with gifts and blessings. In turn, brothers also wish her a good life and pledges to take care of her. He gives her a return gift. The gift symbolizes the physical acceptance of her love, reminder of their togetherness and his pledge. The legends and the reference in history repeated, the significance of the festival is emphasized.





Unconditional Bond of Love

    Raksha bandhan has been celebrated in the same way with the same traditions for many years. Only the means have changed with the changing lifestyle to make the celebration more elaborate and lively. This day has an inherent power that pulls the siblings together. The increasing distances evoke the desire to be together even more. All brothers and sisters try to reach out to each other on this auspicious day. The joyous meeting, the rare family get-together, that erstwhile feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood calls for a massive celebration.
    For everyone, it is an opportunity to reunion and celebrate. People also share tasty dishes, wonderful sweets and exchange gifts. It is a time to share their past experiences also. For those who are not able to meet each other, rakhi cards and e-rakhis and rakhis through mails perform the part of communicating the rakhi messages. Hand made rakhis and self-made rakhi cards are just representation of the personal feelings of the siblings.






Traditions &  Customs

    Raksha Bandhan is an occasion to celebrate the sacred bond of love and affection between siblings with lots of verve. Also known as Raksha Bandhan across the world, this festival is primarily a north Indian festival that is celebrated all brothers and sisters to express their deep emotions, love and affection.
   On the day of Rakhi festival, the sister ties Rakhi on the wrist of her brother and both make prayer to God for the well being of each other. Sisters perform 'aarti' and put tilak on the forehead of her brother. In return, brothers make promise to take care of his sister under all circumstances. Usually, brothers gift something to the sister to mark the occasion. The mirth that surrounds the festival is unsurpassed. Amidst the merriment the rituals are also followed with great devotion.






Preparation of Rakhi Festival

    Generally, the fancy Rakhis and delicious sweets are prepared long before the Shravana Purnima. According to the Indian tradition, the family members get ready for the rituals early in the morning. They take a bath to purify mind and body before starting any preparations. Sisters prepare the puja thali which consists of roli, tilak, Rakhi threads, rice grains, aggarbattis (incense sticks), diyas and sweets. After offering the rituals to the deities of the family, the sister perform aarti of their brothers and ties Rakhi on their wrist. Then, they put kumkum powder on the forehead of their brother and offer sweets. All these rituals take place amid the chanting of the following mantras :



"Suraj shakhan chhodian, Mooli chhodia beej
Behen ne rakhi bandhi / Bhai tu chir jug jee"
,
Which means "The sun radiates its sunlight, the radish spreads its seeds,
I tie the rakhi to you O brother and wish that may you live long."
After her prayer for a long life for her brother, she says that she is tie the ever-protective Raksha to her brother's wrist and chants:

"Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah
tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala"


    This means," I tie you the rakhi that was tied to king Bali, the king of Demons,
   O Rakhi I pray that you never falter in protecting your devotee.
    In return, brothers pampers and blesses the sisters and promises to protect her from all the evils of this world. He also present a token of his love and affection as a Rakhi gift. The rituals performed on Raksha Bandhan may differ from place to place but they carry the same aura throughout the globe.
Raksha Bandhan in History
    The traditional Hindu festival 'Raksha Bandhan' (knot of protection) was came into origin about 6000 years back when Aryans created first civilization - The Indus Valley Civilization. With many languages and cultures, the traditional method to Rakhi festival celebration differs from place to place across India. Following are some historical evidences of Raksha Bandhan celebration from the Indian history.









Rani Karnawati and Emperor Humayun

    The story of Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun is the most significant evidence in the history. During the medieval era, Rajputs were fighting Muslim invasions. Rakhi at that time meant a spiritual binding and protection of sisters was foremost. When Rani Karnawati the widowed queen of the king of Chittor realised that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun. The Emperor touched by the gesture started off with his troops without wasting any time.

Alexander The Great and King Puru

    The oldest reference to the festival of rakhi goes back to 300 B.C. at the time when Alexander invaded India. It is said that the great conqueror, King Alexander of Macedonia was shaken by the fury of the Indian king Puru in his first attempt. Upset by this, Alexander's wife, who had heard of the Rakhi festival, approached King Puru. King Puru accepted her as his sister and when the opportunity came during the war, he refrained from Alexander.







Lord Krishna and Draupathi

    In order to protect the good people, Lord Krishna killed the evil King Shishupal. Krishna was hurt during the war and left with bleeding finger. Seeing this, Draupathi had torn a strip of cloth from her sari and tied around his wrist to stop the bleeding. Lord Krishna, realizing her affections and concern about him, declared himself bounded by her sisterly love. He promised her to repay this debt whenever she need in future. Many years later, when the pandavas lost Draupathi in the game of dice and Kauravas were removing her saari, Krishna helped her divinely elongating the saari so that they could not remove it.

