Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha”. Mahalaya is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power. Thus, the day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis.
Mahalay is also considered the day of remembrance of departed souls of the family. On this day, the ritual of offering “tarpan” in memory of forefathers is commonly practiced. Tarpan is offered on the banks of River Ganga by priests for different group of devotees.
Bengal is known for its rich culture, traditions and especially for its finest delectable delicacies, which obviously includes the huge variety of sweets. However, despite having so many varieties of desserts, the image of Bengali sweets is stuck at Rosogolla, Mishti Doi and Sondesh. This is exactly why, we have decided to list down the top 10 popular and most delicious Bengali sweets that one should try apart from Rosogolla and Mishti Doi. Moreover, Durga Puja is just round the corner and it would be the perfect timing to indulge into some sinfully delicious treats.
1. Kheer Kadam
Kheer Kadam is made by encasing a dry rasgulla or rosogolla (smaller than the usual one), coated first with khoya, which is then dusted with grated dried khoya. It has got its name after Kadamba, a ball-shaped flower with tiny white petals that point in all directions. One can simply pop the whole sweet at one go and relish the taste of both khoya and rosogolla simultaneously.
2. Sita Bhog
Sita Bhog has mass appeal all over India and that itself boasts how amazing this sweet is. This milk based dish resembles rice vermicelli served with tiny balls of gulab jamun that will easily melt in your mouth. Not convinced? Trust me, you’ve to try it to believe it.
Mihidana is often referred to as the micro-cousin of the traditional Boondi. It is derived from two separate words: ‘Mihi’ meaning ‘fine’ and ‘Dana’ meaning grain. The light golden colour of Mihidana will make your heart melt, just like that.
4. Labanga Latika
Labanga Latika is the hallmark of Bengali tradition. This sweet is made up of khoya, maida, grated coconut, cardamom, ghee and nuts and it’s artfully folded into an envelope shape and sealed with a clove. Later, it is fried in ghee, and soaked in thick sugar syrup to give that extra edge of sweetness to it.
5. Chhanar Jilipi
This deep fried sweet is made of paneer, khoya and maida and soaked in sugar syrup (flavoured with cardamom). Chhanar Jilipi tastes the best if served warm after heating it for a few seconds.
Most people have immense love for deep fried sweets, and when it comes to Shorbhaja, sweet lovers simply can’t resist it. Shorbhaja is entirely from condensed milk which has been deep fried. Its preparation is a tedious process but the final result is absolutely worth the effort.
Patishapta, also known as crepes or ‘pitha’, is the most popular among all the pithas. It’s actually a rice flour crepe with coconut and jaggery fillings. Patishapta is preserved for Makar Sankranti, and is always made at home. The delicious softness of the crepe and the sweet filling inside makes it one of the best things that you’ll ever have. In some cases, Patishaptas are also served with a bit of sweet thickened milk on top of the roll, making it super yummy.
Pantua is very similar to Gulab Jamun. The delicious and heart-warmingly rich paste is made from khoya, channa and flour, which is later made into many medium-sized balls that are deep fried, soaked in sugar syrup and then flavored by cardamom.
Langcha belongs to the same family of Pantua, the only difference is that the former is cylindrical and latter is circular in shape. To be true to this sweet, you have to call it Shaktigarh-er Langcha, because it’s credited to have originated from this town in Burdwan district of West Bengal. Coming to its taste, this langcha is super delicious.
10. Joynogorer Moa
This sweet is made from date palm jaggery, puffed rice and clarified butter (ghee), and cardamom. Moa is particularly available in winter because both the puffed rice and the jaggery belong to that season. However, nowadays these are also available during Durga Puja. Joynogorer Moa is often topped with a raisin or two that adds on to the flavor of this sweet ball.
“Esho hey baishakh esho esho…” as I turned and twisted on my bed, I could hear this faint music coming from a distance. The advantage of being a bong is that no matter where you and where you have grown, you will always know Rabindrasangeet by heart. As the realization dawned over me, I got up with a jerk. It was Naba Barsho, the beginning of Bengali New Year.
Baishakh had set in and I wasn’t even aware of the fact, thanks to our laptop lives. As I ran down the stairs I was filled with the aroma of puris and aloo sabji along with Rosogolla and Payesh(Khir). Mom was all decked up in her new saree and dad in his new pajama panjabi. My aunts, uncles, grandparents had all landed in our house for celebrating Naba Barsho. All stunned eyes stared at me as I was the only sleeping beauty that day. Even my cousins were all dressed up. Bloody traitors! They had also taken part in the Prabhat Pheri which is an early morning procession.
