Janmashtami commemorates the earthly appearance of Krishna, who is described in India’s sacred writings as God Himself. One of the biggest religious festivals in the world, it is a day of deep spiritual renewal and celebration that effectively finishes an old year and begins a fresh one.

Lord Krishna reciprocates in unique, personal ways with every devotee who offers Him love – He is the most adorable, mischievous son, the most romantic lover, the most compassionate friend. And on Janmashtami, devotees celebrate Krishna in all of these aspects. For just as Krishna reciprocates individually with His relatives and confidantes, he responds to the distinct feelings and desires held most deeply in the heart of every single worshipper.

 

Festivities begin before dawn and extend all day until midnight, the exact moment of the anniversary of Krishna’s appearance. Events include kirtan [singing the Lord’s name along with other devotees] and japa [private, more intimate prayer]. Some devotees cook a feast of over one hundred dishes, while others perform drama and dance. Some clothe and decorate the deity of Krishna while others string flower garlands and decorate the temple. 

It is our sincere devotion that pleases Krishna most, and this can be offered anywhere. To feel more connected to the Lord and His devotees on this special day, celebrate Janmashtami at home and invite all your friends and family to participate in the festivities and to taste this sweet homemade sandesh.

SANDESH

 

Ingredients:

10 cups whole milk

5 tbs lemon juice

75 g caster sugar

Method:

  • Heat milk over medium heat in a pot large enough to allow milk to rise without overflowing.
  • While waiting for milk to boil, prepare the curdling agent and get a strainer ready by lining it with 2 layers of cheesecloth.

  • Prop the strainer above a receptacle to collect the whey. When milk begins to rise, stir in the curdling agent.
  • Almost immediately the sponge-like paneer will separate from the clear yellow-green whey with a kinda magical suddeness.

  • If the whey is not clear, add a little more curdling agent and stir again. After the curds and whey have separated completely, remove the pot from heat. Collect the curds in the cheesecloth and rinse under cold water for half a minute.

  • Squeeze out excess water by tightening the cheesecloth and squeezing it firmly several times.
  • Leave the paneer to hang for 45 minutes or put it under a weight for 20 minutes so that it becomes fairly dry.

  • Turn paneer onto a clean work surface and knead vigorously until its granular texture dissapears and dough is free of lumps.
  • The softer the dough, the better the sandesh will be. Divide the dough into two halves. Knead one half with the sugar.

  • Place the sweetened dough in a frying pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
  • The thick sandesh will become smooth, then thicken again. When it pulls away from the sides of the pan, remove from heat.

  • Avoid overcooking else sandesh will become dry and grainy. Finally knead cooked and uncooked sandesh together.
  • Add a flavouring or colouring agent if desired and flatten into a cake 1 inch thick. Cool and cut into squares.

Taken from the Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking by Adiraja Dasa

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