Happy Diwali, Everyone

15 Oct

Sri Meenakshi temple

The Hindu festival of light, Diwali, starts today.  I used this as reason to walk along Tooting High Road last night to buy gulab jamen and a piece of almond and pistachio burfi from one of the sweet shops in what feels like microcosm of the Subcontinent.

Ok, so the sweetmaker was actually Pakistani, Muslim and keen to discuss the ascent of Western culture in Lahore, but the Diwali sentiment was there.

He explained that because cows are sacred in southern India, buffalo milk, rather than cow’s milk, is used to make sweets there. Does anyone know if that’s true? There are undoubtedly plenty of buffalo in southern India but I’ve never heard of that before. In Pakistan, obviously, it isn’t an issue.

He also muttered about the poor quality milk in England; poor man, he must be missing home.

I didn’t have my camera with me so no pictures of burfi. Instead, this one of a woman leaving an offering in the most important of Hindu sites, the Sri Meenakshi temple in Madurai, India.  William Dalrymple wrote an elegant piece about it in the The Age of Kali. Do read it if you have a chance.

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One Response to “Happy Diwali, Everyone”

  1. maureen October 17, 2009 at 7:16 pm #

    Having lived on a South Indian tea estate as a child, I remember that there were cows kept in a paddock, and we did get fresh milk (which had to be heated to boiling point), but we also had tinned condensed milk. It’s quite possible that buffalo milk is used by the South Indian people – after all, the Italians make cheese with it! Interestingly, a lot of modern recipes for Indian sweetmeats stipulate condensed milk.

    But oh dear, what a trial Diwali is when people let off fireworks close by! We have a very frightened little dog this evening.

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