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Diwali Legiyam

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The Traditional Preparation of Legiyam in South India

These are linctuses (medicated syrups that are thick and soothing enough to relieve sore throats or loosen a cough) or confections and sweetened extracts, equivalent to confections electuaries (An electuary is a combination of powdered herbs stirred into honey or vegetable glycerin to form a pasty mass. It is particularly useful as a children's remedy) and conserves (to preserve with sugar) of the earlier Western Pharmacopia's


Equipments required:

1.    A wide mouthed shallow vessel, preferably made of stainless steel. If made of copper or brass, should be perfectly tinned inside.
2.    Strong spoons and ladles for mixing the thick pasty confection under process.
3.    Fine sieve or cloth.
4.    Appliances for preparing decoctions and juices.


The component drugs which enter into the composition of the confection are capable of being classified into the following:

1.    the major drugs which are of prime import
2.    the sweetening agents like sugar, brown sugar, jaggery, sugar candy, and honey
3.    the preserving agent ghee which softens the mass
4.    the flavouring aromatic drugs
5.    the liquid media which may either be juices or decoctions as the case may be or simply water.

The major drugs are finely powdered after drying and sieved. The sugar, jaggery or candy is dissolved in the fluid medium prescribed and a syrup is prepared by gently heating it.

The syrup should be carefully prepared and over heating to be avoided. At the correct syrup stage, when it has commenced, the dry powders are added and briskly stirred into mixed with the syrup. The vessel is removed from the fire or heat is withdrawn now. Heating for a long time will result in a rocky product as the syrup stage will end and crystallization of sugar will set in. when quite warm, ghee is mixed to the mass. When cool, honey is added and mixed. Though this is the general method, specific deviations may be met with under individual recipes.

The quality of the final product is directly dependant upon the fineness of drug powders, efficient judgement of the syrup stage and the extent of mixing of the ingredients at the correct stages.


These products are stored in wide mouthed containers of glass. These medicines keep good if prepared and stored properly, for more than a year.

Deepavali Legiyam

Deepavali festival is not only sparkling of lights, but also tickles and sparkles the taste buds with a plethora of food varieties. Nonetheless, after a marathon session of hand-to-mouth activity, it is heavy work fo stomach, pancreas and the liver to digest and transform them into energy in the body.

Sweets, fried food, junk food, crunchy tit-bits  brought in by neighbors, family, friends and business associates results in a global malady that occurs on these five days of festivity.

The ancients had an answer to this collective indigestion. There is a unique tradition in many South Indian homes that is part of the early morning festivities of Deepavali. A little dollop of a black lehiyam or chooran is given to the family members immediately after the ritual oil bath. Then the sweets and savouries are given to start of the celebrations. This lehiyam is also called marundu or medicine. It is not really like the western concept of pills and potions. It is a tasty mixture of herbs and spices cooked in ghee and jaggery/vellam/gur and consumed during the festivals.

How - Medicinal?:  The herbs are rich in anti-oxidants neutralizing the heavy oxidative sugary components of the sweets and the fried oil toxic compounds. The toxic garbage of chemicals needs to be thrown out of the body. These herbal ingredients help in the detoxification process.

Consuming sweets the immune system gets down for four to six hours. It causes damage to blood cells. The phyto-nutrients of these herbs prevent this damage and boosts the immune system. What deep insight of our ancestors.

The original recipe for this marundu can be quite elaborate and incomprehensible. Each family has its own version.

Before we go the recipe of the deepavali legiyam let us know about the herbs used in this preparation:

Alpina calcarata


Alpinia galanga, a plant in the ginger family, is an herb used in cooking, especially in Indonesian cuisine and Thai cuisine. It is one of four plants known as galangal, and is differentiated from the others with the common name greater galangal. The galangals are also called blue ginger or Thai ginger.
A. galanga is called laos in Indonesian and is the most common form of galangal used in cooking. It is also known as Langkwas and galanga root. The plant grows from rhizomes in clumps of stiff stalks up to two meters in height with abundant long leaves which bears red fruit. It is native to South Asia and Indonesia. It is cultivated in Malaysia, Laos, and Thailand. A. galanga is the galangal used most often in cookery. The robust rhizome has a sharp, sweet taste and smells like a blend of black pepper and pine needles. The red fruit is used in traditional Chinese medicine and has a flavor similar to cardamom.

