A shop at Ason selling Kwati grains on the occasion of Janai Purnima. Kathmandu. by Priti Thapa
Kwati Purnima is a special day to eat Kwati Grains and falls on the full moon day of Bhadra (August/September) according to the Bikram Sambat calendar. The occasion is mainly celebrated as Janai Purnima by the Hindus.
Kwati is a collective term for a mixture of nine types of legumes (as seen in the featured photo) viz fava bean, soybean, mung bean, gram, field pea, garden pea, black-eyed pea, chickpeas, and kidney bean. The legumes are soaked overnight, germinated, and cooked into soup. People believe that the soup makes the body immune to seasonal ailments and improves the digestive system. Some believe the nine legumes signify the ninth month of Nepal Sambat calendar in which the festival is celebrated.
In the native Nepal Bhasa language or Newar language, “Kwa” means hot and “ti” means “liquid.” Central to the celebrations is the preparation of a nourishing soup, also called Kwati. To make this soup, the nine types of legumes are soaked two days in advance and then sprouted. These sprouts are then simmered together, creating a hearty and flavorful soup. The blend of legumes is enhanced with additional aromatic spices like jwano (carrom seeds), dhaniya (coriander seeds), and jeera (cumin seeds). Symbolically, cumin is linked to mosquitoes, coriander signifies nuts, and carom is associated with flies in traditional beliefs. It is believed that by consuming Kwati, protection from the annoyance of mosquitoes, flies, and other insects is conferred.
Through the process of germination, legumes undergo intricate biochemical transformations, enhancing their nutritional profile by amplifying amino acids, polyphenols, Vitamin C, and minerals, while concurrently reducing starch content and mitigating anti-nutrient levels. Studies indicate that the surge in beneficial bacteria, specifically Lactobacillus bifidus, during germination plays a pivotal role in suppressing the proliferation of detrimental microorganisms, fostering a healthier digestive system. It is this amalgamation of biochemical alterations and the presence of these favorable microorganisms that likely contributes to the distinctive and delightful flavor of Kwati soup – a unique quality that sets it apart from dishes featuring solely soaked beans.
The Kwati Purnima falls on the tail end of the monsoon season and farmers in the previous months have arduously worked in their paddy fields, planting and tending. Therefore on this special occasion, farmers nourish their bodies by consuming ‘Kwati soup’.
The Legend of Kwanti Purnima
Once, Indra Dev, the king of rains, who according to Hindu mythology resides in Heaven withheld rainwater from the frogs, withholding it from their cries. However, a wise frog approached farmers of Kathmandu Valley and convinced them to perform a ritual that led to the frogs’ cries being heard across the fields. As a result, Indra Dev had no choice but to relent and bestow rain that ultimately benefitted the farmers and their crops.
To show their gratitude on the Kwati Purnima day farmers feed rice to frogs. They offer a mix of rice, nuts, meats, and various dishes on bean leaves or sal leaves first outside the main entrance of farmers’ houses. Later, all the offerings are taken to fields and arranged at different locations for the frogs to feed on.