Kolkata: Durga Puja is here, and what is to unfold in the next five days in the country is nothing short of a spectacle. The festive extravaganza that began on the 26th of September-Shashti, would culminate on the 30th of September-Vijayadashami. For these four-five days, devotees of Goddess Durga offer her with variety of bhog, prasad and puja offerings, till the time she departs for heaven. It is believed that for these couple of days, Goddess Durga visits her maternal home on earth, amidst her devotees and followers and showers them with love and prosperity. In return, her devotees leave no stone unturned in making sure she is fully pampered during her stay on earth.
Feasting forms an inevitable part of the Durga Puja celebrations, from Mutton Chops to ghugnis and Mughlai Parantha. But a bigger highlight of Saptami, Ashtami or Navami has to be the lavish bhog around lunch time(1:30-2 p.m.) which is served to all those who are in the pandal around that time for free.
The concept of community pujas brings people of the entire locality together, regardless of their social strata. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this community spirit reaches its zenith during the bhog, when people irrespective of their social backgrounds queue up to have their delicious serving of piping hot bhog from the counters, chanting -‘Baulo Durga Maai ki Jai’(All hail the victorious Maa Durga), to infuse life and the festive spirit amongst those at the pandal.
The bhog consists of scrumptious home-made Bengali cuisine like khichuri, chachari, beguni, chatni, mishti doi, loochi, begun bhaja, badha kopi, pulao, aludum, chatni, rasogolla, dal, shukto, alu bhaja, alu fulkopi, etc. For Ashtami, which is considered to be the most important day of the festival, luchi, pulao accompanied by chana, Veg Korma, Mishti Doi, chutney and the indispensable Bengali mishti form the part of Ashtami bhog. While on Navami day, it is the wholesome bhaat tarkari meal. Approximately 40 kg rice, 40 kg dal and about 125 kg of vegetables for the delicious mixed veg preparation called labada are used for the bhog.”
Here are some indispensable bhog items:
1. Khichdi: The nation favourite’s comfort food khichdi or khichuri is an essential part of Durga Puja bhog, especially on Saptami and Navami. The piping hot Moong Dal Khichdi is prepared for a turnout of about 1000 people, preparations for which naturally begin hours in advance. The khichuri at some places also has addition of peas and certain mild spices, which are enough to please your appetite.2. Labra: Labra is an authentic Bengali dish made with a host of vegetables like pumpkin, potato, brinjal, arbi and radish, and spiced with Bengal’s local seasoning paach phoron (a mix of five spices) – all cooked in pungent mustard oil.
3. Tomato chutney: The tang of tomatoes beautifully spiced with mustard seeds, ginger, curry leaves and a pinch of sugar.
4. Payesh: Payesh is a Bengali version of kheer. Rice and milk pudding flavoured with cardamom, dry fruits and a sprinkle of rose water.5. Begun Bhaja or Beguni: Beguni or Begun Bhaja is a favourite side dish made with brinjals that are sliced and coated with gram flour before being deep fried in hot oil. Beguni is a simple dish and can be served with rice, luchi or khichdi. You can enjoy Beguni with almost everything, but make sure to serve it piping hot as it tends to become soggy when cold.
6. Aloo Phoolkopi: The delicious potato and thinly sliced cauliflower preparation is made with a host of eclectic spices is one of the best accompaniments to khichuri or luchi.
7. Roshogolla: Soft and spongy balls made of fresh paneer and dipped in sugar syrup is a must at every Bengali festive occasion and bhog is no exception.
8. Chana Dal: The spicy hot dal made of Bengal gram or chana dal is sure to leave you wanting for more.
9. Veg Pulao: Made with Basmati rice, peas, and a hint of clove, Veg Pulao is a common substitute to the khichuri of the Saptami Bhog. The Ashtami Special Veg Pulao is truly a highlight of its own.
10. Mishti Doi: Mishti Doi or Meethi Dahi is made by thickening milk and is sweetened with jaggery, and is one of Bengali cuisine’s marvels.Next time you visit a Durga Puja Pandal, make sure you sit down for the bhog and satiate yourselves to the fullest. Happy Durga Puja everybody!