Karadai Nonbu is a unique fast observed by Tamil Brahmin ladies for longevity and
welfare of their husbands. There is an interesting legend behind this fast.
Aswapathi, the king of the great Madhra kingdom and his queen Malavi are
blessed with everything on earth except a child. They choose an ascetic lifestyle
and perform many yagyams to beget a progeny. Pleased by their prayers, God
Savithr appears before them and says that they will soon be blessed with a female
child. They name the child Savithri in honour of the deity who granted the boon.
Savithri grows up to be a very beautiful, intelligent, austere and pious young
woman. Overawed by her beauty and sharp wits no man comes forward to seek
her hand in marriage. King Aswapathi asks her to select a man of her own choice
as her life companion. She sets out for this purpose and Savithri finds young,
handsome Sathyawan, the son of Salwa King Dhyumathsena, who was deposed by
his enemies and lives in exile in a forest. She admires Sathyawan’s sense of duty
towards his blind father and aged mother.
Savithri returns home and tells her father about her decision. At this time
Sage Naradha who is present there prophesies that Sathyavan is destined to die
one year from the day of marriage. Hearing this, Aswapathi pleads with his
daughter to change her decision. As Savithri is resolute in her decision, he
Savithri, clad as a hermit follows Sathyavan to the forest after the wedding.
She joins her husband in service to his parents as an ideal wife. Three days before
the predicted day of Sathyavan’s death, she decides to observe a rigorous fast
forgoing sleep and food. She convinces her concerned father-in-law and begins
the rigid penance with his consent.
On the morning of Sathyavan’s predicted death she seeks her father-in-
law’s permission to accompany Sathyawan into the forest. He does not deny as
she has never asked for anything since the day of marriage. They proceed towards
the forest enjoying nature along the way.
Savithri weaves a garland of wild flowers while Sathyawan chops the wood. After some time Sathyawan comes near Savithri complaining of fatigue and head ache. She lays him down in the shade of a tree, resting his head on her lap. She could perceive Yama, monarch of death standing before her with a noose. Savithri pleads with him not to take her husband’s life. Yama takes away the soul of Sathyawan, saying death is ineludible and ubiquitous.
Savthri follows Yama and struggling to keep pace with his long strides through thick jungles. At one stage Yama stops and asks Savithri to go back and perform the funeral rites. But Savithri refuses to go back saying that she has walked seven paces with him and the scriptures declare that one who walks seven paces with another becomes his friend and hence he should converse with him. The intelligent and enlightening conversation of Savithri and Yama contains many mystic spiritual facts. Her wisdom par excellence and oratory skill impresses Yama and he offer to grant three boons except the life of her husband. First she asks for restoration of eyesight and kingdom for her father in law, then a hundred sons for her father and finally in the third boon she asks a hundred sons for herself. Yama grants this boon also in haste. Now Yama cannot renege and has to grant the boon. Thus Savithri outwits Yama by her remarkable presence of mind. Then they live happily for several years blessed with many children.
Those who hear this story will be blessed with progeny, prosperity and peace.
Karadai Nonbu is observed to commemorate Savithri, the ideal woman, divine grace in human form. Savithri observed Karadi Nonbu in the forest after she saved her husband from the clutches of Yama. She offered a dish made of rice and lentils to the Goddess and tied a yellow thread round her neck as her husband had regained his life.
Karadai Nonbu is observed at the time when Masi gives way to Panguni. This fast is named after the unique naivedyam Karadai, made of new rice and cow peas. Two important things required for this fast is Karadai and a yellow thread with fresh turmeric and flowers tied in the centre.
Decorate the house with kolams and hang a garland of mango leaves at the entrance. Puja preparations start half an hour before the exact transition time. Draw a kolam for each banana leaf (Nuni Ilai) and place the leaf on the kolam, the narrow end facing the north. We should offer one banana leaf for the goddess and one for every woman and girl observing the fast. Keep karadais and butter at the centre and betel leaves, betel nuts, bananas, broken coconut and yellow thread on the tip side While doing Naivedhyam this Tamil verse is chanted.
