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Team West Bengal wins over team Odisha in the Rosogolla feud…..Hip Hip Hooray!

We, Bengalis, or Bongs as is popularly known, share a paramount love for food which is an integral part of our Bengali culture. We enjoy cooking as much as we enjoy eating. We love to eat and make others eat too! And trust me when I say that the gym stands a mere chance when it comes to choosing between a plate full of aromatic Kolkata Biriyani (with a boiled egg and a potato), and the gym. Ask any Bengali to talk about childhood and you will come to know how it revolved around mouth-watering, lip-smacking Bengali cuisines, especially including fish and sweets. Not only that, we Bongs, love to dig into the history and origin of anything that tickles our taste buds, and it is mainly for this reason that we stood unified to prove that ‘Rosogolla‘ originated in West Bengal, and not in Odisha.

Rosogolla’ gets its name from the combination of two different words, namely, ‘Ras’ (or ‘Ros’ in Bengali) meaning Syrup, and ‘Golla’ meaning ball. The soft, spongy and syrupy ball of happiness was the center of the long debate between the two neighboring states: West Bengal and Odisha. While the debate was never low-pitched over generations, it took an intense turn in 2015 when the government of West Bengal filed for a Geographical Indications (GI) tag for the variant called ‘Banglar Rosogolla’. The state clarified that there is no dispute with Odisha and they are not seeking claim over the dessert but only over the variant native to the state with the intention of protecting its identity.

Bengal’s Claim

In the application, West Bengal State Food Processing and Horticulture Development Corporation Limited represented by its managing director stated that ‘Banglar Rosogolla’ was created by a confectioner named Nobin Chandra Das (1845-1925) in 1868, two years after he set up his sweet shop in Sutanuti, present day Bagh Bazar, North Kolkata, in 1866. The dessert got its Bengali recognition and appreciation as ‘a treasure of Bengal’ when poet Rakhaldas Adhikari appreciated the sweet in his poem ‘Rasikata’ in 1896. In 1906, Panchanan Bandyopadhyay, an eminent writer, also wrote about the Bengali origin of ‘Rosogolla’. According to him, ‘Rosogolla’ shares the same birth place, Phulia, with Krittibas Ojha, a Bengali poet credited for translating the epic ‘Ramayana’ into Bengali (known as Krittivasi Ramayana). Panchanan Bandyopadhyay also states that ‘Rosogolla’ was invented by Haradhon Moira, a confectioner from Phulia village (also called ‘Fulia’) in Nadia district of Bengal, who worked for Pal Chowdhury’s of Ranaghat. The application submitted by the government of West Bengal also clarifies the difference between ‘Banglar Rosogolla’ and ‘Rosogolla’ made in other states in terms of color, texture, taste, juice content, and method of preparation. ‘Banglar Rosogolla’ is off white / light cream color, soft and spongy ball of ‘chhana’ (or cottage cheese) dipped in light sugar syrup.

Image Source: Internet

Odisha’s Claim

On the other hand, Odisha is yet to submit its application to obtain the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for their variant of the popular sweet called ‘Pahala Rasgulla’ which is comparably brownish in texture. The state finance minister, Shashi Bhusan Behera, stated “We are yet to submit our application to get GI tag for our rasgulla. A committee is working on the application. Once it is ready, we will apply for the GI tag”. According to Odisha’s historians, ‘Rosogolla’ first originated in Puri, a city in Odisha, as ‘Khira Mohana’, which was later modified into the ‘Pahala Rasgulla’. The sweet found its name, ‘Pahala’, from its namesake village located on the outskirts of Odisha’s capital Bhubaneshwar. ‘Pahala Rasgulla’ is offered as ‘Bhog’ to Goddess Lakhsmi at Jagannath’s Temple, Puri. Odisha’s Higher Education, Science and Technology minister Pradip Kumar Panigrahi formed a committee, headed by Jagannath cult scholar Asit Mohanty, in 2015, to trace the origin of the infamous sweet. The committee stated in their interim report, submitted in 2015, that the existence of the sweet can be traced back to 600 years when it was offered to Gods. They also referenced the sweet’s existence in ‘Dandi Ramayana’ which is a version of the famous epic adopted by Balaram Das in the 16th century. The committee claimed to have found evidence in Odia literature published by the Calcutta University in 1924 favoring the claim of the sweet’s origin in Odisha. The state also celebrated ‘Rasgulla Dibasa’ on 30th July 2015 to commemorate the mythical beliefs and celebrate the origin of the sweet.

Image by Subhashish Panigrahi.

What is GI tag?