Culinary uses

The rhizome is a common ingredient in Thai soups and curries, where is used fresh in chunks or thin slices, mashed and mixed into curry paste, or dried and powdered. Indonesian rendang is usually spiced with galangal. Greater galangal is used in Russia as a flavoring for beverages, including a liqueur called nastoika.

Medicinal uses

Under the names Chewing John, Little John to Chew, and Court Case Root it is used in African-American folk medicine and hoodoo folk magic.

Long Pepper



Pepper long is the dried fruit of Piper longum which is a slender, aromatic plant with creeping jointed stems and perennial woody roots. The leaves are 5-9 cm long, 3-5 cm wide, ovate, cordate with broad rounded lobes at the base. Female spikes are cylindrical, male spikes are larger and slender. Female spikes are 1.3-2.5 cm long, 4.5 mm diameter, fruits ovoid, yellowish orange, minute, drupe and are sunk in the fleshy spike. The spike are red when ripe.
Origin and Distribution

The plant is distributed from Central Himalayas to Assam, Lower hills of Bengal, evergreen forests of Western Ghats, Nicobar Islands, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal. The Indonesian or Malaysian long pepper is from Pepper retrofractum. Pepper long is cultivated on a large scale in lime stone soil and in heavy rainfall areas where relative humidity is high.


It is used as a spice and also in pickles and preserves. The fruits and roots are used as medicine for respiratory disease and as counter irritant and analgesic for muscular pains and inflammation. It has carminative, haematinic and anti-helmintic properties. 

 Carom Seeds



Ajwain or Ajowan Caraway, also known as carom seeds , is an uncommon spice. It is the small seed-like fruit 'similar to that' of the Bishop's Weed plant, egg-shaped and grayish in colour. The plant has a similarity to parsley. Because of their seed-like appearance, the fruit pods are sometimes called ajwain seeds or mistakenly as bishop's weed

Origin and Distribution

Ajwain originated in the Middle East, possibly in Egypt. It is now primarily grown and used in the Indian Subcontinent, but also in Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in berbere, a spice mixture favored in Eritrea and Ethiopia.


It reduces flatulence caused by beans when it is cooked with beans. It may be used as a substitute for cumin as well. It is also traditionally known as a digestive aid and an antiemetic.




Nutmeg & Mace are two distinctly different spices produced from a fruit of an evergreen tree usually 9-12 mtr high. Mace is the dried reticulated ‘aril’ of the fruit and nutmeg is the dried seed kernel of the fruit. The trees are normally unisexual, bearing either male or female flowers. The male flowers are born in clusters, whereas female flowers are often solitary. Fruit is a fleshy drupe, spherical in shape, pale yellow in colour with a longitudinal groove in the centre.

When the fruit mature it burst open along the groove exposing the bright attractive mace, covering the hard black, shiny shell of the seed called nutmeg.
Origin and Distribution

Nutmeg tree is indigenous to Moluccas. The major nutmeg growing areas are Indonesia and Granada. It also grows on a smaller scale in Sri Lanka, India, China, Malaysia, Zanzibar, Mauritius and Solomon Island. Nutmeg thrives well in places with warm humid climate from sea level up to 600 mtrs MSL. It grows on a variety of soils from sandy to clayey loams and red laterite soils with good drainage. A well-distributed annual rainfall of 250 cm is ideal for the crop.


