|Khichudi Bhog on Saraswati Puja|
I can still recall those childhood days when Saraswati Pujo was celebrated annually at home. I feel life during my early days were different – not different in the sense that the sun did not rise in the morning, the sunset is very much here, seasons change with time, schools and students exist – but there was something so very sweet in life that is missing now.
Years have passed bringing with it many changes and I have also handled the change. Technology has brought about so many changes in our life.
Whatever may happen, the almanac will be bought to find out the dates and time of various occasions. Today is Saraswati Pujo. As a child I loved this day firstly because on this day no one at home told us to study, more so because this day is the day of goddess Saraswati the Goddess of Wisdom for the Hindus.
I think there is more Bengali fervor in this puja day. I remember how we got up early, bathed in warm water after applying haldi paste (mixed with oil), on the face, legs and hands. The previous day saw late night with all the preparations going on. We made colourful paper chains, paper flowers and shaped other paper designs to decorate the room where the puja was performed. Ma’s zari lined sari also was used for decorating the wall where the clay idol of the goddess was placed. The platform was made by joining two stools and then covering it with some brightly coloured table cloth. Flowers were there in plenty in our garden – marigold, tagor, joba – while tulsi, the thorny berry twig, and amer pallv was there at home, bel patta was brought from the neighbourhood tree. Sweets and fruits brought from the market the day before were all ready for the puja in the morning. There were many hands to help – some big and some small and tiny ones.
The purohit/pandit came to perform the puja rites. Incense sticks and the lamp were lit, and then the sound of the conch shell and the mantras filled the room - what an atmosphere it was! We siblings placed some of our books and note books near the goddess along with our pen and pencils. So it was a day off from studies. As I reminiscence those days, I cooked khichudi, begun bhaja, mixed vegetable curry and tomato chutney for this special day.
For the khichudi took 1 small cup bhaja (dry roasted) mung dal, I cup rice. Poured some ghee, about 1 tsp. to the cooking vessel. Once the ghee started to release heat added the dal and rice that had been washed earlier. Gave it a stir for a minute and a half and then added some haldi powder, dhania powder, red chilli powder, jeera powder, and stirred again. Then added some chopped tomatoes, potatoes and cauliflower florets which I had fried earlier and after a minute added salt and again a stir. Having completed the process in about 5 minute’s time, added 4 cups of water. After the first boil came added some sugar (optional), covered it and lowered the flame. In between removed the lid to mix…a little bit of opor neeche (up and down). By the time the water dried up, Khichudi was ready.
To go with it there was begun bhaja, a mixed vegetable curry and tomato chutney. What a meal it was, heavenly, maybe because it is thought to be a special bhog for a special day.
© gouri guha