A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.

http://www.wipo.int/geo_indications/en/

Bengal’s Victory

In November 2017, Assistant Registrar, GI Registry, Chennai, Chinnaraja G. Naidu, stated that after examining the application filed in September 2015 and scrutinizing documents, the GI Registry has accorded the GI certificate to West Bengal State Food Processing and Horticulture Development Corporation Limited for ‘Banglar rosogolla’ on 14th November 2017.

West Bengal’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee also expressed her delight on a popular social media platform for obtaining the much-coveted certificate.

Being a Bengali, it is exhilarating for me as well as Dhiman Das, great-great-grandson of Nobin Chandra Das, to see ‘Banglar Rosogolla’ win the tug-of war and get the GI tag. Nevertheless, being a sweet lover, I wish good luck to our neighboring state for obtaining the same for ‘Pahala Rasgulla’. Looks like, amidst this tussle, ‘Rosogolla’ had the last laugh.

Well, some wars and debates need not end with violence and cruelty; they can also have sweet and syrupy ending. As for me, let me cram my bowl with the victorious ‘Rosogollas’ and gulp down one or two while I am writing this post.

Ki Moshai, apnio ki ‘Rosogolla’ khaben ?

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I got a wrong advice from my mother and I will not teach this to my kids.

We all look up to our mothers for comfort and advice. It is a good thing to consult them during need and respect their advice. I, too, love my mother very much and discuss almost everything with her to get the right suggestion. But, recently, I have received a piece of advice from her that I am finding very, very difficult to accept. I told her, very unapologetically, that I disagree with her on that particular piece of advice, and I would never suggest or teach that to my kids. Well, before I proceed further, I would like to emphasize that this post is not to disrespect or humiliate her at all; I love and respect my mother a lot. She has simply suggested what has been passed on to her. The disagreement in our opinion is purely because of the huge generation gap.

I am an Indian woman, and so is my mother. I have always seen and visualized her as the iron-lady of the family. She is a working woman and is active from dusk to dawn. Everything, including my father, is dysfunctional if she is not around. Our daily routine starts and ends with her. Thus, I never believed that any advice coming from my mother would be incorrect. I trusted and followed her blindly. Kids learn what they see. I was no exception. I learnt to do all my chores, ALONE, just like my mother. As I grew older and moved out, I saw the world differently, and there started the series of disagreements between us. Why was she alone when my father was there? Where was my father when she was alone?

I have joined the institution of marriage very recently, and like all other newly-weds, I, too, needed some important advice from her for obvious reasons. But, in Indian Society, the advices change for a married woman, even if you are a daughter. Marriage takes an entirely new dimension when you live in a patriarchal society like India. The woman is expected to bind the home, play all her roles: daughter-in-law, wife, mother, sister-in-law, daughter, etc. diligently. It is also expected out of the woman to look after the needs of the family members. (What about her basic needs?) Any woman would love to make her marriage successful by doing all this, unless these are imposed on her as regular duties to be performed. In this context of the ‘duties’ to be performed, my mother told me that ‘It is the woman of the house who has to do most of the work’.

I disagree. Marriage to me is a beautiful bond shared between a man and wife. But, in societies like India, the meaning of marriage is rooted deeply in patriarchy and gender inequality. While the woman, irrespective of the fact that she is a home-maker or a working woman, shares the major portion of work, the duties of men are limited. My great-grandmother taught this to my grandmother, and she to my mother, who has now mastered the art of finding an exhausting and tiring balance between her professional and personal life. As the legacy goes, I was also taught the same, directly and indirectly. I have learnt to cook alone; that’s why the lack/absence of any assistance in the kitchen does not bother me. I have learnt to eat alone; that’s why when somebody at the table finishes the food before I could, and leaves me and the table, it does not bother me. I have learnt to do my work alone; that’s why, when nobody assists in doing the household chores, it does not bother me. I have learnt to balance my schedule; that’s why when I finish all the morning chores, pack everyone’s lunches, make sure that everyone finishes breakfast before leaving the house, and I still manage to reach office on time, it does not bother me. Just like my mother, I am also gradually mastering the art of finding the right balance. Although, I disagree to share the majority of work, I silently end up doing it all.

In a discussion between to married women: a mother and a daughter, I have told my mother that I am determined to break the legacy-chain and I will never teach my daughter to have the life we share. I will teach her what I once thought of teaching myself – to find a partner who understands the need of sharing the work, who understands the true meaning of ‘Sharing’. I will never advise her to do perform all the chores while her man sits, eats, sleeps and ignores. If this means going against our society, our very own patriarchal society, and breaking some man-made laws, so be it.

Being a woman is always a sign of being strong. But, being a strong woman all the time, can also be a sign of weakness.