It is aromatic, carminative, digestive, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, lactagogue, aphrodisiac, hypnotic, hallucinogenic, antispasmodic and stimulant agent. Helps relieving flatulency, useful in nausea, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea associated with cholera. Also useful in diseases of the liver, spleen, headaches, palsy and eye troubles. Nutmeg is used as spice, in bakery and confectionery items. Nutmeg oil stimulates the heart and circulation, activates the mind and revives people from fainting spells. The oil has good anti-inflammatory action, and is also successful in relieving pain, especially muscular aches and pain, as well as rheumatism.




The “True Cinnamon” or Sri Lankan Cinnamon is the dried inner stem bark of Cinnamomum Verum. Cinnamon plants are grown as bushes. When the plants are of two years age, they typically measure at about 2 meter in high and 8-12 cm at the base. It is at this stage they are ready for harvesting.
Origin and Distribution

Cinnamomum verum is mostly cultivated in Sri Lanka, Malagasy Republic and Seychelles. It has originated in the central hills of Sri Lanka. In India, it is grown in one or two locations in Kerala. Cinnamon is a hardy plant and is cultivated in Sri Lanka under varying conditions ranging from semi dried to wet zone conditions. The ideal temperature for growing cinnamon is between 20-30 degree C and rainfall between 1250 to 2500 mm. It thrives well as a forest tree at 300-350 meter above MsL.


The commercial products of cinnamon are quills, quillings, featherings, chips, cinnamon bark oil and cinnamon leaf oil. ‘Quills’ are scraped peel of the inner bark of the mature cinnamon shoots, joined together with overlapping tubes, the hollow of which has been filled with smaller pieces of cinnamon peels which is dried first in the sun and thereafter in the shade. ‘Quillings’ are broken pieces and splits of all grades of cinnamon quills. ‘Featherings’ are feather like pieces of inner bark consisting of shavings and small pieces of bark left over. Cinnamon ‘chips’ are rough unpeelable barks scraped off from the thicker stems. Cinnamon leaf and bark oil are obtained by distilling the leaf and bark separately. Cinnamon bark is a popular spice with a delicate fragrance and a warm agreeable taste. It is used in the form of small pieces or powder. It is widely used in flavouring confectionary, liquors, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. It is found to help diabetics in digestion of sugar. It has astringent; stimulant and carminative properties and can check nausea and vomiting. The cinnamon bark oil has anti-fungal properties and cinnamon leaf oil is widely used in perfumery and cosmetics

Poppy seeds



Poppy seed is the dried seed of Papaver somniferum, an erect annual herb, 30-150 cm long with 0.5-1.5 cm thick stem. Stem is glabrous with thick waxy coating. Leaves are numerous, alternate, spreading horizontally, 15-25 cm long. Flowers are few, solitary, on a 10-15 cm long peduncle. Fruit is a capsule with waxy coating. Seeds are numerous, very small, white grey with an oily endosperm. Poppy is a self pollinated plant. The seed is the spice.

Origin and Distribution

The centre of origin of Poppy is the Western Mediterranean region of Europe and is cultivated in India, USSR, Egypt, Yugoslavia, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, China, Japan, Argentina, Spain, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Portugal for its legal pharmaceutical use. It is also grown illegally for the narcotic trade in Burma, Thailand and Laos (Golden Triangle) and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran (Golden Crescent).

Poppy is cultivated in temperate and sub-tropical region and requires well drained, highly fertile, light black cotton soil having good percentage of fine sand. In India it is a licensed crop since the latex of the mature fruit are collected for the production of opium, a narcotic substance.


Poppy seed (Khas Khas) is used as food and as a source of fatty oil. It is widely used for culinary purposes. Because of its highly nutritive nature it is used in breads, cakes, cookies, pastries, curries, sweets and confectionary. Its seeds are demulcent and are used against constipation. The capsules are used as a sedative against irritant coughing and sleeplessness in the form syrup or extract.




