The festival of Raja in Odisha is a three-day grand affair, starting from one day prior (Pahili Raja) to the first day of the solar month of Gemini (Mithuna Sankranti/Raja Sankranti) and ends the next day with Bhu-Daah (Earth experiencing fever) and finally, the day after Raja is the Basumati Snan (The holy bath of Mother Earth), honoring the symbolic menstrual cycle of Goddess Earth (Bhu-Devi). The word “Raja” itself is derived from the Sanskrit word “Rajaswala”; meaning a Menstruating Woman.

In honor of this phase, all farming actions are suspended to give mother earth some rest, and all the women and girls of Odia household refrain from any kind of cooking and household chores, they wear new clothes, play swing, eat Pan and delicacies like varieties of sweet cakes (Pithaa). Thus “Pithaa Panaa” plays an important role in this festival. Earlier making different types of Pura (Stuffing) in the cakes was taken seriously since it used to showcase the creativity of each household. While most Odia households are accustomed to popular stuffing like Nadia/Coconut Pura (In Guda paaga/ ghee cooked jaggery and spices) and often mixed with Cottage Cheese or Red Yoghurt Cheese, in this article we share with you four special mentions, as these are least tried or should we say “almost lost” pura combinations, to try out this Raja.

Location: Rosy’s Kitchen, Bhubaneswar

Muga (Green Gram) Pura: As Odisha is blessed with prominent seasons and timely monsoon, the farmlands have the power to produce both Rice grains and Lentils in a cyclic manner once every year, and desi Moong is the best type of aromatic, tasty, and high-quality proteinaceous lentil, an absolute favorite of all Odia farmer’s family. Soaked whole green moong (not sprouted) is cooked with thickened jaggery, spices like clove and cardamom work best in cakes like Manda, Enduri, etc.

Khai (Ricepuf) Pura: Khai when cooked with jaggery n hardened, called Ukhudaa, is a staple bhog material and desi substitute of popcorn in rural Odisha. When soft khai mixed with jaggery, coconut, ginger, and cottage or red cheese, used as pura in pithas, the combination works as magic in cakes like fried Kakera or on top of Budhaa-Chakuli and iconic Poda-Pithaa.

Rashi Badam (Sesame n Groundnut) Pura: Fans of Tahini can vouch for it, as this one probably is the richest kind of stuffing with a distinct nutty texture. Slightly toasted white sesame and groundnut, sometimes mixed with jaggery, cheese, and banana or the above Khai mix is the most filling and wholesome version out of all.

Kolatha (Horse gram) Pura: Kolatha is believed to have many health benefits.  From radiant glowing skin,to aiding in weight loss to protecting liver function and acting against kidney stones,Kolatha is considered as a very healthy substitute. Despite all its benefits, it is still the most underrated pura. The reason majorly being, in old times, those poor families unable to get green gram because of its high price, use this as a substitute, made exactly as green gram pura to feed their children. However, no matter the cost, seeing its enormous health benefits, it’s high time we should revive the version this Raja again.

So do you make any of the above “pura” in your households? Let us know in the comment section.

by: Swetak Abhisek