Maavilakku

This is a quintessential South Indian tradition of making a rice flour, jaggery and ghee lamp. Though there is no restriction as to when you can light this lamp, many people light it in honour of அம்பாள் or Devi during  the Tamil month of Aadi (mid-July to mid-August) and also during the festival of Karthikai. For Srivaishnavites, Saturdays during the Tamil month of Purattasi (mid-September to mid-October) are significant for lighting this lamp. Any Saturday during this month is fine, though many families follow their own tradition of a specific Saturday in Purattasi. 
 
Saturdays are known to be very significant for திருமால் or Lord Vishnu and particularly so for Lord Venkatesa of Tirumala. The Lord wants everyone to come to Tirumala and receive his blessings on Purattasi Saturdays, as he is the eternal light that resides on top of the hills.  But, for those who cannot travel to Tirumala, the Lord visits your home through the light of this lamp. When all the ghee in the lamp is finally used up, people say “மலை ஏறியாச்சு” ie. we have received the blessings of the  Lord and he has now gone back to his abode on the hills of Tirumala.
 

My mother used to light this lamp on the last Saturday of Purattaasi month and I follow her tradition.  

Ingredients
White rice – 1 cup
Jaggery – 6 tsp (powdered)
Grated coconut – 1/4 cup
Ghee (unmelted) – 4-5 tsp
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
 
Soak the rice in water for two hours. Drain all the water and then spread it on a clean towel to air dry for half an hour. Remove the dried rice (which should not have any moisture) and grind to a fine powder. Sieve it in a fine meshed sieve and transfer back to the grinder. Add 4 tsp of the jaggery and pulse it till well mixed. The jaggery will add some moisture and you should check the rice flour now to see if it will hold. If not, add the remaining jaggery and pulse it again. If you add too much of  jaggery the mixture will get watery and not hold well. Remove from the grinder into a bowl. Add the cardamom powder and 1-2 tsp of ghee. Work the dough till you get a pliable chapati like dough. Adjust the ghee to get this consistency. As you work it, the heat from your hands will make the jaggery give out more moisture so be careful not to over work the dough. 

Carefully fashion it into a round bowl shape with a small crater in the middle to hold the ghee for the lamp. Transfer to a silver plate lined with a banana leaf. Mark the lamp with turmeric powder and kumkumam and add the remaining ghee into the centre of the flour lamp. Put  a clean cotton wick and light it along an offering of betel leaves, areca nuts, coconut, fruits and flowers to the Lord. The lamp will be lit for at least  a few hours and once all the ghee has been used up, remove carefully to another bowl. Remove the burnt wick and add the grated coconut, mix well and enjoy. Since raw coconut has been added, you will have to store in the fridge. If you don’t add coconut, it can stay  out for 4-5 days.

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