What’s in a bhog?

#1 Oct 19th, 2018, 13:37
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The tradition of bhog offered during Durga Puja is one that has evolved over the centuries


Luchi is one of the essentials of the Durga Puja bhog.

One of my earliest memories of eating bhog or food offered to the goddess was at our paarar (neighbourhood) Durga Puja in the early 90s. I remember my mother dragging me out of a serpentine queue outside the pandal on a sunny October afternoon. The crowd had swelled like never before, and I couldn’t push my way to devour the luchis. Hearing the servers screaming inside to fetch more luchis had me in tears. Seeing me cry, Ma took me home. Bhoger luchi is rubbery, she had said, and promised me hot, fluffy ones once we reached home. I knew that she was saying it in order to placate me and nothing would make up for missing the luchi at the pandal.

The tradition of bhog during Durga Puja is one that goes back over two centuries. The epic victory of the East India Company over Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah at the Battle of Plassey allowed the Company to expand their empire in India over the next 100 years. Soon after the British took over, an erudite gentleman named Naba Krishna Deb was appointed as the language interpreter to Lord Clive. The camaraderie between the two men was strong and it was upon Clive’s persuasion that Deb initiated the iconic Sovabajar Rajbari Puja at his mansion in north Calcutta in the same year.

“Lord Clive was familiar with Hindu festivals, and Durga Pujo was one such event that he wished to witness on a grand scale and Naba Krishna took up this suggestion, and the rest is history,” says Tirthankar Krishna Deb, a member from the eighth generation of the family.


The prawn malaikari

The Sovabajar Rajbari Durga Puja was the only gora-der pujo (one where the English were allowed). Yet, even though they were the special invitees, Lord Clive and Warren Hastings could watch the proceedings only from a distance. Unlike the neighbourhood puja of today, which is as much about fun as it is about faith, the puja of those days had strict protocols in place and very specific culinary rules. Bhog was sacred, and prepared only by designated men—typically Brahmins—called thakurs. Items offered varied from one family to the other and were influenced by caste and class. Fish and meat were offered to the goddess, a far cry from the bhog of today as we know it, which is typically vegetarian.

It’s been more than 250 years since Plassey—the East India Company has crumbled and the British have left—but the Deb family has still held on to its bhog traditions. The Debs are Kayastha by caste, and so the goddess has to make do without an anna bhog (rice-based offering).

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#2 Nov 16th, 2018, 19:02
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Looks and sounds absolutely delicious!
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