The fifth day of Indian month of Bhadrapad, or the day after Ganesh Chaturthi, is marked as Rishi Panchami. This is the day for worshipping the Sapta Rishi or the seven sages – Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadwaja, Vishwamitra, Gautama Maharishi, Jamadagni, and Vashishtha. Down south in Kerala, this is also the day for Vishwakarma Puja or praying to the Lord Vishwakarma, the architect of the Gods. As it often happens, this is a day of fasting for women. It is believed that fasting on this day and praying to the rishis purifies women of the Rajaswala Dosha which might be there in their horoscope for breaking protocol during their menstruation. Well, I don’t fast on Rishi Panchami. Honestly, I don’t fast on any day, ever. I am not a very religious person. Then what am I doing writing a blog on a religious festival? Well, just because I don’t pray and fast today, doesn’t mean I can’t gorge on the delicious food made on Rishi Panchami!
In my state of Gujarat, Rishi Panchami is also called as Sama Pancham, a day when the agricultural community fasts and consumes a special type of grass that grows out here, called Sama. I am hoping there is no gender bias in fasting here, I tried looking it up and asking people about it, but I couldn’t find much, and I think, it would probably be only the women fasting again. Though I could be wrong, trust me, I really wish I am wrong. Let fasting be a choice and be gender neutral? Anyone who fasts will get blessed, no discrimination. What a utopian world!
Forget it. Nobody cares about my feminist rant here.
Let’s talk about food. That I can do. Very well.
One of the best dishes made in neighboring Maharashtra today, is Rushi chi bhaji. If you have Maharashtrian friends who follow this tradition, I bet your Instagram feed will dish out quite a few pictures of this ‘mixed’ vegetable’. I discovered this dish thanks to Chef Thomas Zacharias. He put up an IGTV about it, sharing a recipe for it. That got me hooked. Rishi chi Bhaji, is a celebration of the monsoon harvest, when Mother Earth is a full-on abundance mode. Though these days, we’ve wrecked our planet so much, that this ‘abundance’ aka floods is becoming really difficult. No, no more rants, I promise.
Rishi chi bhaji is somewhat similar to the patradi nu shaak that Gujaratis prepare on the day after Janmashtami. It is a tradition to make the Patradi nu Shaak for Lord Krishna with as many vegetables as one can find, so Krishna can experience all the different flavors
The special thing about Rishi chi bhaji, also called as Rishi Panchami Bhaji is that it is made using vegetables that are grown in people’s backyards or generally grow wild. Ideally, no vegetables that need bullocks to plough the field are used. What is the farm that supplies your vegetable doesn’t use bullocks for ploughing anymore? I don’t know, the traditions were made before the advent of tractors. But just go with, will you? Since you are praying to the rishis today, no prizes for guessing that Rushi chi bhaji is a really sattvic dish, with no oil and spices, no tamsik ingredients. All sattvic, all healthy stuff only. Some people still use a little oil, to blend everything together, and give the bhaji a little base. This doesn’t make the dish bland, trust me. The absence of all the overpowering spices brings out the real flavor of the vegetables, and it is really delicious. Most of us today eat food that is overpowered with spices that the real flavor of vegetables doesn’t emerge out of it. Talk to the cooks and owners of Vishala (a village-style restaurant in Ahmedabad, India), they will tell you how beautifully they cook food, without the onion-garlic, keeping it sattvic and yet incredibly delicious. Or talk to the countless people waiting for their turn every weekend at Vishala how tasty the food is. So, sattvic food can be tasty, yes, we’ve established that now.
To make Rishi chi bhaji, you gather all the vegetables, like bottle guard, arbi or colocasia leaves, corn, amaranth leaves, sweet potato (king of fasting vegetables), elephant foot, potatoes, pumpkin, colocasia roots, raw bananas, peanuts, snake gourd, ridge gourd, sponge gourd, etc. (whatever you can find) and dice them in 1.5-2 inch pieces. Then heat some oil, add in slit green chilies and sauté them. Then add in the chopped vegetables, mix. Sauté for a few minutes, then add in the peanuts, and water. You can stagger adding the vegetables if you have vegetables that have widely different cooking times. Season with salt and cook. Then add in the tamarind pulp and balance the tartness with jaggery. Once all the vegetables are cooked, add in grated tender coconut. And you’re done!
Serve the rishi chi bhaji with phulkas, chapatis or puris.
This is Chef TZac’s post about this amazing dish. You can look up his story highlights for the perfect recipe. That’s what I’d use myself. There are other recipes available online as well. If you make it, tell me how you liked it? Or send me a dabba, I will be super thankful. If you don’t want to send me a dabba, at least send me pictures?