It is a biennial, aromatic, stout, glabrous, 1.5 to 1.8 mtr high. The ripe fruit (seed) is small, oblong, cylindrical, 6.8mm long, straight or slightly curved, greenish yellow, deeply furrowed, 5 ridged and having agreeable aroma.

Origin and Distribution

It is a native of Europe and Asia Minor. It is cultivated extensively in Northern India as a cold weather crop. It comes up well in fairly mild climate. The dry and cold weather favours high seed production. Prolonged cloudy weather at the time of flowering is conducive to diseases and pests.


The leaves of fennel is used for garnishing. Leaves and stalks are used in salads. It is an essential ingredient in Italian sausages, widely used to sprinkle on pizza. Dried fruits have fragrant odour and pleasant aromatic taste and therefore used as a masticatory. They are also used for flavouring soups, meat dishes, sauces, pastries, confectionaries and liquors. The fruits are aromatic, stimulant and carminative. 




The clove of commerce is the air-dried unopened flower bud obtained from evergreen medium sized tree. The tree grows to a height of 10-12 mtrs and start flowering in about 7 years. It continues to produce flower buds for 80 or more years. It is a valuable spice of the orient. Clove clusters are plucked by hand when the buds are fully developed with a pronounced pink flush and then dried over several days in the sun. Unopened flower buds, leaves and stalks yield essential oil.

Origin and Distribution

The plant is indigenous to North Molucca Islands of Indonesia. It is also grown in Zanzibar, Madagascar, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India. The tree prefers well drained rich soil with sufficient soil moisture throughout the year. High atmospheric temperature (25 to 35 degree C) with heavy sun light, good and well-distributed rainfall (above 150 cm) and high humidity (above 70%) are preferred.


The use of clove in whole or ground form is mainly for culinary purposes and as a flavouring agent in food industry. Its flavour blends well with both sweet and savory dishes. It is highly valued in medicine as carminative, aromatic and stimulant. In Indonesia, the lion share of production is consumed in production of ‘kretek’ cigarettes.

The antiseptic and antibiotic properties of clove oil are used in medicine especially in dentistry, oral and pharyngeal treatments. It has wider applications in preparations of toothpaste and mouthwashes, soaps and perfumes. It is also reported to help diabetics in sugar assimilations.




Liquorice is a member of Fabaceae plant family. This is a small shrub. The leaves are multifoliate. The flowers are pale blue, purple alternatively, violet in color. The flowers are racemes from the axils of the leaves. The roots which yield Liquorice of the commerce, are hard in addition, form branches.

Origin and Distribution

This is a small herb found in South East Europe and South West Asia. Liquorice farming is very common in many parts of India.

The roots yield Liquorice extract of the commerce which is used in confectionary. It is very good cure for sore throat, mouth ulcer, asthma, bronchitis and other allergic coughs. It is also used for treatment of duodenal ulcer.  The roots and extract derived from the roots are used for Ayurvedic herbal preparations. Licorice reduces potassium level in the body so care should be taken in consuming licorice in case of hypertension.




Black Pepper is the dried mature berry of Piper nigrum, a climbing, perennial shrub mostly found in hot, moist region of Southern India. Under cultivation pepper vines are trailed over support as columns, 5-6 mtr tall, 1-2 meter diameter. The climbing woody stems have swollen nods with clinging roots at each node, which helps in anchoring the vine to the support trees (standards). It has straight upward growing main stem and have lateral shoots from the axils of the leaves having shorter inter nodes without adventitious roots. In such branches the terminal buds get modified into an inflorescence (spike) and the auxiliary buds continue further growth.

The root system confined to 75-100 cm radius and depth. The inflorescence is a pendent spike, 3-15 cm long with 50-150 flowers. Flowers are minute, white pale yellow, arranged spirally on fleshy pedantries. The specie is naturally self-pollinated and pollen dispersal is aided by the presence of water droplets. Fruit is a single seeded drupe often called berry. It is spherical in shape, green in colour, changing to red on ripping.

