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Dissecting the Ashtami Bhog Prepared for Durga Puja

People frequently line up at pujo pandals to eat bhog, which is similar to a communal lunch, as lunchtime approaches. But when it comes to a standout dish, it has to be the vegetarian ashtami bhog.


The pujo prasad (the food offered to goddess Durga as bhog) that one gets to eat at the puja pandal is the most significant topic of discussion among Bengalis during the five-day Durga Puja festival, aside from festive greetings, dhunuchi puja, sandhi puja, and new clothing.

People frequently line up at pujo pandals to eat bhog, which is similar to a communal lunch, as lunchtime approaches. These lunches, which include dishes like kosha mangsho (a fiery Bengali mutton curry), fish kalia, ghooghni, and more, are essential components of the celebrations.

But when it comes to a standout dish, it has to be the vegetarian ashtami bhog, which is prepared without the use of garlic or onions.

The Deciphering of the Ashtami Bhog:

Look at the key components of the Ashtami bhog recipe, which is made in honour of Durga Puja.

1. Khichuri

A crucial component of the Ashtami bhog is the khichuri, a kind of khichdi. Gobindobhog rice, a type of rice from West Bengal, yellow moong dal, vegetables of your choice, and spices are used to prepare this traditional Bengali dish. This is not the tasteless khichdi that you typically eat at home when you’re ill. The khichuri is regarded as the bhog’s most significant component. Gobindobhog rice, a flavorful short-grain variety of rice, is used to make it. However, you can also try this dish with basmati rice.

2. Bhaja

The khichuri is served with crisp, flavorful vegetable fritters that are shallow-fried in mustard oil. While some people only serve the traditional begun bhaja (eggplant fritters), others offer five different kinds, including pumpkin, potato, pointed gourd (parwal), and bitter gourd.

3. Labra

The mixed vegetable dish prepared with panch phoran in the style of Bengal. “Panch phoron, literally ‘five spices,’ is a whole spice mix that makes for an important part of the Bengali cuisine,’ the author continues. Fenugreek, fennel, black mustard seeds, cumin, and nigella seeds (kalonji) are the main ingredients.

It is extremely wholesome and nourishing. Several different vegetables are used in this dish, including pumpkin, potatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, carrots, and radish. Labra is frequently made with these and other vegetables.

4. Payesh

Payesh is a type of kheer made using rice, milk, cardamom powder, and chopped dried fruits. This type of kheer is made with Gobindobhog rice and is thick rather than runny. The texture of this dessert is rich and creamy. A meal deserving of the gods! Payesh is made in addition to Durga Puja for special occasions like birthdays, weddings, and baby showers.

5. Tomato Chutney

The tomato chutney is a popular sweet-and-spicy side dish at weddings and family gatherings; in fact, no Bengali meal is complete without it. Tomatoes, ginger, mustard oil, panch phoron, salt, sugar, red chilli flakes, raisins, sporadic Aamshotto (fruit leather made from mango pulp), and a little water are used in its preparation. It is incredibly simple to make and delicious.

Where does the custom of bhog originate?

Culturalist claims that Durga Puja is regarded as a festival of kings because it is believed to have originated from kings. This autumnal version (there is also a spring version) is linked to Lord Rama, who ‘unseasonally’ invoked the goddess to bless him before he engaged Ravana in battle.

Socially, Bengal’s zamindars and local lords began this large festival in its current form at the beginning of the 16th century. Large-scale ancient rituals like the Ashwamedh or Rajasuya yajnas served as inspirations. Durga Puja, which was celebrated in opulent homes, started as a demonstration of power and independence against the British and over time evolved into a chance for people to flaunt their wealth and social standing. Similar to earlier kings, these “yajmaans” would plan lavish feasts and perform charitable deeds. The social prestige increases with the size of the feast. Exorbitant menus were only expected.

Additionally, an emotional tale serves as justification for these lavish feasts. Goddess Durga is said to have a maternal home in Bengal, and during these five days, she travels there, according to Hindu mythology. She must therefore be properly treated and fed all delicacies during her brief visit.

Happy Navaratri!

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Written by Yashika Goel

From Arts and Journalism background, Yashika is a graphic designer and content writer living in Delhi. When not working, you’ll find me eating pasta, travelling, reading books, drinking coffee or painting. Join me as I learn more about myself and show you how to love life daily!

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