Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bharli Keli for Gokulashtami (Stuffed Bananas)

'Gokulashtami' or 'Krishna Janmashtami' is an annual commemoration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna - the eight avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Hindus celebrate this festival by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna's infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct reading of the Hindu religious scripture - 'Bhagavad Gita'.

The legend behind Krishna's birth: Mathura (present day Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh) was the capital of the 'Yadavas', to which Krishna's parents Vasudev and Devaki belonged. King Kansa (Devaki's brother) had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father. Afraid of the prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki's eight son; Kansa had the couple locked into a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki's apparent miscarriage of the seventh, Krishna was born. 
Since Vasudev knew Krishna's life was in danger, he was secretly taken out of the prison cell to be raised by his foster parents -Yasoda and Nanda in Gokul (also in present day Mathura district).

'Gokulashtami' is celebrated all over India and every place has it's own unique way of celebration. Let me share with you how it is celebrated in Maharashtra. 
Popularly known as 'Dahi Handi', this festival is celebrated with enormous zeal and enthusiasm. The 'handi' or clay pot filled with buttermilk is positioned at a convenient height prior to the event. A human pyramid is formed and the topmost person tries to break the 'handi' by hitting it with a blunt object (mostly coconut). When that happens, the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group, symbolizing their achievement through unity. 

Moving on to star of this post. The delicacy prepared at my husband's place on this day is 'Bharli Keli' or Stuffed Bananas. My FIL celebrates his birthday on 'Gokulashtami' and this is his favorite dessert. So it is a birthday tradition to prepare this dish for him. And as it is his 60th birthday this year, I shall be making this dish at my home too, to make us feel a part of the celebration with him. 
Particular type of bananas known as 'Rajali Keli' are used for this recipe. They are found only for a month or so in India. I am not going to find these where I stay, so I use regular bananas and it works quite well.

Wish we were together today. Happy 60th Birthday Pappa! 
This one is only for you.

Level: Medium
Serves: 3 - 4 people (1/2 banana per person)
Source: Nita Pradhan (MIL)

3 firm bananas (pref. Rajali Keli, I used regular variety)
1/4 tsp ghee
4 tblsp fresh grated coconut (I used frozen)
2 tblsp jaggery, grated
2 pinch cardamom powder
1 pinch nutmeg powder (optional)
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used Maggi coconut powder)

Step 1 - Let us get our filling ready. Heat 1/4 tsp ghee in a pot. When it melts, add the coconut and jaggery and saute it till the jaggery melts. Turn off heat immediately and transfer the contents into a bowl to cool down. Add the cardamom powder and nutmeg powder when the mixture warms down. Mix well with a spoon. Keep aside.

Step 2 - While the coconut jaggery mixture cools down, let us prep our bananas. Peel off the outer cover and carve out the banana carefully in the middle to make it resemble a boat as shown below. Make sure you handle the bananas as delicately as possible. Even a little bit of pressure could break it. Also, we need a cavity to hold our filling. Do not dig too deep.

Step 3 - Stuff all the bananas with the cooled coconut jaggery mixture from Step 1.

Step 4 - Heat a flat pan on low heat. Carefully place the stuffed bananas one beside the other. Spoon out the leftover filling around the bananas in the pan. Carefully pour in the coconut milk. Do not pour it on the bananas. The filling will fall out. Cover and let it cook for 2 minutes on each side till the banana is cooked through and it turns slightly brown.
 - Carefully flip the bananas. Using 2 spoons to flip each banana works best for me.
If you get hold of 'Rajali Keli', you will have to cook each side for 5 - 10 mins as this variety of bananas are firmer in texture and thus hold shape beautifully for this dish.

Serve hot or cold. It tastes delicious either way!
If only this dish looked as good as it tastes!
The nuts and saffron are only for decoration. They are not usually added in the dessert. 


  1. Nice to see such different (for me) recipes. Just seeing these delectable dishes takes me back home especially during festival time. Thanks for posting! Will try to make these at home.

    1. Thank you. Hope these make u feel closer to home. :)

  2. My mom used to make this. Seems exactly the same. Rajali keli are vanishing from Vasai. It's a pity. By any chance you know what are the nutritional details of Rajali keli? Thanks for posting this recipe.

  3. Mostly CKP ladies know this delicacy. My mom still makes it. I would anytime prefer this other than market sweets.