Origin and Distribution

Pepper is considered originated in the hills of South Western Ghats of India. It is now grown in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil, Mexico, and Guatemala apart from the country of origin. Pepper requires hot and humid climate and grows between 20 degree North and South latitudes, from sea level to up to 1500 meters above MSL. The crop tolerates temperatures between 10 degree and 40 degree C. A well-distributed annual rainfall of 125 to 200 cm is considered ideal for pepper.


Pepper is largely used by meat packers and in canning, pickling, baking, considering for its preservative value. It has the ability to correct the seasoning of dishes, therefore used as a final dash at the end of cooking to effectively adjust the flavour. It is an important component of culinary seasoning of universal use and is an essential ingredient of numerous commercial foodstuffs. It is also used as an ingredient in spice mixes. White pepper is used in products like mayonnaise where, black specks of black pepper is not liked. Other products in use are pepper oil, oleoresin, micro encapsulated pepper, green pepper in brine, dehydrated green pepper, frozen pepper etc. Black pepper is an essential ingredient in Indian system of medicine. Piperine, the pungent principle in pepper oleoresin helps to enhance bio-availability and therefore used in pharmaceuticals. The major functional properties of pepper are analgesic, anti-pyretic, anti-oxidant and anti-microbial.

Cumin seeds



Cumin is the dried, white fruit with greyish brown colour of a small slender annual herb. The surface of the fruit has 5 primary ridges, alternatively has 4 less distinct secondary ridges bearing numerous short hairs. The plant is 15 to 50 cm high. The aromatic seed like fruit is elongated, ovoid, 3 to 6 mm long, slightly bitter and has a warm flavour. The flowers are white or rose coloured in small umbels.

Origin and Distribution

Cumin is indigenous to Northern Egypt, Syria, the Mediterranean region, Iran and India. It is also cultivated in Mexico, China, Sicily and Malta. Cumin is a tropical plant and is cultivated as a rabi crop in areas where atmospheric humidity during February-March is low.


Cumin seed have an aromatic odour and bitter taste. It is used as a condiment, and is an ingredient in curry powders, seasonings of breads, cakes and cheese. It is employed in native dishes of Central and South America. In medicine, it is used as a stimulant, carminative, stomachic and astringent. Cumin seed oil is used in perfumery and for flavouring liqueurs and cordials. 





Ginger of commerce is the dried underground stem of the herbaceous tropical plant grown as an annual. The whole plant is refreshingly aromatic and the underground rhizome, raw or processed, is valued as spice. Ginger is a slender perennial herb, 30-50 cm tall with palmately branched rhizome bearing leafy shoots. The leafy shoot is a pseudostem formed by leaf sheath and bears 8 to 12 distichous leaves. The inflorescence is a spike springs directly from the rhizome.

Origin and Distribution

It is a tropical plant with the centre of distribution in India and Malaysia. Now it is widely cultivated in India, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Malaysia, Southern China and Japan. Ginger requires warm and humid climate and thrives well from sea level to an altitude of 1500 mtrs above MSL. A well distributed rainfall (150 to 300cm) during growing season and dry spells during land preparation and harvesting are required for the crop. Though grows on a wide range of soils, lateritic loams are preferred for higher yields.


Fresh ginger, dry ginger powder, oleoresin and oil are used in food processing. It is indispensable in the manufacture of ginger bread, confectionary, ginger ale, curry powders, certain curried meats, table sauces, in pickling and in the manufacture of certain cordials, ginger cocktail, carbonate drinks, liquors etc. In medicine, it is used as carminative and stimulant. It has wider applications in indigenous medicines. The ginger oil is used as food flavourant in soft drinks. 