I could easily sense my mom’s anger and only to appease her, I rushed for the customary dip in the nearby pond and then had to sit for the Puja. Since we have a family business worshiping goddess Lakshmi and lord Ganesh jointly is a must on this day. As the Mantras began, my stomach’s demand for food became louder and louder. For the Bengali businessmen, Naba Barsho is the beginning of all the business activities. They purchase new accounting books and start new accounts known as Haalkhata.
Finally, the Puja got over and I along with all my cousins jumped on the puris. It was just the beginning of the festivities. Dad along with his brothers began their business and on the other hand the ladies of the house started the cultural activities. Age was no bar as kids, uncles, aunties even grandparents were seen dancing, singing and reciting poetries.
Since Poila Baishakh marks the first day of the Bengali calendar, we welcome it by cleaning our houses and decorating it with earthen handmade decorations. The entrance of the house is decorated with alponas (rangolis) which are generally done by the women. These rangolis are made up of rice flour and in its centre an earthenware pot is placed. The pot is decorated by the vermillion swastika and is filled with the Ganga water. On top of it, mango leaves are placed which symbolizes a prosperous year for the family. The household kitchens are filled with the aroma of sweets as it is believed to be a good omen.
Soon it was time for lunch. From fish to mutton to Payesh (Khir), well, we had it all. You know how a dream of a foodie comes true? When he or she gets to eat all the favourite dishes in one meal. And my day had come. This is among one of those days of the year when the entire family along with friends come together and celebrate. Be it food or adda or celebrations, everything is done together. Children touch the feet of their elders and take their blessings. Gifts are shared. Everyone wears new clothes. It’s like one big fat celebration happening.
Oh did I mention adda? Yes, how could I forget that? After the lunch, all the family members sat together in the courtyard and the adda session begun. It is said that if you are a true Bengali then your fish, rosogolla and adda are inseparable from you. These long sessions of adda began with what are the dates for Durga Puja this year as the new Panjika which is the Bengali Almanac comes in on this day. It consists of all the dates and timings of the festivities. Then there was politics to who’s getting married when to music to dance, all in one!
As the day came to an end, the realization that again tomorrow was a working day brought me almost on the verge of tears. One by one all the relatives and friends were leaving with the hope that this year too will be good, at least better than the previous year. The house now looked empty. Tired, I was lying down on the sofa when I felt something wet on my feet. I looked down and found a small puppy licking my feet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was my parents gift for me and hence Goofy’s first day in house. The year now surely will be great!
Wherever one may roam, if they are in India in search of the game, Kolkata is undoubtedly the place to be in irrespective of the other big names that have made their mark in the recent times. No matter what, even if India ranks at 135 in the FIFA World’s list, The Kolkata Derby and its grandeur that is still intact even after so many years since its inception, still holds one of biggest rivalries in the world and could easily be counted as The Clash of The Titans, played between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
East Bengal, established in 1920, being the representatives of the eastern region of the undivided Bengal, way before it was eventually named as Bangladesh and being announced as an Islamic republic in 1971, and other the side, being from the west itself, Mohun Bagan, the oldest of perhaps all the clubs in India that have ever played football in the country, established way back in 1889. These two sides make for a match whenever they turn out on the pitch. One might feel the shiver of witnessing history on their toes if they get to be in a packed Yubabharati Krirangan, of over 1 lakh heads getting bisected into Red & Yellow (East Bengal) and Green & Maroon (Mohun Bagan).
Producing numerous superstars of the game in the country, Kolkata never seemed to fall short in being called as the Mecca of Football, though in recent times, cities like Goa, Bengaluru and Mumbai have also joined in the league in producing some great talents who are proving to be the future ambassadors of the game. From Gostho Paul to P.K Banerjee, the likes of Chuni Goswami, Majid Boxer, Jamsid Nasiri, Krishanu Dey, Subrata Bhattacharjee, Subhash Bhowmik, Bhaichung Bhutia and other huge names have been the frontiers of the rich Kolkata footballing culture since its golden era had started a century ago.
Well, not just by the colours as they say, the glorious rivalry between the Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are measured by the choices of food their fans make for themselves as well. King Size Prawn vs. Golden Hilsa, primarily those of River Padma, (located in Bangladesh in present times) are the symbols of the fans who wear their jerseys and turn up to the event. It all go in the cards of history after every single derby takes place in the City of Joy, as people from both the sides never leave an inch apart in disgracing each other by their colours and pride. It seems as though a fight is being fought out of the game, which is much far and above the boundaries of football. More so to the temper at which it grows, days before the game is scheduled. In the end, the side that loses is the side that’s booed until the next match is in contention. The battle just gets tired of in wracking nerves if you’re a Bengali by any chance.
On the whole, as contributors of Indian Football, Kolkata is and shall always be up there where hardly any other state of India could ever match up, as far as the emotions surrounding the game is concerned in this part of the country. May this outburst of ruthless aggression live forever.