Tag Archives: Bengali Culture

The Homecoming

Written by: Angana Sengupta

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Source: Pixabay

Dr. Aryahi Banerjee,
Head of Research
Indian History and Culture
Michigan University
MI 48109
USA

Dear Dr. Banerjee,

We are pleased to invite you to the “International Conference on Indian Culture and History”, scheduled from the 20-26th of September 2017 in Calcutta University from 9:30 am onwards.
It is an honour and privilege to invite you as the Key Speaker of the conference on the Significance on Indian Culture and the Transitional Changes over the years. We believe that your contribution to this field is unparallel and that your speech will be of utmost benefit for all our students.
We look forward to a positive confirmation by the 20th of August 2017.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Srikanto Mitra,
Head of Indian History and Culture
Calcutta University.

Finally the call had come.
Tickets booked. Passports taken. Bags packed. It was raining the morning Aryahi had to leave for Kolkata. It had been 10 years since she had last been to her city, to those known lanes, to the same house that once welcomed her with open arms.
“Why are you so cold ma?” asked Kuhu, her daughter. Her only solace in a world full of regrets and agony. “Nothing my love. I think it’s the rain”, lied Aryahi, while in reality there was a huge pandemonium going on in her mind. She even had the thought of leaving the flight and going back to the life she had chosen. At least no one would judge her there for her choices. But, it was too late. She had promised Kuhu a vacation to the origins she belonged. Also, she had one last unfinished business to take care of.
“Welcome to Netaji Shubhash Chandra Bose Airport. Outside temperature is around 30 degree Celsius, partly cloudy. Please collect your baggage from belt number 2…” Aryahi woke up from her dream. “We have finally reached Ma. Time to go”.
The same smell of wet soil, the same humidity and the same cacophony which Aryahi had left behind hit her back again. Tears rolled down her cheeks. After boarding the taxi and calming herself, she finally realised the reason behind feeling incomplete all these years even after she had everything. It was this city that she had missed. Its people, the yellow taxis, the riksha-walas, the traffic, the sweet shops, the Rabindrasangeet rehearsals from every second house, its celebrations and Durga Puja being round the corner, the city had decked up like a new bride as a custom every year. It was Kuhu’s first time to Kolkata.
Aryahi paid the taxi driver and entered the lane she had long left behind. After freshening up she headed straight to Calcutta University for her lecture as she hardly had time left in her hand. Kuhu tagged along with her because after the lecture got over Aryahi had promised her a city tour of Kolkata.
As she entered through those rustic gates of the University, she could see her college life literally flashing by her side. That college canteen, the smell of ‘bhaar’ tea, that guitar, those music and the constant political slogans protesting against something or the other were resonating in her ears. She could literally spend the entire day just walking by the campus and College Street. So many memories, so much of happiness and with that came back all the pain which she had once hidden within.
As her ritual Aryahi took Kuhu to the canteen, ordered ‘kochuri’ and ‘torkari’ along with a ‘bhaar’ of tea and all her tiredness just vanished. To her surprise even Kuhu did not complain even for once for being jet lagged. Might be even she was very excited to be in the city which she had only heard of and seen pictures that also after a lot of requests.
Aryahi began her speech upon the significance of Indian Historical Architectures and their symbolisms when she found a familiar face in the crowd. The face she could never forget the face that once meant the world to her; the face which was once the epitome of love for her…the face of her beloved Lolita. She stood there awestruck for five seconds not knowing what to do as she knew her tears were now not going to stop. Lolita on the other hand adorned her most astonishing smile that easily spoke about the years missed, the nights not slept and most importantly the love that was missing.
As her lecture got over, Aryahi rushed down from the stage to meet Lolita…her Lolita, but unfortunately she was surrounded by so many students and organizers that she just could not leave. Aryahi had authored a book this year itself and she had to also go for the ‘Q and A’ session. The auditorium was jam packed. Aryahi made Kuhu sit in the front row along with other professors. She had never seen a 15 year old so calm and composed. She felt proud and also scared but now was not the time to back out.
As the question and answer round began Aryahi came across a very strange question form one of the gentleman in the crowd. The question was very simple yet it hit Aryahi to her guts when she saw the face of the man. It was her father. The man who held her hands and took her through the ages of History. His question was very simple,“When will you come home Rahi?”
That moment Aryahi felt that the entire world came toppling down on her. The father, the family, the happiness, the culture, the emotions, everything that she had left ten years back was now standing just in front of her. The entire auditorium looked into the eyes of that expectant father, who had long longed the love of his only daughter, his pride who was no longer there to hold his hands.
Aryahi came down of the stage and immediately touched the feet of her father for his blessings. As she looked up this time she found her father was not standing alone. Lolita was holding his hand this time. She did not know what to say or what else to expect. To her surprise even Kuhu bent down to touch the feet of her grandfather and then Lolita.
Aryahi’s father had come to take his daughter home along with Kuhu. Ten years was a lot of time for him to realize his mistake. As Aryahi entered her lane of her house she could hear the dhaak along with the conch shell. Aryahi’s mother was standing at the door to see her daughter. Her mother hugged her and broke down in tears. This time even Aryahi could not stop herself. She hugged her, kissed her, and cried along with her. It was Lolita who picked up both the woman and along with the other took them in.

