After the recent roundup of Durga Puja in October 2019, many Bengalis and others must be still recollecting the round of delicacies consumed during period. The Durga Puja bhog meal is said to be the most traditional type of Bengali food, consumed with equal fervor year after year. But what really is the bhog?
Durga Puja bhog serves a dual purpose- it is free food for the community and is also an offering for Durga. In a sense, the purpose is the same as that of the langar in a Gurudwara. This auspicious food withholds Bengali traditions by being prepared every year.
Bhog is vegetarian
Unlike what Bengalis eat throughout the year, the bhog is vegetarian, without garlic and onions. Khichuri is the main rice item, prepared as a mixture with dal. It is served alongside delectable vegetables such as begun bhaja (brinjal fry) or ful gobi (cauliflower). Mixed vegetable dishes such as chorchori are also given alongside.
The Bengali course typically starts with rice items that incorporate spices, and this heat is washed off with sweetened tomato or pineapple chatni. The meal culminates with a sweet item such as payesh (kheer), rosogulla or rajbhog (khoya sweet). In this manner, the food ends up leaving a sweet aftertaste in the mouth.
Khichuri is usually served on shashti and ashtami across puja pandals in the country. On saptami, luchis (deep fried flatbread) and aloo posto (traditional Bengali potato delicacy) are served. Along with this, vegetable pulao or mishti (sweet) pulao is also offered, with the above sweet dishes.
Bengalis eat with hands, or do they?
About 5-10 years back, most Bengalis would enjoy eating with their hands, irrespective of how hot the food was. Many of them have also claimed that they are unable to enjoy the real taste of Bengali food without their hands, having made claims that using the hands results in better digestion. Most Bengali pandals in the current era have started offering spoons and forks during bhog. Surely a matter of greater convenience, or is it?
During childhood, I remember sitting at a table waiting for bhog at my grandmother’s house in Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi. I had got used to eating with a spoon at home, and I cried out for the same in my mother’s direction. My mother was visibly embarrassed about this act of mine 25 years back, but it would hardly be considered a surprise in today’s era.
Author : Mrs. Reema Tarafdar