Durga puja has already started. As Bengal gets decked up with all the pandals and the puja shopping almost come to an end, I on the other hand, living thousands of miles away is waiting for this weekend to arrive. The Durga puja in the US is held during weekends just for the convenience of the attendees.
While I miss on my dose of the Kolkata Durga pooja fever, I’m getting ready to celebrate the US style Durga puja. I will definitely miss the phuchka, alu kabli, churmur, ghugni – oh I cant stop writing the list of road side food that I’ll be missing on this puja – but would have a new taste, a new experience of celebrating puja just over the weekend.
The street food on Kolkata adds an added charm to the whole flavor of Durga puja, but there is always the home cooked prasad. Though my family strictly becomes vegetarian during the four days of puja, mainly because of the fact we have our own durga idol at home, and she has been worshiped in the family for more than a century now. And, as Ma Durga is bid adieu, the next day, ekdashi is the day to eat fish and only fish. The entire family with brothers, sisters, cousins, their spouses, their kids – you know how the Indian family tree is – eats, sitting on the floor. Last year I was heading the frying department of the lunch, mostly because my mom felt her daughter is old enough to get married so she is old enough to cook for hundred people, or at least the dal and bhaja part. So, my task for last ekdashi was to make loitta macher vada for the entire family. It was intimidating, it was tiring, yet there was a satisfaction seeing everybody asking for more.
Puja has already started. From what I heard from my sister and friends in Kolkata, there are thousands of people out in the streets to visit one pandal from the other. Its Panchami today, and the puja has not yet started. Tomorrow morning will mark the beginning of Durga Puja for 2011 (1418 by the Bengali calendar). There are many of us who are out of Bengal now, and just searching over the internet to see if there’s at least one Durga puja going on at your present city.
As of Bangalore, I found quite a few Durga pujas this year. The most popular being the Bengali Association Puja in Palace Ground and of course there are some more in Koramangala Kalyana Manthapa, 6th Block; another Durga puja a few steps from this one is the Durga Puja near Jyoti Nivas college. The fourth is near to the place where I stay now – the Sarjapur Road Total Mall.
Here’s a list for the Durga Puja timings for 2011.
(13th Aashin 1418)
From that day
7.52 am-Next day
(14th Aashin 1418)
From that day
within 9.28am Durga Devi “BODHON” “Amantran” and “Adhibas” in the evening
(15th Aashin 1418)
From that day
2.22am “Nabo Patrika”
Subho Bijaya to all of you. Wish you all had a wonderful Puja break this time. Starting tomorrow we at Cook Like a Bong will be posting various recipes custom made for the Bijaya season, so stay tuned and have fun till then.
The sixth day of the Navaratri (9 nights) is celebrated as the starting of Durga Puja, the Maha Shasthi day. This is the day that marks the unveiling of the Durga idols in various Puja pandals along with the starting of the 5 day long worship of the Goddess of power, Ma Durga.
Bodhon or the invocation of the deity is done during the evening of Shasthi and as myth says, the deities thereafter comes alive. It was yesterday that we started with the Maha Shasthi puja. Just in Kolkata there are more than a thousand places where the goddess is worshipped in community pujas leave aside the ones worshipped at indivudual homes. My house too comes under one of the places where the goddess is worshipped for these 5 days.
Along with the goddess comes her four children – Laxmi, Ganesh, Saraswati and Karthik. They all are indivudually worshipped as Gods, but this time of the year they remain as the offspring of the Mother Goddess. In this platoon of Gods and Goddess the demon Mahishasur is also worshipped. As it is said, that when Durga killed the demon kind, Mahishashura he was booned by the Goddess and was promised to be worshipped along with her.
These thousands of pandals are decked gorgeously with lights and with various other decoration items. This time the only pandal I visited till now is the Babubagan Community Puja. There theme for this year is to get rid of the mechanical world and bring back the greenery. The pandal is made of worn out machine parts, while the idols signifying the almost lost Santhal community and their love for nature .
