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Haladi Kunku – A Vintage Kitty Party

It has been more than a decade but I clearly remember that beautiful day in Auckland. I had gone for a walk with my baby in the buggy and was enjoying the lovely weather. Baby being very friendly, he used to exchange smiles with everyone. On our walk, we met a Kiwi grandmother in her late 70s or early 80s. We exchanged a hello and a few words. During the conversation, she asked me whether I was working. I told her that I do but I was on a maternity leave.

 

She insisted that till the time I am on leave, I should go out alone at least once a week for an hour or two and must spend time with my friends. Have a coffee, go shopping, whatever I like to do. She said that it will rejuvenate me and will help me to spend rest of the week happily. Doing this, I can easily avoid postnatal depression. 
 

She mentioned further that she has 5 children of her own. She had her first child 50 years ago. She was a homemaker and her husband encouraged her to go and spend time every week with her friends right from the time they had their first baby. She mentioned that she used to look forward to that weekly coffee mornings. 

That couple knew the secret that if you look after yourself, only then can you look after your family. 

This got me thinking about the tradition of Haladi Kunku (pronounced Koon-Ku) we have back home. Haladi Kunku is a very old tradition started for the ladies to give them a break from the routine and spend some time with their friends. It is a rejuvenating experience for all involved. 

 

This tradition is associated with many festivals. The rituals vary from festival to festival. It is a ladies’ special custom where you invite your lady friends, relatives and ladies from your neighbourhood to celebrate with you.  It's a fun filled evening where you enjoy various delicacies, chit chat, exchange gifts (optional) and occasionally play some traditional games. It’s the time to flaunt your beautiful sarees, adorn jewellery and enjoy the evening. Does it not sound like our modern day kitty party! This is the vintage form of the kitty party. As I said earlier, all customs have a meaningful thought behind them.


One such celebration during monsoon season is a ladies’ night out. It is a celebration hosted for a newlywed lady, called ‘Mangalagaur’. All the ladies and young girls gather and spend the whole night playing traditional games, sing songs. 

The first such Haladi Kunku is celebrated as a Spring festival. It is believed that the goddess Gauri, wife of lord Shiva comes to visit her family. The house and courtyard is decorated with flowers and Rangoli to welcome her. For this occasion, a variety of food dishes are prepared. All the lady’s relatives visit her maternal home and play games, sing to entertain her.  After getting pampered for a month, she goes back to the husband’s house. Hence the celebration also lasts for a month.

As I mentioned in my Gudhi Padwa article, Spring has sprung so the food also consists of what is suitable for the season. This is an evening celebration so light snacks are served with some standard items.

The main snack is 'Kairichi dal' – it is again a healthy snack as it contains mainly Chana Dal, providing protein with the combination of seasonal fruit, raw mango and sprouted chana. These summer fruits and sprouted chana are loaded with nutrients and the germinating seeds symbolise new life and prosperity. It is accompanied by a summer drink called 'Kairi Panhe' made from raw mango, jaggary and flavoured with cardamom. Some other typical accompaniments are Khiraapat (mixture of grated dry coconut and sugar), sprouted whole black chana, cucumber and melon wedges. 

Make Kairichi Dal for your next kitty party and I am sure it will be a show stopper. I will soon share the recipe for 'Kairi panhe'.

Featured Recipe

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