Sarkara Payasam ~rice & jaggery pudding~
Every Nair family in Kerala has a sacred grove, its a place where family deities along with ancestral spirits live and if generally pleased and affable bestow the tharavadu (the lineage) with blessings and good fortune. The sacred groves have long fascinated me, its a magical piece of land where snakes, yakshi (banshees), goddesses, tree spirits, all commune and conspire to make your life a fortunate incident or a living hell. A sacred grove must be protected, no trees are cut here, and life in all forms is allowed to live here, unfettered.
In the grove after a special pooja, prasadam, which has been cooked in a makeshift kitchen in the grove, is offered to gods and then to us to partake. Its a simple Sarkara Payasam, but having been slow cooked in an uruli over a wood fire, its mulled over with the scent of smoke. Chunks of candy sugar, coconut, holy basil, and chethi flowers, generously garnish the prasadam.
Sarkara payasam can be easily made at home, and tastes every bit as good as the payasam of the gods.