Maa Durga
Image Courtesy: Samhati Bhattacharjya

“Finally Ma Durga has come back after ten years. This year, Banerjee bari’s Puja will finally be successful. O ‘dhaki’ play the ‘dhaak’ harder. Can’t you see Ma Dugga has come home?”, was all Aryahi’s aunt could say while hugging her. This was Shashti. After 10 long years, the Banerjee family was finally celebrating Durga Puja.
Kuhu was finally happy to get a family filled with cousins, uncle, aunts and grandparents. For her everything seemed to be complete. On Dashami, the final day, when everyone was playing with vermillion, Aryahi’s father called in Lolita along with the entire family. It was time to amend something he should have done long back.
Aryahi’s father took Lolita’s hand and put it into his daughter’s hand and said “It was a mistake that I had done 10 years back by separating two people who loved each other by not realizing the fact that love sees no gender, no caste, no religion. All one wants is to love and to be loved. And I know you both have punished yourselves enough for your family, for the fear of society. But, the time has come for you guys to be together forever.”
Aryahi could not believe that this was happening. It was 10 years back that on the same day she left her family as they never realized her love for Lolita and now this Durga Puja the same family wanted to unite them forever. Aryahi looked at Kuhu. She had tears in her eyes and an enigmatic smile on her face. It was then she realized that all this while the only truth that she had hidden from her daughter and dreaded the most was already known to her.
Kuhu had found an old letter Lolita had written to Aryahi long back in college. She was then intrigued and upon doing further search she came to know about Aryahi’s past. She knew she was adopted and that is the day she started loving and respecting her mother more. She had decided come what may she would give her mother all the happiness she deserved and her happiness was Lolita.

 

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Offerings by Samhati Bhattacharjya

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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 beyond ‘Rosogolla’: Top 10 most popular Bengali sweets

Written by: Samhati Bhattacharjya

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Source: Pixabay

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

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Source: MixandStir

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

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Source: Google

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.

3. Mihidana

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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

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Source: BongCook
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

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Source: GoBengal

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.

6. Shorbhaja

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Source: Google

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.

7. Patishapta

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Source: Google

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.

8. Pantua

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Source: MixandStir
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.

9. Langcha

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Source: MixandStir
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

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Source: BongHaat

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.

Poila Baishakh – the first day of Bengali New Year

– By Angana Sengupta

“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.

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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.

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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!

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Kolkata Football – It’s When Someone Scores A Goal !

– By Sourav Mukherjee

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.

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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.

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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.

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