“Sarat kal” – does that ring any bell? Of course it does. Other than the brilliant blue sky dotted with soft white clouds it’s that time of the year when you let go of all worries and enjoy the four days of Durga Puja. For our non-Bong friends, Sarat kal is the autumn season according to the Bengali calendar. Durga Puja, doesn’t only mean worshipping the goddess of feminine power, but a lot more – shopping before the puja, pandal hopping during the four days, and of course eating and eating and more eating.
I’m sure you all have left your health conscious souls at home and gorged on the wonderful street foods. I just can’t think about passing a puja without gulping on some phuchkas (fuchka) and biting on egg rolls. What’s your Puja special dish, do let us know?
Just after Durga Puja is Lakshmi puja. The goddess of wealth and well being is ushered to almost every Bengali household (though some people worship the goddess on Kali Puja day). This year Lakshmi Puja will be celebrated tomorrow.
After numerous calls, e-mails, wall posts and scraps from friends from all over the globe, I decided on posting something which is specially made for this occasion – murki and mowa (pronounced as moa).
Murki is made from a special variety of puffed rice called Khoi in Bengali and is mixed with molasses or gur. Mowa on the other hand can be prepared with Khoi, mudi or even chidde. Here’s how my mom prepares both these two sweet ambrosia. The basic method of preparation is the same.
½ kg of Puffed Rice (Khoi)
250gms of Molasses/ Jaggery (Gur)
Start stirring the jaggery over low heat.
As it turns sticky and sticks to the back of the ladle, take out of flame
Pour of the khoi and mix well
Keep aside in air tight container
Take about 350gms of jaggery
Mix the jaggery and khoi/muri/chidde together
With the help of your palm make big balls
Store in air tight containers
Mowa is still in the making, will put up the photo as soon as its done.
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?
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.