In Kerala, like in the rest of the world, for all official purposes the gregorian calender is used. But malayalis always refer to the old solar calender of the malayalam era called the Kollavarsham. The history of this calender is said to date back to around 825 AD and is attributed to Nestorian merchants who had settled down in Kollam (Quilon), though some people also believe that the theologian saint Sankaracharya to be the father of the Kollavarsham. The calender is based on astronomical calculations and corresponds with the cycle of rice harvest in the state, with every month having a cultural or religious significance.

The malayalam month of Karkidakom roughly falls in between July and August of the gregorian calender. The monsoons are on full swing in this south western coastal belt of India. The 1st of this malayalam month, is Sankranti, when the sun enters a new phase. My dad tells me that that there are four such phases – Karkidakom, Thulaam , Makarom & Médom.

During Karkidakom with the incessant rains beating down the roof stepping outside is out of question, so traditionally this month is spent in rejuvenation of the mind and body. Most Hindu households read the Ramayanam (the epic story of Rama where good wins over evil and the Ramarajya/order is restored in the world), other than that its also an ideal time for Ayurvedic massages & treatments.

Right before the first day of the month households do some spring cleaning and make a great show of chucking out the trash. Now in Malayalam they’d call it something like chétayé kalayuka (throwing out the junk). My dad says Chétta or Jyéshta is the elder brother of Sree Bhagavathy (the goddess of prosperity) – so in the old days after the cleaning session the lady of the house will shut all the doors and windows from inside, throw out the muck and say “chétta purathu, Sree Bhagavathy agathu” (meaning chétta out and in comes Sree Bhagavathy).

Women also traditionally wear the Dasapushpam (10 flowers) in their hair – primarily for its spiritual and physical healing properties. The dasapushpam are a cluster of ten herbs commonly found in Kerala – Karuka, Krishnakranti, Muyal chéviyan, Thriuthali, Chérula, Nilapana, Kayyunnyam, Poovan kurunnila, Mukutti and Uzhinja. My dad was sweet enough to take the pictures and mail me.

A special healing diet is taken during this month called Marunnu Kanji/Karkidaka Kanji (Herbal Soup). These days you get Karkidaka Kanji mix in readymade sachets, but if you happen to be somewhere you can access the ingredients & herbs there’s nothing like making it from scratch. Happy Monsoons!

Ingredients
1 teaspoon each of the following herbs: Aashali, Fenugreek, Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander seeds, Aniseed, Dry Ginger, Black Cumin, Nutmeg, Cloves, Varattu Manjal, Uzhinjil, Thazhuthama, Kurunthotti, Karikurinji, Puthirichundu, Changlam piranda, Ayamodakam, Ariyaaru mix
1/2 cup Navarra Rice
2 tablespoons whole mung beans
2 tablespoons broken wheat

1/2 cup fresh cow’s milk
1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon ghee
2 pearl onions/shallots
1 teaspoon salt
Jaggery/Karipetti to taste.

Method
1. Boil the first 4 ingredients in a litre of water.
2. When the rice, beans and wheat appear cooked add the milks. Let simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salt and jaggery, stir to combine.
4. Heat ghee in a pan and sauté chopped shallots to a golden brown and pour the tempering over the kanji.



Keywords:Karkidaka Kanji , Monsoon Soup, Aashali, Fenugreek, Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander seeds, Aniseed, Dry Ginger, Black Cumin, Nutmeg, Cloves, Varattu Manjal, Uzhinjil, Thazhuthama, Kurunthotti, Karikurinji, Puthirichundu, Changlam piranda, Ayamodakam, Ariyaaru mix,Marunnu Kanji