Kitchen of my Amma and her Rituals…

Angithee and the Agni Dev

During my childhood, in early sixties, in Shimla, for my Amma, a routine job like, cooking food was not less than religious ritual. Amma would  cook food on a Angithee which would have coal in it. Old iron buckets would be used to make this Anghithee.  The ironsmith would cut a hole on one side of the bucket and would fit an iron grill at the center of the bucket. Mixture of fine clay and shredded drass would be used to line the inside of the Angithee and the top would have three round projections to hold the cooking vessels and also to let the air and fire flames pass from below!

The last kitchen chore that my Amma would do was to give this Angeethi a fresh coating of clay. Even this was a ritual worth explaining. The used coals, still hot and buring, would be put out from the Angithee and the Angithee would be prepared for the morning use. Amma would give a fresh coat of clay to the Angithee. The liquid clay would at once dry as the angithee would be so hot even when there were no burning coals in it. The vapours would fill our small kitchenette with a smell which no perfume today can compensate for.

And why did Amma do all these rituals! For my Amma, and most of the women of her generation, Angithee was the abode of Agni Dev. Amma would purify her Angithee every time after cooking food. When she would cook food, the first offering of the food would be made to Agni Dev! Such was her belief that Agni has to be fed the first thing before serving food to anyone else. The food had to be pure! Nothing could or should defile food while being cooked.

During my recent visit to my Amma, I saw an old Angithee lying in the storehouse. No one ever uses it. It lies discarded lamenting, perhaps, her golden times.  I thought of all the ritualistic performance that this Angithee had seen and paid my obeisance to it for having been instrumental in feeding us.

I wanted to peep through relics and memories of my childhood—some old paraphernalia, books, papers and yellowed black & white photographs! I thought of annual issues of Purana, published by Gitapress Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. I craved to find them.

“Amma, where are the old Puranas?” I shouted while searching for the old heap of books and paraphernalia that seemed so out of place in the marbled new construction that is my Amma’s proud home now. I had asked her as I was not able to locate the old books that during my childhood had made a small abode in Shimla, our home! I was searching for a part of my childhood that still was alive in the yellowed papers of the old books.

All those Puranas lay peacefully in a steel trunk lying in a corner of a room that had all the old unusable paraphernalia spread in it. I opened the trunk and scrambled through so many old papers, each of which had something or the other to remind me of. And then I came across Agni Purana. Now this was a Purana that I remembered only glancing at during my childhood as it didn’t have any stories in it! I loved reading anything and everything that had a story  but AgniPurana had description of many of the tricky religious practices. So this is the Agni Dev that my Amma fed everyday during her daily ritual.

But now when I had reached an age where such religious practices and methods interested me a lot, I picked up this Purana and went through some of its pages to have a look at it. The Purana had Agni Dev as the recite of various Akhyanas of the Purana and I found tits and bits of the Purana very interesting. The Purana was in a very bad shape. Its pages had yellowed, the paper cover had come off but luckily the inside was intact and in good shape. I wanted to carry it back with me to Hamirpur to read it and to find why my Amma religiously fed the god of the Angithee, the Agni Dev. And what I found in the Purana was nothing less than a miracle to me.

To be continued…..

4 thoughts on “Kitchen of my Amma and her Rituals…

  1. aarkay

    As usual, this journey down the memory lane is quite intersting . The angithi made of old iron bucket or tin canister was a common rather indispensable kitchen gadget in Shimla of those days. The Agithi was kept prepared at night only, the upper side filled first with finely chopped wood and then with sufficient coal, and the lower side with some waste papers , to save on time in the morning. It was a routine to have not one but two such Angithees. Three or four ‘projections ‘ were called “uchala” and sometomes one of these would get broken and had to be repaired and put in shape by fixing and applying clay .

  2. Can’t wait to read the continuing part of this post, Ma’am!

    And, the comment herein above so very nicely depicts the daily chores involved with the functioning of the angeethee.🙂

    Although in times when I was growing up (late 70s + early 80s), angeethee was more or less obsolete, yet I still remember faint memories of it while my nanni, mother and/or aunts worked to ready it as a standby at occasions, and when one of the fav. pass-times of we kids used to blow fan with a hardboard at the lower chamber.

    Memories refreshed 🙂

  3. Sitting beside an angithee when the burnt out coal would be on the verge of extinction was another of unforgettable pastimes. You could sit closer to the Angithee, could touch it with hands and enclose it in a circle to get the most of the warmth before going to bed. another thing which comes to my mind is the solid triangular iron “iron” which would be heated on the angithee, the last thing to do, to make the best use of the coals. The hot iron piece of “press’ would press clothes the way not any modern press does these days. This press had to held with a thick folded cotton cloth. And when there would be nothing else to do, water in a pan would be kept on the angithee to wash one’s feet before going to bed. Sometimes my Amma would put the round brinjals on the dying coals of angithee and they would be used in the morning to prepare sumptuous “baingan ka Bhartha”! So much for the old dear Angithee.!

  4. aarkay

    You are right Ma’am, the ‘Baingan ka Bhartha , prepared after heating Baingan on the angithee and removing the crisp outer layer was a unique thing. Nowadays brinjals are boiled instead of heating direct on the fire, but the old taste is simply missing. Further putting some green mint leaves added much to the taste. No doubt, Angithee was a many-in-one gadget. As Pankaj has put it, the lower chamber had to be blow-fanned and for this, notebook covers came handy most of the time.

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