One of the most awaited festivals in Shravana Masam is the one that celebrates the birth of Sri Krishna.
Known variously as Gokulashtami, Sri Krishnashtami, Sri Krishna Jayanti, and Sri Krishna Janmashtami (or simply Janmashtami), it is a festival celebrated throughout India.
Naivedyam for Lord Krishna is dominated by milk products (Curds, Butter, and Milk) and by dishes made with Atukulu (Poha, Aval, Avalakki, or Beaten Rice); both of which are among Krishna’s favourite foods.
The reason why Atukulu is among Krishna’s favourite foods is one of those childhood stories. At early stages of life, the story illustrates the true nature of friendship, but as the child grows it is also a testimony to the power of faith and devotion.
A tale of true Friendship and delicious Aval!
Krishna and Sudama (also known as Kuchela in South India) studied together under Guru Sandipani and became close friends. After they completed their studies, Krishna went on to fulfill his destiny as the King of Dwaraka, while Sudama went on to fulfill his as a Brahmin.
As time passed, Sudama’s family grew to encompass a wife and two children. However, because of Sudama’s austere lifestyle as a Brahmin, the family fell on hard times. Sudama’s wife urges him to visit Krishna, who could help him. Sudama agrees to meet Krishna but resolves not to ask him for anything.
Not wanting to meet Krishna empty-handed, Sudama searches his home for a gift for Krishna and all he finds is some Atukulu. Sudama knows that Krishna loves Atukulu and takes them with him.
Krishna welcomes Sudama warmly and treats him just as one would a dear old friend. The friends spend many an hour reminiscing about their childhood. However, Sudama is overwhelmed by Krishna’s wealth and hesitates to offer him the gift of Atukulu. Krishna spies the bundle and asks Sudama for it. Opening the bundle, Krishna relishes the Atukulu as if it were the tastiest dish in the world.
Sudama spends a couple of days with Krishna but is unable to bring himself to ask him for anything. On the third day, Sudama sets off for home wondering what he would tell his wife on why he came home empty-handed?
Just as reaches his home, Sudama sees that his humble hut has been replaced by a palatial home, and his family well-fed and clothed in finery!
Ever since, it is said, that all devotees offer Atukulu to Krishna. 🙂
Having told a much-loved tale, let me get down to the recipe for Bellam Atukulu or Vella Aval, one of the many Atukulu-based dishes made on Krishna Janmashtami. This is a sweet dish made with just jaggery and Atukulu, and it gets done in a jiffy!
How to Make Bellam Atukulu or Vella Aval
- Thick Atukulu, Aval, Avalakki, Pohe, or Beaten Rice – 1 Cup
- Grated Bellam, Jaggery, or Gur – 2/3 Cup
- Neyyi, Clarified Butter, or Ghee – 1 tbsp
- Cashew Nuts – 4 or 5
- Green Cardamom – 2
- Wash the Atukulu under running water for 2-3 minutes till they absorb the water.
- Let the Atukulu drain in a colander for about 1 hour.
- Peel the cardamom and crush the seeds to a coarse powder.
- In a heavy-bottomed vessel, heat the ghee.
- Split the cashews in half and add to the hot ghee.
- Fry till golden brown.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the grated jaggery.
- Stir continuously and let the jaggery melt to form a thick syrup.
- Add the cardamom powder and mix well.
- Turn off the heat.
- Add the soaked and drained Atukulu to the jaggery syrup.
- Mix well with a light hand.
- Offer the Bellam Atukulu or Vella Aval to Sree Krishna as Naivedyam and have as prasadam!
- Ensure that the Atukulu are just damp but not dry before starting to make the jaggery syrup.
- If the Atukulu is wet, you will have a lumpy mess on your hands.
- The jaggery syrup should just start to foam before you add the Atukulu.
- After adding the Atukulu mix with a light hand, else the Atukulu will disintegrate and you will have a mash on your hands.
Atukulu, Aval or Poha as well as milk plays a very important role in celebrating Lord Krishna’s birthday. Atukula Paramannam (aka Aval Payasam or Poha Kheer) is a dessert that combines both and is made for Gokulashtami or Sri Krishna Janmashtami. You can make this delicious dessert quickly and easily with ingredients that are commonly found in most Indian kitchens.
Aval Payasam or Poha Kheer
Time: 45 Minutes
- Thick Poha – 2/3 Cup
- Milk – 2 Cups
- Sugar – 2/3 to 1 Cup
- Cashews – 6 to 8
- Kishmish or Raisins – 10 to 12
- Ghee – 1 tbsp
- Green Cardamom – 3
Method to Make Atukula Paramannam, Aval Payasam or Poha Kheer
- The Preparations
- Peel the green cardamom and powder it. Set aside.
- Split the cashew into smaller pieces.
- Frying the Dry Fruits
- In a heavy bottomed vessel, over medium heat, heat the ghee.
- Add split cashews and stir-fry till they are light brown.
- Add the raisins and stir-fry for 5 to 7 seconds.
- Remove the fried cashews and raisins and set aside.
- Frying the Atukulu, Aval or Poha
- To the remaining ghee, add the atukulu or poha.
- Over low heat, stir-fry the atukulu or poha till they just start to change colour to light brown.
- Remove the poha and set aside.
- Boil the milk till it reduces a bit.
- Add the sugar and simmer till the sugar boils.
- Add the fried poha/aval/atukulu and mix well.
- Boil the kheer till the poha/aval/atukulu softens.
- Turn off the heat.
- Add the cardamom powder as well as fried cashews and raisins.
- Mix well.
Offer as naivedyam and serve as prasadam.
- Be careful when you are frying the poha as it tends to burn rather quickly.
- Ensure that the heat is low to medium.
- Be sure to stir-fry the poha or atukulu.
- Stir-frying the aval, atukulu, or poha ensures that it retains its shape even after you add it to milk. If you do not stir-fry it, there is a risk that the poha turns to mush in the boiling milk.
- You could also use condensed milk. If you do reduce the milk to 1.5 cups, do not use sugar, and add about 3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk.