Diwali Falooda

Diwali, the five-day festival observed throughout India by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, holds a shared symbolism for all who celebrate: “That light overcomes darkness, good overcomes evil, and knowledge overcomes ignorance,” says Veda Sankaran, recipe developer and creator of Jalsa by Veda spice mixes. One of the several origin stories about Diwali is that it commemorates King Rama’s rescue of his kidnapped wife Sita, one of the major storylines in the world’s most ancient epic poem, the Ramayana. When Rama and Sita return home to live happily ever after, the citizens of their land welcome them by lighting tiny oil lamps all over the ancient city of Ayodhya.

The word Diwali is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word deepavali, which translates to “a cluster or line of lamps,” or diyas. Throughout the holiday, these clay oil lamps are still lit around the home.

Sankaran, who is from the state of Tamil Nadu in South India, emphasizes the diversity of celebrations across India depending on language, culture, and region. For example, “Most people know it as Diwali, but I grew up saying, ‘Happy Deepavali!’ she says. “Like most holidays around the world, it’s centered around family and food. New clothing is gifted, food is shared, and in the evening, firecrackers and sparklers are set off.”

Traditions focus on the preparing and sharing of sweets. In South India, “we usually start our meals with the dessert,” says Sankaran, which is why they’re featured here first. She also notes that Indian desserts are often time-consuming to prepare, and her time-saving approach is non-traditional––but just as delicious.


Falooda Recipe

This Persian treat, brought to India by the Mughals in the 16th century, can be likened to a milkshake. It’s festive with layers of rose Jell-O, corn sev, soaked basil seeds (or substitute chia seeds for a similar look and texture), rose syrup, milk, and ice cream. Slivered pistachios top it off.


1 packet unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp rose syrup
1 drop of red food color
1 ½ tbsp basil seeds
1 small packet falooda sev (corn vermicelli)
2 cups full-fat milk
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
Slivered pistachios
Edible dried rose petals


  1. Follow the directions on the box of unflavored gelatin. Once the gelatin is dissolved, add the rose syrup and red food coloring, stir, and let set in the fridge.
  2. About 30 minutes before you are ready to make the falooda, soak the basil seeds in enough water to generously cover them. They will expand as they soak up the water, so err on the side of more rather than less water as you will be draining the soaked seeds.
  3. As the seeds are soaking, boil the sev following the directions on the package. Drain, then use kitchen shears to cut the thin noodles to about 6 inches long.
  4. To assemble, place cubes or small scoops of rose gelatin in the bottom of a tall glass. Then place some of the soaked basil seeds you’ve drained, followed by some of the sev.
  5. Next, drizzle some rose syrup along the inside of the glass. Pour in some milk, then repeat the layering. Finally add the scoop of ice cream and garnish with slivered pistachios and rose petals.

Note: The rose syrup, basil seeds, and falooda sev can all be found at your nearest Indian grocery store. If you need to substitute, you can use chia seeds instead of basil seeds and regular vermicelli instead of the falooda sev.

Recipes and Stying by Veda Sankaran / Story by Nicole Barley / Photography by Dave Bryce

Try more of Veda’s delicious Diwali dishes:

Onion Bhaji and Dahi Papdi Chaat

Chole Bhatura

Diwali Desserts

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