Making of 150 Kg Mega ‘kozhukattai’ for Sri Uchi Pillaiyar and Manicka Vinayagar temple Trichy

Kozhukattai (cooked rice flour dumplings) filled with coconut & jaggery is believed to be Lord Ganesha's favourite food. The sweetmeat also known as 'modakam' is prepared in large quantity on Vinayagar chaturthi (the birthday of the deity) (to be celebrated on the 18th of September) at homes & sweetshops.

However, this old recipe has been modified during the Vinayagar celebrations since 2007 at Sri Uchi Pillaiyar & Sri Manicka Vineayagar shrines located in Rock Fort, Sri Thayumanhaswamy Temple, Trichy.

Instead of the ordinary dumplings, the outer cooked rice dough parcels and the fillings are mixed & steamed together.

The ‘kozhukattai’ is borne on sturdy wooden beams before being presented as ‘naivediyam’ to Lord Ganesha at Sri Uchi Pillaiyar and Sri Manicka Vinayagar shrines at Sri Thayumanaswamy Temple in Tiruchi. File | Photo Credit: A. Muralitharan

The 'Kozhukatta' is scaled to a maximum of 150 kilograms, and is divided into two portions of 75 kilograms each for distribution to the devotees at both shrines on the festival day.

The Rockfort, located in the town of Trichy , is a historical fort and temple complex constructed on an ancient rock, rising to a height of 273 feet. Inside the Rockfort are two Hindu temples, Sri Uchi Pillaraiyar Temple and Sri Manickar Vinayagar Temple, both of which are situated in the same area.

The Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort is a historic fort and temple complex built on an ancient rock. It is constructed on a 273-foot high rock.There are two Hindu temples inside the Rockfort, Sri Uchi Pillaiyar and Sri Manicka Vinayagar shrines ensconced in Tiruchi’s Rock Fort Sri Thayumanaswamy Temple. | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

“This is not the ‘kozhukattai’ that we make at home. There is no outer rice flour cover; instead, all the ingredients for the ‘pooranam’ [filling] and the rice flour are steamed together,” G. Girish, proprietor, Agasthiar Publications, told The Hindu. Agasthiar Publications has been sponsoring the ‘kozhukattai’ preparation since its inception at the Rock Fort temple complex, and work is in progress for this year’s offering.

The ingredient list provided by the temple authorities is complex in its simplicity: 60 kilograms of jaggery mounds, 50 kilograms of rice flour, 30 litres of clarified butter (ghee) and six kilograms of shredded coconut are to be combined with approximately four kilograms of cardamom, nutmeg and sesame seeds before the cooking begins.

“We start sourcing the ingredients around a week ahead of the festival. Two sacks of rice are soaked, dried and then ground at a local mill which delivers the flour directly to the temple. We hand over the rest of the materials to the authorities, and wait for their master chefs to make it come together as a delicious ‘prasadam’,” Mr. Girish said.

The family’s association with the Rock Fort shrines, and offerings of ‘kozhukattai’, has been long. “We were preparing and offering 108 regular-sized ‘kozhukattais’ at the temple during ‘Sangadahara Chaturthi’ every month, for 30 years. The idea of making this mega offering in Tiruchi was inspired by that made for the Mukkuruni Vinayakar shrine at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai,” he recalled.

Mr. Girish’s family considered it their privilege and blessing to sponsor the ritual cooking of the new offering. “Other than the COVID-19 lockdown years, when we could prepare only a 10-kilogram ‘kozhukattai’, we have maintained the 150 kilograms as standard,” he said.

An all-male team of cooks will be working at the temple’s ‘madapalli’ or kitchen areas from September 16 to cook the flavourful delicacy. According to the temple authorities, hot syrup is prepared from the jaggery, which will be tempered with cardamom, nutmeg and sesame seeds sautéed in ghee. It will be combined with the mixture of rice flour and ghee, and split into two batches of 75 kilograms each. The next major step involves steaming the ‘pooranam’ for 10 hours.

Once cooked, it is set in reed baskets and covered with white casement cloth to resemble a ‘kozhukattai’. The servings are carried to the hilltop Uchi Pillaiyar Temple and the Sri Manicka Vinayagar Temple located at a lower level. Four ‘oduvars’ bear the ‘kozhukattai’ on sturdy wooden beams and formally present it as ‘naivediyam’ to Lord Ganesha at the two shrines.

After special prayers, the ‘prasadam’ is distributed among the thousands of devotees who throng the Rock Fort temple on the auspicious day to seek wisdom, knowledge and absolution from past sins. “This is our humble gift to Lord Ganesha, and we hope that we will uphold the tradition every year, as we all look forward to receiving His blessings,” said Mr. Girish.

The family-run Agasthiar Publications, located down the crowded NSB Road, on Nandhi Koil Street, has an interesting history too. “Author ‘Kalki’ Ramaswamy Krishnamurthy was my father’s ‘periappa’ [paternal uncle]. He motivated my grandfather to launch a publishing company in Tiruchi. ‘Agasthiar’ also happens to be one of the author’s pseudonyms,” Mr. Girish said, as he showed an archival newspaper cutting of Kalki and statesman C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) at the company’s inauguration in 1944.

Content Source : THE HINDU

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