Namakpara ( bite-sized fried dough)

30 mins



Holi is right around the corner!

A very fun-filled and much loved Hindu celebration in India heralding the beginning of Spring. It is also known as the festival of colors and a celebration of love.

“What is Holi?” doesn’t have a direct answer. It’s  a combination of religious and seasonal factors. Definitely, it’s a celebration of spring  and the beautiful blossoms and colors all around. It also has a religious significance:

According to Hindu mythology the Holi festival gets its name from the story of Holika. Legend has it that once there lived an arrogant demon king called Hiranyakashipu. He had an intense desire to be immortal and through a variety of strict penance (religious austerities) and prayers he was granted an audience by Brahma, the king of Gods. Brahma said he would grant Hiranyakashipu any wish (or boon as it is called) because he was pleased with Hiranyakashipu’s strict penances. Consequently, through his cunning ways, Hiranyakashipu snagged a boon from Brahma that he thought would make him immortal. He was granted that he could not be killed  by neither a human nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by weapons that were flung nor by any that are handheld, and neither on land nor in water or air. Having received this divine blessing, Hiranyakashipu felt invincible and increasingly got arrogant. He decreed in his kingdom that he would have to be worshipped as God and the one and only God and anyone who didn’t comply were severely punished and even killed. As his luck would have it, his own son, Prahlad, was a staunch worshipper of Lord Vishnu and would not accept his father as the supreme God. As a result, Hiranyakashipu attempted to kill his son and failed on many attempts as Vishnu protected him and saved him each time. On one occasion Hiranyakashipu sought the help of his sister Holika to kill his son Prahlad. But the attempt failed and in the process Holika got burned to death.

After that, Vishnu appeared on Earth as Narasimha- a creature that was half human and half lion, at dusk when it was neither day nor night, caught a hold of  Hiranyakashyap at a doorstep (which was neither indoors nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (which was neither land, water nor air), and  killed the king with his lion claws (which were neither a handheld weapon nor a launched weapon). So the boon of five special powers granted to Hiranyakashyap which gave him the false perception of being invincible didn’t work. Prahlad was saved and the kingdom was free of a tyrannical king. In this way the mythology shows the triumph of good over evil. That is why the day before Holi, an effigy of Holika is burned and the next day (which is usually full moon) there is great rejoicing and the festival of colors is enjoyed.

What is the festival of colors? On the day of Holi, people go out in the streets and throw colorful powders, (called abir or gullal depending where you are in India) on each other as well as water balloons. Throw is not the word, I would say more like smear each other with a variety of colors- in the end if you are unrecognizable then you’ve surely enjoyed Holi to the fullest!

Schools are closed and it’s a national holiday! It’s a day that kids await with much anticipation. Days before Holi, parents and children go to local street markets to buy these powders in a variety of colors, small water balloons that are gleefully filled with water on the day of and thrown playfully at friends and strangers. I remember I used to wait eagerly for this day and there are so many awesome memories! We would wear old clothes, clothes that if they got overly stained with these colors, wouldn’t matter! Parents turn extremely patient on this day, allowing kids to traipse in and out of the house with dripping clothes and colorful powders falling all over the floor. Afternoon brings in anxiety as the next day is a school day and severe scrubbing is needed to get some of the color stains off the skin. It’s all good though!

Holi is a celebration that Indians all over the world love to participate in. Here is a photo of me with a friend celebrating Holi in Boston.

Now some special food is eaten during Holi and it’s usually delicious, indulgent snack type foods. One of these is the popular Namakpara. Moms usually make it way ahead of time and store in these big stainless steel canisters way out of reach so kids don’t devour them all before the day.

Namakpara is really fried dough,  bite-size and deep fried, flavored with a unique seed-either Ajwain (carom seeds) or Kalonji (onion seeds). When mixed in the dough and deep fried it imparts an amazing flavor along with the crunchiness of the fried dough.

The flakiness comes from the oil or ghee being incorporated nicely in the dough and resting it for a bit. Also, the slow deep frying adds to the crunch. So, go ahead, give in to some addictive namakpara!

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