On the day of Naraka Chaturdashi, Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. To celebrate his victory he pronounced that on this day, the one who bathes before sunrise, will be saved from the shackles of hell. So Maharashtrian households start the day by bathing with a fragrant herbal paste called utna. The entire family then eats faral, which includes rava or besan laddoos, chakli, shankarpali, anarse, chiwda, karanji, chirote and shev. Although nothing beats the freshness of home-prepared faral, Family Stores and Panshikar in Dadar and Prabhadevi’s Vasudha Tendulkar are popular for their preparations.
In keeping with the cuisine, Diwali specialties in the Marwari community are a mix of sweet and savoury. After Lakshmi puja in the evening, the family gets together for dinner, comprising meethe chawal and mogar, a dry lentil preparation. This is followed by kheeranand, which is kheer cooked till the milk thickens.
Apart from these traditional food relishes, other Marwari specialties include the popular daal pooris and kair sangar ki sabzi (a vegetable unique to Rajasthan), a variety of pickles, dry snacks and boondi laddoos.
Owing to the community’s reputation for being the finest cooks, or the maharajs, most of these items are prepared at home although SR Foods (Charni Road) and Pragati (Grant Road) are popular caterers and suppliers.
For South Indians, the festival of light is synonymous with Ganga Snanam — early morning oil bath, and bakshanam — and enjoying the sweets and savouries that are prepared days in advance in anticipation of Diwali. People visit friends and relatives and exchange bakshanam. The regular fare comprises boondi laddoo, badusha (soft and flaky sweet made of refined flour), jangri (also known as imarti) and savouries such as ribbon pakoda (a snack called so because it is shaped like ribbons), kai murukku (hand-twisted murukku), thattai (a flat and crispy snack) and thenkuzhal (smooth murukku). Caterers famous for their bakshanam preparations are V Balaji Caterer in Chembur, AS Rajasekhar Caterer in Bhandup and Anand Caterer in Kandivli are a few. However, one needs to stock up days ahead of the festival.