More than the big festivities, Durga Pujo in West Bengal is about the small joys. During this time, the festival creates a timeless, charming, and ever-so-exciting atmosphere for every Bengali living there. One of the many good things the festival brings with it is the food. The food here is just boundless, and quite frankly even overwhelming sometimes. Kolkata is synonymous with food, Durga Pujo or not. But, it is especially during the five days of the city’s biggest festival that it gets far bigger and far crazier. While variety is one of the key aspects, going back to the basics is also something that makes Durga Pujo all the more joyful. And that something is none other than the humble bhog. By Shubhanjana Das
Before serving it piping hot to worshipers and devotees, bhog is first offered to Durga Maa and other deities. While the bhog differs in every household and every pujo pandal, in its essence, it is a spread of khichudi, labda, beguni, chutney, paayesh, papad, and mishti. The khichudi is a preparation similar to (but not the same as) khichdi while the labda is a sweet vegetable preparation. The ingredients differ from one pujo to another. The beguni is a fried eggplant dipped in flavoured gram flour batter. This savoury goodie is a winning dish among both, adults and kids! As for the paayesh, it is a sweet rice pudding served along with papad and finished with the mishti, of course.
If you are in Kolkata during Durga Pujo, there is no way you can miss out on this spread. Let us take you through five of the best places you can try bhog in Kolkata:
Khelat Ghosh Family, Pathuriaghata Street
The palatial home of Khelat Ghosh has been celebrating Durga Pujo in a grand manner since 1864 when Babu Khelat Chandra Ghosh first started the tradition. The absolutely mesmerising 80-feet long thakur dalan with a dancing hall at the end is one of its prime attractions. The other is their nabami bhog, all made in their homestead by resident cooks. Everyone and anyone is welcome. After all, it is Durga Pujo!
Shovabajar Rajbari, Shovabajar
Built in the middle of 1700 by Raja Nabakrishna Deb, this royal palace is one of the top five must-visit pujo pandals in Kolkata. The massive thakur dalan comes to life when Durga Maa graces it every year. The courtyard is filled with visitors, especially during Ashtami and Nabami when their unrivaled bhog is served. The star of the whole meal? The humongous motichoor laddoo! They also line up a spectacular spread of sweets, which is displayed and served on giant platters. Look out for their radha ballabhi.
Baishanb Das Mullick Pujo, Dorpo Narayan Thakur Street
The Baishnab Das Mullick pujo in Kolkata is 250 years old. One of the aspects which differentiates their pujo from the others is the fact that they worship the Durga-Shiv duo instead of the usual Mahishahur mardini. During Ashtami, the crowd at this pujo is absolutely delightful and feels just like family. However, it is during the aftermath of the anjali for which people come for from far and wide. Their bhog is no ordinary fare. It is unusually minimalist yet delectable enough to get you excited for the next year. They serve a rice-based bhog (also called anna bhog), which is flavoured using only salt and turmeric. The preparations are made by cooks who have been with the family for generations.
Sabarna Roy Choudhury Atchala Durga Puja
Despite being one of the oldest bonedi bari durga pujos of Kolkata, it also happens to serve one of the most elaborate bhog spreads. Expect a line-up of ghee bhaat, khichuri, basanti pulao with dry fruits, and fried vegetables served with different kinds of curries, fish dishes, bori (dried lentil balls), and paayesh. End your meal with an absolutely overwhelming sugary affair of Bengali sweets. Come dashami, they serve a unique panta bhaat, which is a soaked, fermented rice dish, paired with khesari daal, stir-fried kochu saag or taro leaves, a variety of fish dishes, and chutney made with chalta or elephant apple. Making you count days till the pujo, isn’t it?
The para pujo pandal
Some of the best bhogs can be had sitting with family, friends, and neighbours at your humble para pujo pandal. Like we said, the bhog in Kolkata is different in every single pujo, so it is very likely that your para pujo could be one of the gems that Kolkata is yet to discover.