In between all these glories and worships, something good happened to me. My photos from Kumortuli, Kolkata got featured in Bhorer Kagoj, a newspaper in Bangaladesh.
It was only Shasthi and there are four more days for the Puja. Stay tuned and will update you with more stories and photos from Kolkata Puja. Till then have a happy and safe Puja.
Waking up at daybreak (well, its more like 4am) on Mahalaya has been, and still is, an annual ritual for most of Bengali households. When you are in Bengal, or say in states adjacent to Bengal (Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Assam), the (ei-4te-baje-uthe-ja) must-wake-up-at-4am is probably implemented more strictly than elsewhere. Predictably, if you don’t have strict enforcement of this widely practiced rule at your home, your Mahalaya would be way different.
The approach to celebrate Mahalaya at Bangalore (or say, Delhi, Mumbai or Hyderabad) is way different than that at Kolkata (or even Jamshedpur, Guwahati, Bhuwaneshwar or Patna). This post is a short account of how an immigrant Bong spent his Mahalaya in the IT City vis-a-vis how a pakka Bongo Tanaya spent hers in the Bengali heartland (Kolkata, where else?).
The Immigrant Bong
Went to bed at 2 am, so waking up at daybreak was obviously out of question. Other flatmates also wanted to enjoy Mahalaya chants, but Kalyan banging their doors at 6 in the morning was a strict no no. So we agreed on a protocol. After 8am, whoever wakes up first will SMS the other flatties (Don’t Bang my door please, just ping me ok!). At 8:30, the dont-bang-my-door-or-I’ll-shred-you warning would be called off and people then may start celebrating Mahalaya. So, instead of 4am, it was 8:30 am.
“Morning! Time for Mahalaya number?”
Received an SMS saying this at 8am. Startled, I woke up. I smiled at the changed times. Birendra Kishore Bhadra’s Chandipath is a number now. 🙂 Much like Dhanno in Housefull or Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance (please, I can’t name that Bieber fellow in the same breath). I found it a fresh and contemporary approach to complementing the goose bumps inducing Agomoni songs. What better a tribute to the traditional than to acknowledge that it is still ‘hip’. The guy would be proud in his afterlife.
Not sure if he ever imagined people born eight decades later (he was born way back in 1905) in weird places would be listening to his Mahishasurmardini songs at 10am over not a radio or television, but something weird as a website on a laptop. Not even sure if Akashvani (AIR) would have thought that what started as a tradition way back in 1930 would even continue 80 yrs later, albeit in several other formats.
A hair raising experience followed when we played the predictable two songs and a bonus– Birendra Kishore Bhadra’s Mahishasurmardini, Supriti Ghosh’s Bajlo tomar alor benu and its guitar’d rendition, on youtube. Check out the new age Agomoni, with guitars and a hint of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters:
The Immigrant Bongs and the I-have-many-Bengali-friends junta then followed it up with Phuchka-meets-Dahi-Bhalla. A slightly different version of the quintessential Bengali Phuchka. Boil the potataoes, mash it with some powdered spices, salt, Tamarind water (Imli ka paani) and boiled Mung Daal. Mix curd with whatever spices suits you and fill in each Phuchka (golgappa, pani puri) with the curd mix, mashed potato mix and Tamarind water. East meets West baby!
Followed it up with Mughlai Paratha for lunch at Calcutta Tiffins at a nearby Spencers. Was okayish, but nothing close to the Mughlai Paratha Sudeshna made. Its not without reason that the post is one of the most popular posts ever at Cook Like a Bong.
How was your Mahalaya?
Now, coming to the other end of the Spectrum.
The Banglar buke Bongo Santan (Bong in Bengali heartland)
Went to bed at 1am excited that Devi is finally arriving ina few hours. Wanted to do something more than the regular Ishh-ki-bhalo-Chandipath-cholchhe-radio-te (whoa! Awesome hymns on radio). Mom woke me up at 4 am. Mahishasurmardini was already loud on TV. Bengali Agamani songs were playing aloud in my mind.