King Bali and Goddess Lakshmi

    The demon king Mahabali was a great devotee of lord Vishnu. Because of his immense devotion, Vishnu has taken the task of protecting bali's Kingdom leaving his normal place in Vikundam. Goddess lakshmi - the wife of lord Vishnu - has became sad because of this as she wanted lord Vishnu along with her. So she went to Bali and discussed as a Brahmin woman and taken refuge in his palace. On Shravana purnima, she tied Rakhi on King Bali's wrist. Goddess Lakshmi ord Vishnu to accompany her to vaikuntam. Due to this festival is also called Baleva as Bali Raja's devotion to the Lord vishnu. It is said that since that day it has become a tradition to invite sisters on sravan pournima to tie sacred thread of Rakhi or Raksha bandan.






Rakhi Celebrations

    In India, Rakhi celebrations are about strengthening the bond of love between brothers and sisters and fostering brotherhood. This festival is not a ritual, custom and tradition that can change over time but its style of celebration has become contemporary. Since ages, Raksha Bandhan is being celebrated in the same way. All the traditions are followed with the same enthusiasm. The gaieties have only blown up to a larger scale. Rakhi festival is the celebration of the chaste bond of love amongst the siblings.
    Everyone start preparing for this festival much in advance. About a month before the commencement of raksha bandhan, you can see fancy and colorful rakhis in every market. Ladies start shopping for rakhi and rakhi gifts quite early. They shop for new clothes and beautiful rakhi gifts specially the one that have to be sent to their brothers staying far. Almost every shop, be it sweet shops, garment shops, gift shops, or any other shop, all are flooded with attractive rakhi gifts to attract people.







    The celebration of Rakhi, in India, is well known for its carnival spirit and strengthening the bond of love between brothers and sisters. In fact, India is globally known for its colorful festivals and ever-green tradition. Celebrated with different rituals, family get-together and sweets, Raksha Bandhan is about sentiments, love and enjoyment. Like any other festival, rakhi has its unique significance.
    On the day of Rakhi festival, the festivity of this auspicious day begin by the day break. After taking bath early morning, people get ready by wearing new clothes and gather for worshiping. After invoking the the blessings of the Gods, the sister performs brother’s arti, puts tika and chawal on his forehead and ties Rakhi amongst chanting of mantras. Sisters whole heartedly give sweets to their brothers to eat which in turns add more sweetness in the Raksha Bandhan celebration and pray for their well being. In return, brothers pamper their sisters and present beautiful gifts to lure them. They also promise to take care of her and stand by her side in any circumstances.







    After performing all these rituals, the whole family reunion to enjoy and have fun. Then all of them share the delicious food, tasty sweets, gifts, music and dance. It is a day to remember all the memorable time spent    together for those who, for any reason, are far away from their family. Emotions can also be expressed through e-mails, e-cards, rakhi greeting cards and rakhi through Internet. The overflowing emotions of siblings cannot be stopped on this day.
    Rabindra Nath Tagore started gathering of people like 'Rakhi Mahotsavas' in Shantiniketan to propogate the feeling of brotherhood among people. He believed that the this will invoke trust and feeling of peaceful coexistence. Raksha Bandhan, for them, is a way to harmonize the relationship of humanity. The tradition continues as people started tying rakhis to the neighbor and friends.

KRAMPUS, SANTA'S EVIL HELPER (AT LEAST IN SOME PARTS OF THE WORLD)!




    Krampus is not a muscle contraction that causes unpleasant pain, but Krampus does apparently inflict painful experiences or death to children who do not behave. This mythical creature has been a tool people have used to promote scare tactics in children. Krampus is in cahoots with Santa Claus. In some parts of the world, Santa has plural helpers called Krampi.





    Krampus is depicted as an evil demon that has a long tail, horns, a long tongue, hooves, and carries a black bag or basket. As a child, I never heard of Krampus. Not until I picked up a random National Geographic magazine at the doctor's office had I ever heard of Krampus. This creature originated in Austria and is still very popular in Germany. Krampus is also related to fertility.






    The Americanized Santa Claus does not have these helpers. In other parts of the world, Santa's group of Krampi would be considered similar to American Santa's elves, except for the obvious differences that elves are merry, very small, and gleefully make toys, while Krampi are large and terrifying. Usually, the Americanized helper elves will secretly watch children throughout the year and report good and bad behavior back to Santa. These behavior reports help Santa decide whether or not to give children gifts or not. Spying elves seem creepy.







