Kangri Dhaam is a traditional food festival celebrated in District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. Himachali food varies from region to region. The cuisine of Himachal Pradesh is largely based on the climate and topography of the state.
While the everyday meal is the usual dal-chawal-sabzi-roti, special dishes are cooked during festive occasions.
Among festive food, the traditional meal, Kangri Dham (lunch served on traditional occasions) finds an instant mention. The traditional Dham is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The Dham offers one with an opportunity to be acquainted with the various delicacies of the District.
It is believed that Dham was initially served as ‘Prasad’ in temples but now it is served as an entire meal during festivals, marriages, etc.
It is said that King Jaisthamba, one of the Kings of Chamba, was so fascinated by the Kashmiri food that he decided to recreate those dishes among Chamba locals and offer them to their local Goddess.
During that period, Chamba was famous for its spices, Rajma and milk. Hence, the cooks recreated & came out with a new Wazwan-type ensemble called “Dham”.
The brides from Chamba brought the Dham to Kangra and it was then called Kangri Dham.
The Kangri Dham Thali’s speciality is telia mah, black lentil dal doused in ghee and mixed lightly with spices; served with Rajmah Madra, Kaale Chane ka Khatta (sweet and sour black gram mahni) and other curries and dishes like Kadi, Sepu Vadi, Palda are served with rice. Moong dal is also used in some dishes.
At the end is served and may include meetha bhaat or mithdee.
The Dham includes plain aromatic rice, fried pulses or dal, spicy vegetable curry of red kidney beans and several desserts to satisfy one’s appetite. The food is served on leaf plates locally called pattlu or pattal (Sal or Banyan tree leaves).
Kangri Dham also makes use of the dhuni (dhungar) technique wherein, mustard oil is poured over a piece of burning coal and is placed in the dish and covered for some time to give the smoky flavour that is called dhuni.
Kangri Dham is cooked only by botis (a particular caste of Brahmins who are hereditary chefs). Preparation for this elaborate mid-day meal begins the night before.
A typical Dham normally includes around 7 to 8 dishes, which are set up in pot-moulded copper vessels called charoti. It is believed that cooking the dishes in these pots gives them a particular flavour as they are slow cooked for a considerable length of time, and the thin openings of the vessels keep the dishes hot for a long time.
Similar to Wazwan, a unique channel is made on the ground to cook the dishes making the use of a wood fire. The utensils used for cooking the food are usually made of brass.
What makes this feast different from others and unique is that the whole meal is cooked without using onion, ginger and garlic. In addition to this, no vegetables are used. Only lentils and dairy products are used.
Dham is a mid-day meal served to the guests in Himachali culture on the occasions of marriage, birthday parties, retirement parties or any religious days.