Durga Puja is a four day festival, starting from Sasthi to Nabami, is celebrated all over the city with great pomp and splendor. This is a festival which includes both fasting and feasting. Puja can be nothing without splendid delicacies which is a must for all the Bengalis during these few days.
Ma Durga along with her children, comes from the Himalayas to our land officially, for 4 days. But we Bengalis refuse to let her stay for so few number of days. People start celebration of the Gods’ stay from Chaturthi itself. But what is a celebration without delicious menus right from a Bong’s kitchen? Let us indulge into the menus that one must follow to remain at par with others during the upcoming festive season.
In Hinduism, Mother Durga represents the embodiment of shakti, the divine feminine force that governs all cosmic creation, existence and change. It is held that Durga emerged from the collective energies of all of the gods, including Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, to vanquish the demon Mahishasura who could not be defeated by any god or man. She is thus the compassionate savior of all of the gods and the universe. Durga exists in a complete state of self-sufficiency and independence from the universe and everyone and everything in it (in Sanskrit, Durga means “the impenetrable” or “the inaccessible”). At the same time, she is also regarded as the mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya, and is thus seen as the demon-fighting form of Shiva’s wife, Parvati.
If you are in Kolkata, you cannot simply miss out on the famous Bengali foods during the puja. Starting from bhog to luchi – cholar dal, nothing can surpass the greedy tummies of each and every bong. Those out of Kolkata crave for these delicacies. Those here, can never miss out on them. Certain foods become the quitessential part of our Bong life. We are here to revisit those nostalgic foods which we are ready to gulp on a week later this year.
What Not To Miss In Puja à
Specific items are needed during each day of the Durga puja to fill our appetites.
Sasthi is the sixth day of Devi Pakhsha and marked the formal biginning of Durga Puja in Bengal. Bengalis believe that on the day of Sasthi Uma(Goddess Durga), who is identified with Parvati the divine consort of Shiva comes to home of her father from her husband place with her four Children- Ganesha, Kartika, Laxmi and Saraswati. This is why all the ladies participate in the setting up of the Durga Ghat before the idol on Sasthi. They are formally welcoming Uma as a daughter on her arrival for three day trip to his father’s house.
This is the day when enjoyment encompasses every Bengali mind. It recuperates and echoes that Durga puja has arrived. The beginning of this festival can be greeted with a special lunch or dinner at a restaurant. Beginning from the Chinese cuisine, to the Indian tandoor, all delicacies are a big welcome on a Bong’s plate.
Saptami is nothing without Bangalir bhat-sukto after Kola Bou Bhat when early in the morning, a small banana plant called Kola Bou is taken to the river to be bathed and dressed in a red bordered sari and carried back in a procession to be placed near the idol of the Goddess.
Then the Pranpratisha ritual is perforemed to divinize the clay idol of Uma. The aim of this ritual to awaken the spirit of Durga as a worrier Goddess. From the day of Saptami Mahisasurmardini Durga starts her battle against the manifestation of all evils in the shape of Mahisasura to save the Srishti- the whole world.
The day is followed by special food recipes right from the Bengali household. Hot rice with shukto (a bitter curry made of vegetables), dal, alu bhaja, chatni, papor bhaja. Most of the pandals carry out these menus for their complex families.
Ashtami is considered one of the most auspicious days out of the ten days Durga Puja festival. On this day, not only do worshippers fast, but the weapons of Goddess Durga are worshipped too. Though there are anjalis and pushpanjalis on other days, but Ashtami’s pushpanjali remains singinificant for all. All fast and offer prayers to the Gods and Goddesses.
Ashtami can never be complete with the special luchi – cholar dal / alur dom. Accompanied by bonde, payesh , chatni.
This third and final day of Durga Puja begins with Mahasnan and Durga is worshipped as Mahishasurmardini (annihilator of the buffalo demon). This day is not only famous for its sandhi puja but also for the special bhog and khichuri.
One of the attraction of Durga Puja is Khichuri Bhog. Bengali community use rice in all pujas. In most of the ‘Sorbojanin’ puja, khichuri bhog is served, at least on Maha Nabami to all who visit the pandal irrespective of their caste or community. The simple dish made of rice ( in some cases gobindo bhog rice is used), lentil, vegetables, ghee and without onion and garlic.
All the residents of a ‘para’ or a housing complex sitting together and taking the bhog is a unique feature of Durga Puja.
Khichuri served with Labra – a tasty mixed vegetables curry, sweet dish, some fried item, chutney is now associated with Durga Puja. Khichuri Bhog brings all the people of a residential area in one spot. This is a unique get together where nobody is guest but everybody is host.
The tenth day of the Durga Puja festival is called Dashami, it is believed that on this day, Goddess Durga gained victory over the Demon and thus restored the balance on the earth. It is also known as Vijayadashami. On this day, Goddess Durga is worshipped and offered many things as she is prepared to leave. Highly enthusiastic devotees gather in large numbers to join the procession that carries the Goddess to the ghats to be immersed in water. Women, especially married woman initiate the procession by first applying red sindoor or vermillion powder on the Goddess and then to each other. It is said to be a symbol of marriage and fertility. Post the immersion of the idols, people indulge in having rasogollas and the men hug one another.