While people elsewhere (Probashi Bengali) rely on Google etc for Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Mahalaya Songs free download link, I feel lucky to watch/listen to Jago, Tumi Jago at daybreak by just switching on the TV (which is otherwise just an idiot box). Even better, having a father who breaks into a song at just the slightest provocation helps.
Finally decided to visit Gwalior Ghat (wonder why is it called so) with Baba. Morning ride to Gwalior Ghat was exciting. For the uninitiated, Ghats are embankments where man meets the river. Ghats of Kolkata preserve an interesting piece of history, be it Princep Ghat, Babu Ghat or Gwalior Ghat. It, like any other important Ghat, ends with a deep drop to the river bed. Interestingly, there is a Gwalior Ghat in Varanasi too.
Gwalior Ghat looked splendid in the early hours. Hundreds of people gathered to offer Tarpan to their deceased ancestors. Interestingly, Tarpan is performed in an empty stomach while you offer food and sweets to your departed ancestors. Several priests, as usual, made hay even in the early hours of sunshine. My dad performed Tarpan too.
Devipaksha (fortnight of the Godess) had a splendid start. Armed with a Nikon D60 and several lenses (lets leave the lenses specs to a separate post), I took some pictures while almost knee deep in mud. Was lucky not to soil my clothes. Shubho Mahalaya everyone!
Please comment and let us know how did your Mahalaya go?
The countdown has become, it’s a matter of just 13 days now before the festival of the year starts. The bright shiny sun in the blue sky with the white clouds marks the onset of autumn. And with autumn comes Durga Puja followed by Lakshmi Puja and Kali Puja. This month we at Cook Like a Bong thought of doing something new to mark the largest festival of the Bengalis.
We are publishing the first monthly Calendar starting from this month. Those of who are already subscribed to the mailing list will get the Calendar delivered to their inbox. Subscribe to Cook Like a Bong and get an awesome collection of 26 authentic Bengali recipe e-book. You’ll also get a high resolution calendar delivered to your mail.
You can also download the image from below and save it as your desktop calendar for October 2010.
What does the word Sharadiya ( or Saradiya) mean to you?
Surely, you would identify with the several connotations of the word beyond its literal meaning (that which comes in the Autumn). Hymns by Birendra Kishore Bhadra on All India Radio, the great homecoming (Bongs flock from all parts of the country/elsewhere to their hometown), the annual shopping frenzy (what are you wearing on Saptami? On Nabami evening?), Sharod publications (Patrika, Bartaman, Anandalok take your pick), the three eyed Ma Durga with her Pangopal, the Kash ful dancing to the tunes of the fluttering breeze, the hair raising yet rhythmic beat of the traditional Dhak, the exquisite Pandals and the teeming millions, the egg-roll stalls (and your diet regime goes for a toss!), Akalbodhan, Khain, Bisarjan …
Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to the Carnival of the Year!
This Festive Season, Cook Like a Bong brings to you a collection of 26 traditional and trendy Bengali recipes in a free eBook, titled Saradiya Rannabati 2010. Do what you like, go anywhere you want, eat whatever you can lay your hands on. This Durga Puja, Eat Pray Live. 🙂
Eat Pray Live
What’s on the Menu?
A collection of authentic Bengali recipes including fries, side dishes, main course and sweets and desserts from the BengaliCuisine kitchen and also from five different contributors. Unfold the secrets of the famous Kolkata phuchka. Know how to cook the brilliant looking Basanti pulao. Don’t miss the Chingri Bhapa, Doi Post Ilish or the mouthwatering Misti Doi. End the fare with Anarosher Chutney or Aamer Morobba.
Salivating already? Without wait, pounce on the delicacies. Please enter your name and email id in the box below to subscribe to our blog and we will give you the eBook for free.
Many Thanks to…
Thanks to all our readers, whose repeat visits to the website keep its traffic stats healthy. Kudos to the 2500+ strong community at Cook like a Bong’s Facebook Page – your discussions help everyone appreciate the myriad variations of Bangali Ranna. Special thanks to Jeet Saikia for designing the cover page of this e-book and to all our eBook recipe contributors.