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Kojagori Lakhsmi Puja – A Bengali fervor

If you happen to be in Bengal five days after Dashami and find the markets flocked by Bengali fathers and grandfathers, accompanied by their children, searching for the best ‘Lokhi Thakurer Murti / Sora’ (The best idol of Goddess Lakhsmi) and various puja utilities such as the ‘Sheesh Daab’(green coconut with palm stem), you are witnessing the Bengali fervor of ‘Kojagori Lokhi Pujo’.

Bengal is land of many festivities, the largest one being Durga Puja, followed by Lakhsmi Puja, and then Kali Puja. In a land where a popular saying ‘Baro Maashe Tero Parbon’ (13 festivals in 12 months) stands true, and each festival is celebrated with great pomp and show, there Lakhsmi Puja is no exception. Lakhsmi Puja is celebrated by the Hindu community to worship the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Goddess Lakhsmi, wife and consort of Lord Vishnu. Lakshmi Puja is observed by different communities on different dates or tithis as per their calendar. In Northern India, the goddess is honored on Deepavali or Deewali. In Southern India, people celebrate Vara MahaLakhsmi puja. In Eastern India, Lakhsmi Puja is celebrated on Sharad Purnima, also called Kojagori Purnima, Nabanna Purnima, or Kaumudi Purnima. Hence, the festival is popularly known as ‘Kojagori Lakhsmi Puja’.

Kojagori Lakshmi Puja at home

Kojagori Lakshmi Puja at home

When it happens

Bengal celebrates Kojagori Lakhsmi Puja with great zest and enthusiasm on the first ‘Purnima‘ (full moon day) in the lunar month of ‘Ashwin‘ (mid-September to mid-October). This day falls exactly five days after Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra, the day which marks the end of Durga Puja or Navratri. This festival is not as commercialized as Durga Puja, and is celebrated privately in Bengali household.

Story behind the puja

There are many legends behind the origin of this puja, out of which the most famous one is of a king in Bengal who bought an idol of Goddess Alakshmi – the goddess of poverty, which was unsold for obvious reasons, to ensure that all goods produced by his subject craftsmen were sold in the market, else the king would buy the unsold items. Since, Goddess Lakshmi and Alaksmi cannot live together, and the king was no ready to throw the idol of Goddess Alakhsmi as it would be an insult to craftsman who made it, he placed the goddess of poverty in another room, separate from the goddess of fortune. But, eventually all gods and goddess abandoned the king and his kingdom which led to poverty and destitution. Thus, the hapless king sought advice from the Lord of Dharma, who was also planning to leave the king. The Lord advised the queen to perform Kojagori Lakshmi Puja Vrat. The queen obeyed the Lord’s advice and performed the puja on the full moon day in the Ashwin month. She meditated the entire night without sleeping. Her piety and worship was so powerful that the idol of Goddess Alakhsmi melted and the kingdom regained its prosperity.

The word ‘Kojagori’ means ‘the night of awakening’ and is derived from the question ‘Ko Jagorti?’ or ‘Ke Jege Ache?’ in Bengali which translates to who is awake? It is a common belief within the Bengali folklore that Goddess Lakhsmi descends on Earth on this day and goes around asking this question. Those who stay awake all night and worship the goddess pleases her and she bestows her blessings upon them. Thus, to attain the blessing from the goddess of fortune, this puja is always performed at night.

What happens on Kojagori Lakshmi Puja

The idol of Goddess Lakhsmi is made to sit on a decorated ‘aasan’(seat) and is adorned by flowers. Women and children of the Bengali household prepare ‘Prasad’ (a devotional offering made to the goddess). The prasad includes ‘luchi‘(hand-made flour bread), potato curry, ‘sooji halwa‘(semolina pudding), ‘semai‘ or ‘sewai‘(vermicelli pudding), homemade sweets such as kheer (rice pudding), narkel naru(coconut laddoo) gurer naru (jaggery laddoo), cooked and uncooked rice and pulses, fruits, and many more delicacies. The house is decorated with ‘alpona’ (hand-painted motifs created using a paste of rice and flour).

Alpona Image Source: Google

Alpona
Image Source: Google

On this day, the ‘paduka‘ (feet of Goddess Lakshmi) are painted which are drawn coming into the house and never leaving it. The symbolism of this ‘alpona’ is that Goddess Lakshmi or in other words prosperity must never leave the house.
Paduka Image Source: Google

Paduka
Image Source: Google

The priest who comes brings ‘Narayana Thakur’, the consort of Goddess Lakhsmi, and is welcomed by the pious sound of ‘shankh’(conch-shell), ‘kasor’(gong), and ‘ulu dhwani’ (ululation). The puja and ‘anjali‘ (ovation with flowers) is performed by reading the ‘Lakshmi Panchali‘(folk poetry dedicated to the goddess and her deeds), after which the priest is offered food and ‘dakhina’ (monetary and materialistic offering). The puja concludes after the priest leaves the house, and then the ‘Prasad’ is distributed among the people. Women observe ‘Kojagori Vrat’(fast) and breaks the fast with the prasad.

