Saraswati puja always always claims a special place in the heart of any bengali. It is popularly considered as the bong valentines day. But, for a atheist bong like me, bhog was always the point of interest for me (besides the yellow saree lad clan from the the fairer sex) and here’s my story.
My parental house is from west bengal. So, saraswati puja has always been an vegetarian affair for us. Khichuri or Pulao ruled along with 5 types of fries or fritters and chutney/ papad. The meal ended with a payesh. Somehow, I was never ever interested in having that cut fruit prasad, and probably the only excuse that always came in handy, was I have allergy in fruits.
owever, there are few special items which are integral to our home saraswati puja and I’d take the liberty to discuss here. And the first one would be gotaseddho. In Bengali, “gota” means whole and “seddho” means boiled. Gotaseddho means a dish where whole green mung dal or/and whole urad dal is boiled along with 6 vegetables with 6 pieces each. And this set is repeated for each woman with kids in a house. That means at our home, for my mother and my son’s mother, 6 varieties of vegetables are used with 6X2=12 numbers each. The whole boiled staff is then mashed with mustard oil, green chilly, seasoning and maybe, just maybe a dash of lime juice. Mustard oil is the primary taste enhancer and hence, the rustic flavor. For this dish, boiling is done on the evening or night if the saraswati puja and the seasoning or finishing is done on the morning next day. Somehow, this simple and almost no spicy dal is hugely popular at our home.
The second item that I’d like to mention is called Dodhikarma. It’s basically sweet curd mixed with chura, batasha (as ita winter, gur batasha is preferred here), mashed Sandesh, murki and all good things. It’s done on the next day after the Saraswati puja (called shitalsasthi). God of fertility , Devi shitala is worshipped on that day and hence the name shitala shasthi. Another rumour goes like, the shil-nora or grinder is put on to rest for the day and hence no cooking is done. Hence the name. But what’s in a name and let me be honest, this is one dish, who I just louve …..
Recently, the batton of management of the puja has been handed over to my wife from my mother and I’ve finally been able to include few of my favorite items like dry fruits and milkmaid to the Dodhikarma and let me be honest, when both your mother and wife gives you a nod for something, you can be assured, the result is good. And being bong, we are genuinely social. So, it’s a tradition to share both the gotaseddho And Dodhikarma among friends and family, so it’s a share and enjoy policy. So, we can enjoy multiple cooking varieties of the dish and that’s the beauty.
But all said and done, being a middle aged Bengali men, nostalgia is what runs in our blood. And still, we can’t forget our childhood school bhog and by them, I don’t mean the neo-caterer-serving school puja meals. The careless, unpracticed service, a little extra serving for the best friend and loving one and the loving strict supervision of teachers. From a rough visit to the neighbourhood girls school to a movie together to those cabins, somewhere we grew up. Maybe those days won’t come back, and my English medium son won’t be able to understand, but what the heck …..
Bon appetit !!!
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