Oranges are widely grown in warm climates worldwide, and the flavours of oranges vary from sweet to sour. The fruit is commonly peeled and eaten fresh, or squeezed for its juice. It has a thick bitter rind that is usually discarded, but can be processed into animal feed by removing water, using pressure and heat. It is also used in certain recipes as flavouring or a garnish. The outer-most layer of the rind can be grated or thinly veneered with a tool called a zester, to produce orange zest. Zest is popular in cooking because it contains the oil glands and has a strong flavour similar to the fleshy inner part of the orange.

The white part of the rind, called the pericarp or albedo and including the pith, is a source of pectin and has nearly the same amount of vitamin C as the flesh.




Cardamom of commerce is the dried ripe fruit (capsules of cardamom plant) often referred as the “Queen of Spices” because of its very pleasant aroma and taste. Cardamom is a perennial, herbaceous, rhizomatous plant. Based on the nature of panicles, three varieties are recognized viz. Malabar with prostrate panicle, Mysore with erect panicle, and Vazhukka with semi erect panicle. Plants are of medium size (2 to 3 mtr height) with pubescent leaves (on the dorsal side) and fruits globose in the case of Malabar, whereas plant robust (3 to 4 mtr height) with leaves glabrous on both sides with ovoid capsules in the case of Mysore. Vazhukka variety is a mix of both the above in physical characteristics.

Origin and Distribution

Cultivation of cardamom is mostly concentrated in the ever green forests of Western Ghats in South India. Besides India, cardamom is grown as a commercial crop in Guatemala and on small scale in Tanzania, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Honduras, and Papua & New Guinea. The optimum altitudinal range on growing cardamom is 600 to 1500 mtr above MsL. The cardamom growing regions of South India lies within 8 - 30 degree N latitudes and 75-78 degree longitudes.


The major use is for the preparation of ‘gahwa’ – a strong cardamom coffee concoction which is a symbol for hospitality among Arabs. Apart from this cardamom is widely used as a flavouring material in whole and ground form. In Asia, it can add a lingering sparkle to every kind of dishes both traditional and modern. In Scandinavian countries it is used in baked goods and confectionaries. In Europe and North America it is an ingredient in curry powder and in some sausages products. Cardamom oil and oleoresin has applications in flavouring processed foods, cordials, and liquors and in perfumery and in Ayurvedic medicines.


Hmmmm after a travel through the herbs now lets go to the medicine where all the above herbs and spices join hands together and the recipe is:


Alpina calcarata (siddharathai)- 10g
Long Pepper -10g
Ajwain or Carom Seeds -100g
Bark Cinnamon-- 2 gms
Poppy seeds -- one spoon
Fennel Seeds -- 2gms
Clove -- 2pieces
Licorice -- 2 pieces
Pepper -- 50 grams
Cumin seeds --2 gms
Ginger -- -10g
Orange -- 1 (juice)
Ghee -- 100gm
Gingily oil (sesame oil) -- 4 tsp
Honey -- 1 ladle full
Jaggery -- 250 Gms
Cardomom - 5g

 Pound the hard ingredients and dry them in the sun with the other items. Heat the pan and fry the items one by one to golden brown and keep aside. Grind them to powder in a Mixie (blender)and sieve the flour. Store the flour in an air tight container.
 Wash the Ginger nicely, grind it using one ladle of water and make juice out of it. Make juice out of the Orange and filter it. Pour both the Ginger juice and Orange juice into the pan. Powder the jaggery and add it to the juice mixture. Heat the mixture. Do not add water.
 Once the jaggery dissolves, filter it to remove the dirt. Wash the pan, pour the mixture again and boil it for 2 minutes.  Then add the prepared flour slowly and when it becomes like a gravy, stop adding the flour. Add Ghee and sesame oil. Cook on a medium flame.
 Touch and see, if non-sticky remove from fire and add honey. Stir well. Cool the mixture. Store in a bottle or a container. The remaining flour can be used if and when needed.


Ok here goes the remedy with its traditional preparation. So dont worry enjoy the sweets and the medicine too............

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Diwali Legiyam