Prasad

Prasad

The Kojagori Purnima or Nabanaa Purnima also marks the commencement of the harvest season. Soon after monsoon, the fields flourish with ‘Naba-Anna’ (new harvest of crops) which symbolizes the harbinger of wealth and fortune. Thus, it is truly the time to thank, pray and worship Maa Lakhsmi, the goddess of wealth, prosperity, and fortune.

So, prepare some good delicacies and hone your drawing skills to seek the blessings from Maa Lakshmi.

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Kumari Puja – A sacred custom to worship the Mother, Maa Durga, in her living embodiment

36752475333_3ea0c2a20a_bDurga Puja is one of the most prominent festivals celebrated in Kolkata, West Bengal, where people from the Hindu community, most noticeably Bengalis, gather to worship the Mother, Goddess Durga – Adi Shakti. Lately, owing to the presence of a huge number Bengalis all over the globe, Durga Puja is no more a domestic festival celebrated within the country. Maa Durga has found a way to travel across the seas and oceans to reach out to Her devotees and followers irrespective of their geographical location. Durga Puja or Navratri, as called in different parts of the world, lasts for 10 days, each day observing the worship of individual avatars of the Goddess. On the eighth of Durga Puja and the ninth day (or the last day) of Navratri, people practice an age-old tradition of worshipping young girls as ‘Kumaris’, hence the name, ‘Kumari Puja’ or ‘Kanya Pujan’.

Kumari Puja originated in Dakshineshwar, Kolkata (West Bengal), during the 19th century. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, an ardent devotee of the Divine Mother, regarded his consort, Sri Sarada Devi, as her incarnation. He used to make Sri Sarada Devi sit in the seat of Goddess Kali and worshipped Devi Shodashi or Devi Kamakshi as Tripurasundari through her. Later, Swami Vivekananda, the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, revived this tradition, in appreciation of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s devotion to the Divine Mother, by worshipping nine young girls, Kumaris, in the presence of Sri Sarada Devi, at Belur math – the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission, in 1909. Since then, the age-old custom has rooted deeply in the hearts of Bengalis and is carried out every year on the eighth or ninth day (Maha Asthami or Maha Nabami) of Durga Puja and Navratri.

On this day, a girl, aged between one to sixteen years, who has not reached her puberty is selected to be worshipped as Kumari. The age plays a significant role in the puja as the girls are worshipped in various forms of the Goddess depending upon their age.

• A one-year old girl is worshipped in the Sandhya avatar. 36752475973_7761ab35d5_b
• A two-year old is worshipped as the Saraswati avatar.
• A three-year-old girl is worshipped as the Tridha or Tridhmurti avatar.
• A four-year-old is worshipped as the Kalika avatar.
• A five-year-old is worshipped as theSubhaga avatar.
• A six-year-old is worshipped as theUma avatar.
• A seven-year-old is worshipped as theMalini avatar
• An eight-year-old is worshipped as theKubjika avatar
• A nine-year-old is worshipped as theKaalasandarbha avatar
• A ten-year-old is worshipped as theAparajita avatar
• An eleven-year-old is worshipped as theRudrani avatar
• A twelve-year-old is worshipped as theBhairavi avatar
• A thirteen-year-old is worshipped as theMahalaxmi avatar
• A fourteen-year-old is worshipped as thePithanayika avatar
• A fifteen-year-old is worshipped as theKhetragya avatar
• A sixteen-year-old is worshipped as theAmbika avatar

36752477093_5b7354e084_bThe chosen girl or the Kumari is bathed in holy Ganga water, dressed in crimson red or a fiery yellow saree, and adorned with jewelries and flowers. The Kumari is decked in bridal finery. She is then made to sit beside or in front of the idol of Maa Durga and worshipped. The same rituals are performed to worship the Kumari and the same offerings are made to her as those during the worship of Goddess Durga. To invoke a Kumari, the devotees take flowers in folded hands, and chants a prayer amidst the pious sound of hymns and Dhak.37375699266_8f71bfab28_b After reciting the prayer, the flowers are offered at the feet of the Kumari. After the puja is over, food is served in pure manner. The Kumari fasts throughout the day until the ceremony is over. After the Kumari is satisfied with the food, her hands and feet are washed and Dakshina(gift) is offered to her. Kumari puja ends as the devotee finally touches her feet and seeks blessings from her. After the puja is complete, the Kumari is gifted ornaments and dresses.

