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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.


Maa-vilakku – literally, lamp made from flour, is an offering to the family deity. In our family, it is customary to make this offering on a Friday in the month of Thai (the month from 15th Jan to 15th Feb). Fridays in this month are considered auspicious, and even more so for us, due to this celebration. We put the Maa-vilakku yesterday, and it was even more special, since it was my birthday!

The Maa-vilakku is made from rice flour and jaggery. While in some houses, the two are mixed to form a dough and then shaped into a lamp, at our house, we simply spread the rice flour on a plate and then make the lamp with the jaggery and insert a wick in it. We then pour the ghee around the wick and then light it.

When the wick is almost burnt out, but not completely, of course, we take the wick out with a spoon and keep it aside and offer the mixture of flour, jaggery and ghee to the deity. These are then mixed with grated coconut and are distributed to married women along with vettalai-pakku (betel leaves and betel nuts – the traditional offering to married women).

The Maa-vilakku is believed to be an offering to the family deity, as a thanksgiving, and also a prayer for prosperity.

As far as Samhith is concerned, it is a feast, for he loves anything that has jaggery in it, eating not just the Maa-vilakku mixture, but also plain jaggery all day long. And even more interesting for him is the other offering we make to the deity –kozhakattai – Modaks!

Now you know what Samhith had for dinner last night!!!

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  1. Belated happy birthday Anu and the lamps do look special!

  2. At home, we put during the Aadi month. Till I saw a similar post at another blogger's, I never knew ma-vilaku will be put during Thai maasam too. Lovely modaks.

  3. @ Mridula : THanks a lot.... yes, i have often wondered who came up with such interesting ideas!

    @Jayasree : yes, my mom puts it then... this was new for me too... and i am getting better with the modaks since samhith loves them :)

  4. Happy Birthday Anu... The modaks look yuuummmy... Just liks Samhith... I like anything wth jaggery in it too....

  5. Well I am late but better late then never.

    Happy Belated B'Day.

  6. @Patricia : Thanks!!! Samhith is the only one at home who loves sweets! he will be glad to hear he has company!

    @Shekhar: Thanks.... its never late! Thanks to blogging, i have received more wishes than ever!

  7. Belated birthday wishes to you.

    I hadn't heard of this celebration before. Is it particular to the region or some communities only?

    A form of thanksgiving is always humble to celebrate.

  8. Hey Belated happy birthday Anu... :)

    May God bless you with a wonderful year, lot of happiness and more blogging time !!

    - Shyam

  9. @ Anil: Thanks.... This is quite a common custom in Tamilnadu... dont know about the other southern states.. but it is prevalent all over TN....

  10. Mom makes mavilakku maavu, but dont know if she has a set day... on n off i've seen her do it..another aunt also makes it, quite often!!

    btw, love ur kozhukatais.. cute shape...

    am so like anything with jaggery, so not a sugar person....

  11. Its looks delicious
    and so different like our food !!!

    Have a nice day
    Anya (@^.^@)

  12. Hey Anu

    Evn I do maavilakku both during Aadi and Thai months on a Friday. The process is very similar to what you explained here. Except when available I actually use brown sugar (not the cocaine one :) the one ppl use for baking). I don't find that in shops these days so use jaggery. We did this at home just last friday

  13. yummy yummy kozhakattias :) cool! in our home, we put the maavilaku with ghee on top of the mountain and we wait until the flame runs out calling govinda govinda!

  14. First of all, belated, Wish You A Very Happy Birthday Anu. Reading and seeing the post, I know that you enjoyed your birthday with the deities; what an honor!

    I'm sure Samhith is waiting for the next offering :)

  15. @ Aarti: I think she must be doing it on some particular days...... dont know abt doing it generally..... these kozhakattais are made with the mould because samhith believes that they are kazhakattais only if they are in that particular shape :)

    @Anya: Yes, it is delicious..... if u ever come this way, u can taste them :)

    @Vidya: Great to hear that u do it too....that too twice....same in my mom's house.... we always use jaggery.. so no idea abt brown sugar......does it taste the same?

    @Sri : yes, yummy indeed... samhith must have eaten more than a dozen! my mom does that.... only they make a lamp shape and allow the ghee to burn till the end.... the maavu becomes crisp and tasty.. but this is the custom here..... guess things vary from house to house....

    @Bhavesh: thanks a lot.... oh yes, i did have fun! and samhith waits for the 5 times we make modaks in the year :) and keeps asking when we shall make it next!!!

  16. Your post reminded me of the maa vilakku we light at our kula deiva koil at siruvacchur( near trichy) every year.

    At this temple we have facility for pounding the rice flour. and then along with that we add burachakkarai( unproccesed) and light with ghee.

    This thai velli we too made kozhakattais.

    belated b'day wishes to you and BTW are you in a madisar in your Display picture.

  17. @Asha: Interesting to hear that you still light the maavilakku at the temple... apparently, we too used to do that, about a 100 years ago... then everyone left the village and couldnt go back every year, which is why we do it at home now... even now, when we go to our kula devam temple, we see people lighting the maa-vilakku there.....
    and by unprocessed, do you mean 'vella-chakkarai' or 'naatu chakkarai'?
    thanks for the wishes, and yes, i am wearing a madisar..... i wear it for all the imp festivals .. at least 6-7 times a year and love it! thought it would be a different kind of profile pic :)

  18. An interesting post.... :)

    brought back all the memories of my childhood when I used to run behind my mom --

    helping her (or rather disturbing her)

    when she busy with the lamps

  19. & my belated B day wishes....


  20. @Muthu: this is probably what samhith will say one day when he reads something similar about 20 years later........ and i am sure ur mom remembers all those days with nostalgia :)
    and thanks a lot for the wishes

  21. Good to read about Maa-vilakku, thanks for sharing. And please accept my belated birthday greetings Anu.

  22. Yes anu, Unprocessed sugar i meant the burachakkarai.


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