Come December, the three cities I have been associated with hosts 3 annual fests. One for handmade arts, crafts, the second for music and the third for sugar cakes.
The first in the list is the festival of Arts, crafts, handlooms. I like handicrafts and handlooms. And so when there is a mela organized for that,you can bet I am there. Especially the December All india arts and crafts mela which happens at the city where I live, Hyderabad. The venue is the crafts village, Shilparamam. Anything I write about this will be a repeat of this. This year on Sunday, I quickly picked up arts and crafts from Gujarat, Kashmir, West Bengal and that elusive reclining Ganesha which I mentioned in one of my older posts.
The second fest happens in Chennai,my birth place. This city experiences concert tourism this month and draws music lovers from all over the world; predominantly in the genre of carnatic music. This fest begins on the tamil month Margazhi and so is known as Margazhi Isai vizha( margazhi is the tamil month, isai is music and vizha is fest) or december kacheri(concert). An year or so back, i wrote an article on this for 'I love madras. Anything i write about this will be a repeat of this article "Margazhi, music and my memories".
And last but not the least, the third fest in my list captures the yuletide mood of the city I was raised in and lived, Bangalore.
Every festival is connected to some tradition or the other. But so often, we don't know why we do the things we do. Fact is that the smallest custom goes back a long way.
Another festival which is an amalgamation of different legends, myths and faiths from across the world is Xmas. Everybody has their own special memories and my Xmas memories revolve around Bangalore’s famous high street, Brigade road. The whole road would be festooned with christmas lights and the road is closed to vehicular traffic till the newyear. You can amble, stroll on this street with huge Santas for company without the fear of being run down by a vehicle.
The twinkling festooned serial lights, stars and the huge Santas distributing sweets to little kids will scream that New year carnivals don’t happen only in Goa, but also in places like Bangalore’s high fashion street, Brigade road. And one of the corner building on the road ,Nilgiris nest( a boarding hotel), are the ones who organize and hosts this special fest, called the annual Nilgiri's Sugar cake exhibition. The ground floor of the building is the supermarket called Nilgiris, the first supermarket which started in 1905 and stocks the best diary products and baked goodies. Their signature rich bake called Nilgiris Plum cakes has that bitter sweet taste, which for me has no parallels . I am yet to taste a plum cake which can beat this taste.
The nilgiris product range
Apart from the rich plum cakes, they have chocolate Xmas tree, kalkals, Marzipan, Yule logs and other Christmas goodies. But the highlight of their creations are displayed at The St. Josephs school grounds, Vittal Mallya road. They host an unique exhibition called the sugar cake exhibition during Xmas time. This exhibition which is around 40 years old has earlier had giant sugar cake replicas of Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore Palace, seven wonders of the world like Macchu Picchu, Taj MAhal and then the Buckhingham palace, Eiffel tower etc. Each cake is made with powdered sugar, gelatin, colored and flavoring agents and lot of man hours. The Master piece cakes are usually as big as15 feet in height and can be anywhere between 30-50 feet wide. The rest of the models are smaller in size. There are atleast 15 exhibits of which 10 are won by the viewing public through raffle tickets. The exhibiton has an entry ticket and the amount raised from this goes to the charity. The cakes are also not sold and are given to children in orphanages.
Some of their sugar crafts at the annual exhibits
This years flavor symbolizing communal harmony- a pentagon symbolising the five faiths, temple, church, masjid, pagoda( buddhism), gurudwara 22feet wide and 16 feet in height
This art was mastered by one of the 3rd generation owner of this enterprise. His desire for sugar modelling took him to Europe,where he visited Swiss, holland, Germany. He was inspired by the cake models that he saw in Belgium and learnt this art there. My sister a nutritionist and dietician who worked here as food technologist in the late 90's and early 2K was the originator of their ready mixes and the source of this info.
image courtesy: Google