In a country where female feticide is pervasive, the priests believe that the Divine Mother or Goddess Durga manifests herself in the young girls. Her manifestation is strongest in young girls who have not attained puberty, and are away from the worldly desires and the negative forces of the materialistic world. 37375698336_087e69b12a_bThe young girls, worshipped and purified, are the feminine manifestations of the Mother who solicit devotion and faith in her.

Every year, large congregations of people gather at Belur Math, West Bengal, to witness this spectacular ritual. Another place which attracts lot of visitors to observe this grand ceremony is Jairambati or Joyrambati, West Bengal – the birth place of Sri Sarada Devi.

In other words, Kumari Puja is the most pious form of Mother Worship that celebrates the celestial bond between the Divine and the human, through the feminine manifestation of the Mother in young, little girls.

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Relocation is not easy, but here are some useful tips that can help.

Recently, I relocated to New Delhi from Bangalore, a city to which I have given ten valuable years of my life. Staying in a city for ten long years makes you a part of it; Bangalore is a part of me. So, when the time came to leave a city that is so deeply rooted in me, it was heart-crushing. Bangalore was a home away from home. The memories of the last morning in Bangalore are still fresh in my mind. The morning looked beautiful than any other day. It was the monsoon season and had rained the entire night before. The sky was partly cloudy, partly sunny, and the temperature was naturally set to perfection. The excess water collected in the ground beside my rented apartment had created many surface-runoffs that resembled mini rivers. It was beautiful that day, and I was completing my last-minute packing before I leave the city. Honestly, I was so numb and appalled from the realization of leaving the city that I did not feel anything that day. 

Well, now that the felling is absorbed, let me come to the shifting part of the story. In short, it was a storm that came and went. I was an amateur in shifting an entire household, and therefore, I never had an experience with the packers and movers. Thus, to save you from the panic and trauma of relocating your household, I have listed some important to-do tips from my vivid experience below.

  • Call the packers and movers company and book a time of their arrival as per your convenience. I will like to stress on ‘as per your convenience’ because you should be mentally and physically free for what is coming for you.
  • Ask them specific questions like how many executives / field-workers are coming to accomplish the job. This is important for you to know as you will be the one to supervise the entire activity. If the company is sending more than 2-3 people, you might want to reconsider your supervising team as well, and add few more trusted persons to accompany you that day. The packers and movers team will come and start packing from every room simultaneously. If you are single-handedly supervising them, you will soon start seeing stars above your head!
  • Inform the packers and movers company about the count of fragile items you are sending. Ask them to send the appropriate wrapping materials accordingly. Instruct the company to send big containers. Personally, I informed them a count including 3 extra containers, all of which were utilized. So, if you assume that you might require 10 containers, inform 12 or 13 based on your luggage and probability.
  • Do your homework. After all, it is your luggage that is being packed. So, it is always better if you segregate your useful and not-so-useful stuffs before. It will eventually help you to quickly decide what to take and what to discard. Believe me, if you keep everything for the last hour, you will have no time to think and decide. You might leave useful stuffs behind or you might send unnecessary stuffs along with the luggage.
  • Keep your stationery kit handy. The vital stationery kit should include pair of scissors, some good heavy-duty sellotape, a notepad, and a marker with a thick nib (something like board markers). You will need them every minute while the packing is going on.
  • Make sure all your valuables are segregated and kept aside safely. It is not advisable to send them in the containers as they may get damaged or lost. You don’t want to lose that diamond-studded neck piece of yours, do you?
  • Keep food and drinks in stock for yourself as well as for the executives / field-workers. The packing and loading job is a very tiring activity and you need to keep yourself upright and standing to supervise. The workers will do the most difficult part of the job, so make sure to be a generous host, and provide them with regular refreshments, in case they fall weak.
  • Keep you tummy full. Ensure you and your family members complete having your meals, and the tableware is thoroughly washed and dry. The tableware will be packed for quite a few number of days, so, if they are not thoroughly cleaned, chances of fungus outgrowth are prevalent.
  • No meetings (or party). Last but not the least, keep yourself free that day. Avoid trying to have other meetings or events. The entire process of shifting your stuffs demands that you are mentally and physically free. It will be tiring experience for both your mind and body.

I hope these tips serve you well before you initiate your packing and relocation activity.

If you think anything else, that I might have missed here, is useful, do share them in the comments. Looking forward to knowing your thoughts!

 

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