Mahalaya marks the beginning of Devi paksha and the end of pitri paksha, and for all of us like me, Mahalaya begins the countdown to Durga Puja – just a week to go. Durga puja is a grand festival and for the last quite few years I have missed being in Kolkata during this time of the year. I miss home during Durga puja more because the puja is held at my home, a 150 years old pujo. And for those of you who are not aware of Durga pujo culture in Bengal, dura pujo is generally held in the neighborhoods and not in family homes, there are very few families in Bengal who actually have the puja at home.
Durga puja is the celebration of food. The streets of Kolkata get filled with vendors selling Kolkata favorite phuchka and egg rolls, though I’m missing the streetfood pretty badly, I am more missing mom’s homemade bhoger khichuri. On Ashtami this khichudi is served to the goddess as an offering (prasad). The bhuni or bhuna khichudi is more of a pulao than a khichudi, though the main ingredients are rice and split yellow lentil, but its cooked in a way so that it’s not runny like a rainy day khichuri and can be fluffed easily with a fork when done.
I hope you enjoy this year’s pujo and share your experience with us. If you want more authentic Bengali recipes please download the ebook.
In a heavy bottom pan dry roast the moong dal till it starts to turn light brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. While roasting keep on stirring it, or else the bottom will get burnt
Wash the roasted dal and soak for about 30 minutes. Wash the rice
In the thick bottom pan, heat the ghee. Add the coconut pieces and fry till they turn light brown. With a slotted spoon take the coconut out and keep aside.
Temper the remaining ghee with the red chilies, bay leaves and cumin seeds. As the seeds start to splutter add the soaked moong dal along with the washed rice. Mix in all the ground spices and ginger paste, season with salt. Toss and turn for a couple of minutes till the spices are mixed well and the raw smell of ginger goes away. Pour in about 4 cups of lukewarm water, cover and cook till it done.
Sona moong is the yellow lentil that is smaller than the general variety of mong dal. It is more flavorful.
If you dont find gobindobhog rice, you can substitute with kalajeera rice or any other short grained rice
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?
|| ya devi sarvabhutesu buddhirupena samsthita
namas-tasyai namas-tasyai namas-tasyai namo namah ||
|| ya devi sarvabhutesu sakti rupena samsthita
namas-tasyai namas-tasyai namas-tasyai namo namah ||
With less than a week to go for Saptami, its time for a brief on the relevant pujas and a savouring dish. Two events passed by – Vishwakarma Puja and Mahalaya. If you came here just for the recipe, you can skip the next 3 paras.
Vishwakarma is the god of architecture (in Hinduism) and thus, the presiding deity of all artisans and craftsmen. He architected of the Golden city of Lanka, Indraprastha (abode of Indra), Hastinapur (the capital of the Pandavas and Kauravas of Mahabharata) and the mythical town of Dwarka, where Lord Krishna lived during the Mahabharata period. Any parallel you can draw from modern times? J
The architect is worshipped usually in mid September each year in several parts of the country. In Bengal, the puja is marked by flying kites. And being the Lord of architecture, heavy machinery factories, construction sites and even engineering colleges celebrate Vishwakarma puja.
The enchanting voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra at 4am announces the arrival of Devi. Its Mahalaya and 7 days to Saptami. More about Mahalaya here. And here’s how Delhi is taking up Durga puja this year. Hundreds of men offer water to their deceased ancestors on this day, what Bengalis call as “Tarpan”.
Pujor Ranna – Kasha Mangsho
I had prepared a Bengali style mutton curry for lunch today. Though I am not much of a mutton loving person, just thought of preparing it. With a little help from mom, the preparation turned out well. Here’s how to cook Bengali mutton curry.
Papaya grated (Jhiri kore kata Pepe): 3 tablespoon
Sour curd (Tauk doi): 2 tablespoons
Onion (Peyaj): 2 large sizes
Garlic (Rasun): 8-10 cloves
Ginger-garlic paste (Aada-rasun bata): 1 ½ teaspoon
Turmeric powder (Halud guro): ½ teaspoon
Chili powder (Sukhno lanka guro): 1/2 teaspoon
Mustard oil (Sarser tel): 8 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Chop one onion and make a paste of the other
Wash the mutton pieces well, and drain out the excess water
Take the mutton in a large bowl, put in the sour curd, onion and ginger-garlic paste; mix well, pour in 2 tablespoon of mustard oil and a pinch of salt, marinate for 50mins in refrigerator
Heat 3 tablespoon of oil in a wok and half fry the potatoes, keep aside
Pour in the rest of the oil in the same wok, and sauté the chopped onions and garlic cloves
Put in the marinated mutton, turmeric, chili, salt and grated papaya, stir in low flame till the mutton becomes absolutely dry and the oil separates (kashano in Bengali), it will also change color to a darker shade of brown
Add the dried up mutton in a pressure cooker and pour in 3 cups of water, close the lid and wait for 3 whistle
Open the lid and put in the potatoes and again allow 2 more whistles
Take out and serve with warm white rice
Hot Tips – The grated papaya helps in softening the mutton pieces, so its an optional ingredient in this preparation, if you want you can also add large papaya pieces in place of the grated papaya. The number of whistles depends on the quality of mutton, so check after the 5 whistles whether the mutton has become tender, else allow some more time.