The merchant community of Rajasthan, Marwaris, have been around for more than 400 years. With an extraordinary acumen for business, the Marwari community gravitated towards to trade and businesses. Unafraid of change and evolution, the community travelled to different parts of the Indian subcontinent and eventually made themselves indispensable to the local economies. However, as the Mughal army spread, the Marwaris moved along with them, finding homes in Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and even Bengal. During 1835 to 1850, some even moved to Bombay or Mumbai, to Kolkata during the 1870s, and as well as to Madras, explains Ruchi Shrivastava, Founder of Greed Goddess Media.
Marwari food habits and cuisine also travelled with them and evolved but it is primarily dependent on the local agricultural produce and is influenced by the desert belts. Dishes would last several days or ones that could be eaten without having to be heated. Blame it on the scarcity of water, which is also the reason why milk or condensed milk came to find a place of importance in Marwari cuisine.
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Moreover, the Rajasthan’s punishing heat and desert terrain meant little or no leafy vegetables in Marwari cuisine. The challenge of lack of fresh produce was solved with besan—in a lot of Marwari dishes besan plays hero. Similarly, grains such as wheat, barley and millets are the preferred cereals. Heavy on the palate, the quantities of red chilli and ghee used was to prevent sunburn and heat strokes and also provide protection against the harsh desert cold, respectively. Considered to be utilitarian, despite not compromising on variety or flavours, even today, Marwari cuisine has managed to maintain its rusticity and simplicity.
Another ingredient that keeps making its presence felt is Moong dal. Moong and other lentil varieties are abundantly grown in Rajathan. Boasting a number of health benefits such as ease in digesting, low in calories and a good source of anti-oxidants, moong dal is also considered to be auspicious. They have found their way into most Marwari customs and traditions.
1. In a ritual known as Byaah Haath, which usually takes place either 5, 7, 11 or 21 days before the wedding, small dumplings of moong dal, known as mangodis or mungodis, are made. This mangodi-making process is considered auspicious start to any event, it finds prominence in the Marwari pre-wedding rituals. Before the wedding officially kicks off, the bride is supposed to make the first seven mangodis, which will later be served at the wedding. Seven is considered to be an auspicious number in Marwari customs and traditions; and the seven mangodis made are handed over to seven married women who then continue to make more mangodis. The groom, on the other hand, is supposed to make two mangodis as a lucky omen or shagun. The rest of the mixture is used to make moong dal wadas.
2. Moong dal again emerges in a ceremony known as Bhaat Bharan. During this pre-wedding ritual, the bride’s maternal uncle is welcomed by her mother with refreshments and moong chawal, which resembles khichdi. The maternal uncle comes bearing gifts for his niece, which include a dupatta or saree alongwith some money as a gesture of support and generosity.
3. Just before the baraat (the wedding procession) leaves the home of the groom, a puja is performed. To mark this, it is customary for the mother to feed the groom a mixture of moong dal, rice, sugar and ghee.
4. As part of Saath Suhali, Shrivastava explains that flat cookie-shaped suhalis are made out of moong dal, whole wheat flour, ajwain salt and ghee. These are then deep fried and resemble north Indian mathri. These suhalis are tied into a ball and given to the bride who is supposed to hide before the baraat enters. She is then supposed to aim and throw these suhali balls at her groom's chest, Shrivastava tells us.
5. As part of a post-wedding ritual, Seer-Guthi or Sindoor Daan, the bride is given a platter or thali consisting of rice, moong dal, jiggery, cash and sweets.
Watch this video to learn how to make some more traditional Marwari dishes, perfect to serve at a wedding:
For more on the mysteries of Marwari community tune into the third season of LF’s Northern Flavours Shubh Vivah with chef Ajay Chopra, every Monday and Tuesday 2:00 pm onwards, only on LF.
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