Saturday, March 19, 2011

Super ‘Holi’ Moon - 2011


The full moon of the lunar month Phalguna (Phalguna purnima) is celebrated as the end of the Winter season and the beginning of Spring. According to ancient Hindu traditions, it also was the last day of the year and the new year heralding the Vasanta-ritu or Spring, with spring starting from next day. This day is celebrated as the festival of Holi or festival of colours,  a festival of merrymaking, announcing the commencement of the spring season.

The name Holi is derived from the name of the Demoness Holika, sister of the demon King Hiranyakaship who won over the kingdom of earth. He was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and refused to worship his father.

Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son Prahlad but Lord Vishnu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. For, Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed.

Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life. Holika was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.
Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Vishnu all this while, came out unharmed, as the Lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.

Thus, Holi derives its name from Holika. And, is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil.

This year 2011,  the Holi moon coincides with the “Super Moon”, wherein the moon, on its elliptical axis comes closest to the earth after 1993.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Banana Walnut muffins….

One of the first things I did once I started baking was try various recipes for banana walnut muffins. The best recipe I got for the same was from (Click on the link to see the original recipe). I have been wanting to post this recipe for a long time, but was unable to for some reason or the other. This weekend, I had 4 people ask for the recipe, and decided it was time that this recipe enters cyberspace :-)

I modified the recipe a bit, basically because I was using a tray that makes 6 large muffins, and over the few months that I have been baking (almost a year now), I have refined the recipe to make it more fun and unique.


The ingredients are simple and are given below:

Wet Mix –

2 ripe (over-ripe) bananas

½ cup butter (melted)

¾ cup sugar ( I prefer Brown sugar)

1 egg (beaten)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

½ cup chopped walnuts ( actually any nuts will do)

Pinch of salt

Dry Mix –

1 cup all purpose flour (ordinary maida)

1 teaspoon baking powder


The way I go about it is simple. Set the oven up at 180 degrees Celsius (pre-heat), and get the muffin tray ready, by layering it with the paper cups.

Dice the bananas (small bits, but don’t mash). Melt the butter, mix the diced bananas, butter, sugar, vanilla, coffee powder, salt and egg together. Sift the flour and baking powder separately onto a plate. Fold the wet and dry ingredients together. Fill the muffin cups till they are half full, and bake them for about 25 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out almost dry.

Word  of caution, do not mix (fold) the wet and dry ingredients and let them stand. They have to be transferred into the cups and baked immediately. I try and do it within 10-15 seconds.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The last shoot at Phool Mandi – CP ……

phool-mandi-1It was a poignant morning when the friends of Photosensitive as well as students of the current basic Photography course, visited the Wholesale  Flower Market opposite the Hanuman Mandir, at Connaught Place in Delhi. After coming here for several years to try and capture a piece of this vibrant soul (this is also a part of the outdoor schedule of the basic photography class of Photosensitive), we heard, through one of our friends that the Phool Mandi was to be shifted out of CP to Ghazipur, near the Delhi – UP border.

The phool-mandi-2space around Coffee Home opposite Hanuman Mandir at Connaught Place, in Delhi hosts  what is arguably the largest flower market in Asia, with majority being cut flowers and a small percentage of marigold travelling up from Kolkata. (Cut flowers are typically used as 'vase-decoration' flowers -- gladioli, tulips, roses, carnations, gerberas,  etc. Marigold and Rose petals are used for pooja and other ceremonial purposes). There are two other flower markets in the capital – one at Fatehpuri in Chandni Chowk, which specializes in puja flowers and the other at Mehrauli, where one primarily finds marigold with only a small percent of the total flowers being cut flowers.

The  Phool Mandi is also  called Birju Phool Mandi, after Birju Bhai a flower wholesaler, brought  together a few other flower wholesalers and started the mandi in 1995. They started an association called ‘CUT FLOWER GROWER & SUPPLIER ASSOCIATION’ and applied to thephool-mandi-3 Delhi government for recognition. In 1999, Delhi government notified for this business and declared the Mehruali flower market as the main Mandi, with the Fatahpuri  and Connaught Place Mandi’s being called Sub-yards .

Delhi may have the maximum ‘flower traffic’ in Asia. phool-mandi-4 The city is the convergence point of dealers in flowers. Traders in most cities have contacts with dealers in Delhi and not with dealers in cities where the flowers actually originate. For instance, flowers from distant Bangalore arrive in Delhi and are then transported to Bhopal. Orchids are imported from Thailand and then exported to Singapore. Despite the growth  and sale of flowers having spread over most of the country, India's annual flower production stands at around 1,000 tonnes and the country's floriculture industry has a miniscule 0.01 per cent share in the international market.

Quite a few flower varieties come from Pune and Bangalore - two cities, which boast of the maximum number of greenhouses mainly because of their ideally temperate climes. These include the ubiquitous rose, carnations, and birds of paradise. Lucky bamboos, like Orchids are imported from Thailand. The merry marigold comes from Kolkata. phool-mandi-5Gladioli converge at Delhi from all over the country, while Bangalore and Thailand again are hometown for lilies. Rajnigandhas originate in Muzaffarnagar while tulips abound in the hills of Shimla and Kullu.

And what does Delhi have to offer, you wonder, other than population and pollution? Yet, flower sellers all over India are dependant on Delhi’s location and networks with other cities and countries for selling their flowers. The problems faced by flower sellers in Delhi are typically faced by those in the business all over India. In fact, growers in remote areas have even more pronounced problems of transportation, packaging and storage as these services are even less developed in rural areas.

Delhi is the silent hub phool-mandi-6of the nation’s enormous flower traffic. The flowers moving in and out of Delhi in all directions of the globe are as diverse as the various stages of handling they pass through. However, while roses from Pune decorate coffee tables in a plush German cafĂ©, the perennial struggle of flower growers, suppliers and distributors never make it to the notice of the people who matter.

Recently however, the Government of Delhi, has taken the decision to relocate these flower markets, to one singular flower market in Ghazipur. The contention of the Government is that the flower sellers need to be provided a proper place to sell flowers from, that is permanent and weather proof. While this decision might regularise the whole industry, it would affect the marginal flower sellers. Such a decision would also remove important cultural icons from the city and this is something that is distressing for all of us who were so attached to the old style phool mandi’s at CP and elsewhere....

Most of the information given above has been taken from two sites, and the links are given below

and I sincerely thank them for the information provided.