Tag Archives: Vasant Panchami

Dilli ki Hawa – 1

How does a quintessential Bengali feel when s/he comes to Dilli for the first time? Sampurna Majumder narrates her experience.

Kolkata-street-foods-fish

It is said that you can always take a Bengali away from Calcutta but never the other way round. Well, so being the quintessential Bengali there was no reason behind my not missing the City of Joy. Though I loved gorging on the Dal Makhni, Tandoori Chicken and other north Indian delicacies, I did yearn for the delicious Chingri Maachher Malaikari and Sona Muger Dal occasionally. dsc_01011

Thanks to the south Delhi locale of Chitto Park, my gastronomic longings always found an way out to ease themselves.

It was the month of February. The biting Delhi winters had already begun to subside. The warmth in the atmosphere came as a relief. There was certain feel of festivity in the air; it had to be and why not, after all it was Basant Panchami or Saraswati Puja as it is known as in the eastern part of the country. I called up D a friend of mine who also belonged to Calcutta; asked her what was her plan for the day. ‘Nothing as such.’ ‘Shall we go to Chitto Park and savour our taste buds?’ I asked. ‘Sure thing’ pat came the reply.

chittaranjan-park-kali-mandir-crpark-5_400_300We met at the Central Secretariat metro station, hopped on an auto and headed towards Chitto Park. Just as we entered the by lanes of the locale sign boards and hoardings written in Bengali welcomed us. We went towards the famous Kalibari. The first thought that came to our mind was the khichudi bhog of the puja. D suggested we should try our hand at this ‘royal cuisine.’ I agreed. We went up to the backyard of the temple where it was too crowded. We bumped into  a lady clad in a dirty sari, looking haggard. We asked her which way the bhog is being served. She replied ‘Khaachuri furai gichhe!’

With a sullen face both of us boarded an auto and headed towards Connaught Place and stepped into KFC.

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Celebrating the Day of Love – the ‘Bangali’ Way

Saraswati puja

As a community, the Bengalis have always been associated with the finer things of life. Aesthetics defined their very existence. For example, adjectives like gourmet and connoisseur of music and art are very commonly associated with them. Since music, art and scholastic are highly regarded by Bengalis, it’s no surprise that Saraswati Puja, the Goddess of Wisdom is widely celebrated by them with much pomp and pleasure.

There goes a traditional saying in Bengal – Baaro Mashey Taro Parbon, literally translated as Thirteen Festivals in Twelve Months. Well, true, from Poush Parbon in January to Bhai Phota (Bhaai Duj) in November – every festival is celebrated with much fervour.

Basant Panchami or Saraswati Puja is usually celebrated sometime in the month of February. Incidentally, the festival often coincides with Valentine’s Day. An interesting fact about Saraswati Puja is that, it is often considered to be the day where everyone has the full freedom to flirt around. Often young couples are spotted roaming around the para hand in hand dressed in new clothes. By the way, let me be more precise, the dress code is also somewhat defined – pyjama-punjabi (kurta) for the tougher sex while the fairer sex dawns a sari usually in various shades of yellow. This phenomenon has earned the day the sobriquet – Bengali Valentine’s Day.

And yes, even if Saraswati Puja means worshipping the Goddess of Wisdom with much devotion, as mentioned earlier, the gourmet Bengali will fish some lip-smacking vegan delicacies on this auspicious day.

Special menu for the day comprise khichudi, labra, beguni, papad and chatni – somewhat simple as compared to a usual elaborate meal a typical Bangali Babu would prefer having.

khichuri

The rice used for a typical Bangali style khichudi is Govindbhog. Other items include potato, seasonal vegetables (cauliflower, carrots), paanch phoron, tej patta and dried red chillies for those who like it hot.

Khichudi is accompanied by labra which is a medley of assorted vegetables; beguni – slices of brinjal deep fried after dipped in a batter of gram flour, fried papad and of course the sweet accompaniment at the end – kuler chatni.

A sumptuous meal of the bhog would wind up the day, while the fun quotient would still continue.

Though in the present times DJs belting out tunes of Honey Singh has long replaced the traditional Bengali ones, the essence continues to enthrall all and sundry.

pujo