Urukaatha Vennaiyum Oradaiyum naan nutren
Orukaalum en kanavan piriyaama irukkanum.
”I’m offering unmelted butter and karadai to you. Bless me with marital harmony and bliss.”
This Sanskrit slokam is chanted while tying the thread. Elderly women in the family tie the thread for young women. Married women should keep aside some adais for their husband from their plate. Young women seek the blessings of the elders in the family by prostrating at their feet. The next morning cows are offered Karadai and thus the Puja is completed. A married woman observes this fast praying for long and healthy life of her husband and an unmarried woman observes this fast to get ideal person as her husband. It is not desirable to consume curd or buttermilk on that day.
(Puja procedure may vary in some families. It is better to follow the family tradition consulting the elderly women in the family)
Karadai- Method of Preparation
Soak two cups of raw rice for 30 minutes. Then drain the water and spread it on a clean, white cotton cloth. Leave it for 10 minutes. Put the moist rice in a mixer and grind it to get a fine powder. This can be used for both sweet and savoury Adais.
Ingredients for Sweet Adai:
Rice flour- one cup
Powdered jaggery- ¾ cup
Whole tuar dal or cow peas- cooked – one tablespoon
Finely chopped coconut- one tablespoon
A pinch of cardamom powder
Take one cup of rice flour and dry fry the rice powder till its colour changes to light brown. The flour should be devoid of moisture and should not stick to the vessel. Allow it cool for some time and then sieve and grind it again to remove the lumps.
Dry roast whole tuar dal and cook it in a pressure cooker. Tuar dal should not be over cooked, else it would become mushy. Remove the water from the cooked dal and keep it aside in a plate.
Boil one and a half cups of water in a pan add powdered jaggery and when the jaggery dissolves add cooked tuar dal, finely chopped coconut, cardamom powder and a teaspoon of ghee. When the water starts boiling add the roasted rice flour slowly and keep stirring with a ladle to avoid lumps. When the flour tightens and leaves the sides of the pan switch off the flame and cover it with a lid.
Open it after few minutes and make small balls out of it. Keep the ball on a greased banana leaf and flatten it making a finger dent in the centre. Then steam the patties for 10 minutes. A shiny glow on the surface indicates that adais are cooked and ready for serving.
Rice Flour- one cup
Oil for tempering
Cooked whole tuar dal- one table spoon
Chopped coconut-one tablespoon
Salt according to taste
Small piece of ginger
Green chillies- two
A pinch of asafoetida
Mustard seeds- one teaspoon
Urad dal- one teaspoon
Few curry leaves
Dry roast the rice flour and switch off the gas before its colour changes. The texture should be like that of the rice flour we use to draw kolam. Sieve the flour and grind the lumps putting it in a mixer. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard and when it splutters add urad dal, red chillies, green chillies, ginger, curry leaves and asafoetida. Fry for a few minutes and add two cups of water and bring the water to boil. Reduce the flame and add cooked tuar dal, chopped coconut and salt. Add the rice flour slowly to the boiling water and keep stirring to avoid lumps. Cook until it forms a lump and cover it with a lid.
Make small balls out of the dough keeping it on a greased banana leaf. When it is warm flatten it to a circle making a hole in the centre. Steam the patties for ten minutes. Now the Uppu Adai is ready to serve.
Keep hot water ready and if the cooked adai cracks add little hot water to the dough.
Steaming adais in banana leaves enhances the taste adding a unique flavour. It is packed with anti oxidants. The food cooked in it absorbs the poly phenols in it and hence more nutritious. In olden days, while cooking Karadai, freshly harvested straw was kept inside the steaming pot as it imparted a unique flavour.
Now let us listen to a devotional rendition of Savithri Padam by Srimathi Kalamalini Sundararajan