The eighth day of the Navratri celebration is Ashtami. On this day, many Hindu devotees worship little girls by offering them sacred food or what is famously known as Ashtami Prasad. Ashtami prasad mainly consists of halwa puri kala chana. To be more precise, it is sweet semolina pudding, deep-fried flatbreads, and salty black chickpeas. The combination of these three things makes the famous Ashtami or Navami prasad. The recipe for puri is in this post; however, the recipes for Sooji Halwa and Kala chana are in separate posts.
The notion behind Ashtami Puja
The holy tradition and ritual of offering halwa puri kala chana to young girls, who many consider as nine divine forms of Goddess Durga, is called Kanjak or Kanya Pujan. It is quite a notion that Mother Durga, along with her nine spiritual forms, visit homes of her devotees to bless them on the day of Ashtami. And devotees worship the young goddesses and then offer them ‘satvik bhoj’ or halwa puri kala chana. Only after the kanjak or kanya pujan, the food becomes sacred and ready to devour as Ashtami prasad. This religious practice of worshipping girls as Devi is a unique part of our biblical Hindu ideology.
The tasty combination of Halwa Puri
Halwa is a simple and wholesome Indian dessert. One can find this mesmerizing dish in almost every Indian household. Mothers make it wholeheartedly for their little ones by generously adding ghee to it, which makes it nutritiously rich. There are many halwa recipes out there apart from the signature Sooji ka halwa. My particular favorites are gajar ka halwa, moong dal halwa, badam ka halwa, aloo ka halwa, besan ka halwa, atte ka halwa, beetroot halwa, and the list goes on. However, if you are making Ashtami prasad, then make sooji halwa only. For which you can find the recipe in my other post. If you are someone who struggles to make kids eat their veggies, then consider using vegetables to sneak in their food via halwa. There is something simply spectacular about enjoying the hot steamy halwa, especially in winter months.
Combining Halwa Puri with other dishes for a better experience
Mostly halwa tastes good on its own, but many times people enjoy it alongside deep-fried whole wheat puris. Thus, halwa puri is a magnificent combination, and many temples and holy institutions serve it as prasad. During Navratri’s Ashtami celebrations, this yummy combination gets even better because you get kala chana or black chickpeas in the combo. And hence it makes way for a very delightful sweet and salty dish. You can make halwa puri on any given day and not only on Ashtami day. Combine it with chole or aloo ki sabzi, and you are sure to feel the food coma!
Ever since I was a child, I have fully reaped the benefits of being worshipped as a kanjak. My cousins and I got timely ready to visit everyone’s homes and see what they had to offer us alongside halwa puri kala chana prasad. Many times we got chocolates, chips, school stationery supplies, and even hair accessories like clips and hair bands. We felt so pampered! Now when I look back, these memories are some of the best childhood memories. Living in a community surrounded by immediate uncles and aunts and many other relatives, the festivities become quite elaborate. And now I try to pass such traditions and rituals to my girls, to acquaint them with their Indian roots. I hope you will enjoy the glimpse of our Ashtami prasad!
Special considerations to make Ashtami Prasad:
- Ashtami prasad or any prasad is satvik, meaning it is vegetarian and also without onion and garlic.
- Cook the holy food without wearing slippers or shoes. Also, make sure the kitchen space is neat and clean.
- Using coconut in making prasad is considered to be auspicious. You can either use coconut oil to fry the pooris and add fresh or dried desiccated coconut to sooji halwa. Many like to place tiny pieces of fresh coconut in each set of halwa puri kala chana prasad.
- If you plan to do kanjak or kanya pujan, then make sure to cook the right quantity. In this ritual, you worship nine girls and one boy. The trend is to serve each kanjak minimum of 2 pooris with 1-2 tablespoon of halwa and kala chana on top. And only after that everyone in the family gets to relish the tasty Ashtami prasad.
- Consider using only desi ghee or coconut oil to make the Ashtami prasad. I generally prefer to deep fry everything in coconut oil for it has a higher smoke point. For tempering Kala chana and making Sooji ka halwa, I prefer using desi ghee.
- The Ashtami kala chana prasad is usually dry. However, I like to make it curry-based since the broth has high nutritional content. But when I am serving kanjaks halwa puri, I serve Kala chana without curry. Dried Kala chana, which I temper separately in salty masala, is what everyone places alongside halwa puri to do Kanya Pujan.
- 2 cups whole wheat flour/atta
- 1/4 cup semolina
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ajwain/carom seeds optional
- 2-3 tablespoons melted ghee
- Warm water for kneading the dough
- Coconut Oil for deep frying
- Mix the whole wheat flour, semolina, ajwain, and ghee. Add warm water a little bit at a time and knead until you form a smooth and stiff dough.
- Cover the dough with a moist cloth or a paper towel. Then keep it aside to rest for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into medium-sized balls. Aim to get about 12 dough balls.
- Heat coconut oil in a wok meanwhile you begin rolling the pooris into medium-sized circles. Add a little bit of oil to each dough ball so that it does not stick when rolling into a circle.
- Before frying the poori, check the oil temperature by dropping a small piece of the poori dough into the hot oil. If it floats up immediately and doesn't become brown, then the oil is at the correct temperature.
- Gently place the poori into the hot wok and fry until it floats and puffs up. Then flip it and gently press with a slotted spoon.
- Once poori is golden brown, remove it and place it on a paper towel-lined on a plate.
- Continue with frying the pooris.
- Serve immediately with halwa and kala chana or any other sabzi.
- The poori dough should be a little stiff /tight, and not too soft. It is so that you can easily roll out the dough ball without sticking it to the surface.
- Adding semolina is optional, but it does help in making slightly crispy pooris.
- When rolling the dough ball into poori, add a little bit of oil to the dough ball so that it doesn't stick to the surface.
- The key to making perfect pooris is that they should puff while frying. If your poori doesn't puff up while frying, either the oil is too hot or cold. Or you didn't knead the dough well enough.
- Don't let the pooris fry for too long, or else they will turn over brown, hard and crispy.