    Compared to what Krampi do, however, elves don't score as high on the creep-o-meter. Krampi warn and punish bad children (Wikipedia, 2010). They have the authority, per St. Nicolas, to take presents away from naughty children or, if they have misbehaved badly enough, Krampus will hurt them physically, lock them in chains, and stuff them in his black sack or basket and take them away. The children the Krampi determine are very bad will be whisked off for a not-so-special holiday in a dark, scary forest where they will live forever, tortured by the Krampi of the dark forest or possibly, be killed.






    Krampus pre-dates Christianity. He is still feared by some Austrians today and is believed to be an ancient god (Seven Trees, 2008). Other pagan things have been incorporated into Christian holidays, and so has Krampus in his correlation with St. Nicholas. Remember all the while we thought those hooves were from Santa's cute, flying reindeer? It seems we were wrong! Those hooves are from the feet of the Krampi who travel with Santa.






    So parents, from now on if the threat of receiving coal on Christmas no longer holds any fear, you may want to consider sharing the story of the demonic Krampus with your disobedient child. For extra effect, don't forget the furry costume complete with horns, long tongue, chains, black sack, and scary demon mask while you lurk outside the window some night to prove to your child that Krampi do, in fact, exist. Or you might try not being sadistic. Besides, in places where Krampus is still "celebrated", children have taken to dressing in black rags and chains, running through streets and terrorizing people. Some of them seem to have overcome their fear of the creature and have taken back the Yuletide and the night. The true origins of Christmas are pagan; this is one example of that fact.

JAPANESE CHEESECAKE!!!






There are cakes which look absolutely stunning and gorgeous on the outside, but when it comes to the taste, it disappoints, and you just wished that it tasted as good as it looks. I've had a lot of those experiences, and in fact, I think I've made a few of cakes like that myself!

What I love about a good Japanese cheesecake is that while in appearance it resembles a humble (and perhaps, plain or boring?) sponge cake, but the minute you put it into your mouth, you want to close your eyes and go 'hmmmmmmmmmmmmm'.

We all go through phases, don't we?! Well, about a month ago, I was in a cheesecake phase. And I made cheesecakes almost on a daily basis (I don't know where I got the energy from after work!). Following my previous cheesecake attempt, I have diligently scoured the internet for more versions to try. This version is a even lighter version as it calls for less eggs (good for the cholesterol conscious like myself!) and has a mousse-like texture as it is incredible light and fluffy!


Right out of the oven...hmmmmm.




Japanese Cheesecake

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 45g unsalted butter
  • 57g egg yolk (this equals to 3 yolks)
  • 20g sugar
  • 11g cornstarch
  • 150g milk
  • 95g egg white (3 egg whites)
  • 55g sugar
  • Use an 18 cm (7 in) cake pan with a fixed bottom
Cut a strip of parchment that is 3 cm higher than the height of the cake pan. Fold 1.5 cm along the long edge and cut a notch to the fold line every 2 cm to allow the strip to line the side of the cake pan. Slits should point into the center of the cake pan. You want the strip to be at least 1 cm taller than the cake pan. (Basically, the notches are just so you can build a perfectly round collar around the base of the pan.) Cut a parchment paper round to line the bottom of the cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put the egg whites into the freezer so it just begins to freeze around the edges. Sift the cornstarch.

Wrap the cream cheese in clear wrap and microwave until it becomes soft to the touch. You do not want to heat it up. (I did this in about 15 second intervals.)

In a large bowl, melt the butter over a double boiler. Add the cream cheese and whisk well to combine.

In another bowl, combine the egg yolks and 20g of sugar. Mix in the cornstarch.






Mixing and yolks with the cream cheese

Heat the milk so it comes to a boil. Add it to the egg yolks and whisk until it thickens in a double boiler over boiling water. Add this mixture to the cream cheese and combine well.

Add a small amount of the 55g of sugar to the egg whites and mix on medium low speed for about 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites and beat on medium until a soft meringue forms.

Add ¼ of the meringue to the cream cheese mixture and combine. Add the remaining meringue to the cream cheese mixture and fold to combine. Fill the cake pan and smooth the top.






Pouring the mixture into the dish






All ready for the oven!

Put the cake pan in a roasting pan and add boiling water so it comes up 1-1.5 cm up the cake pan. Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 160°C and continue to bake for 25 minutes until the top turns slightly golden. Turn off the oven and leave the cake pan for another 40 minutes to an hour.







So beautifully plump!

Note: The cake will continue to bake with the heat off so do not over bake. Depending on the oven, the cake may not turn golden but should avoid cooking much longer than the suggested time.











Take the cake out of the roasting dish and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate and chill completely before taking it out of the pan. It is best served the second day