Unpacking 'Bhog-er Khichuri' on Durga Puja

Bhog and Durga Puja are surrounded. Food palette menus bring home the signature 'bhog-er khichuri' when one cannot hop into the pandal to dig up the festive specials. But, is this dish really claiming that they are?
Photo: iStockPhoto
By Jahnabi Borah

The Bengali word pet pujo is the flavor of the tu. With strict social distance restrictions, festivals go back to basics. Food, inevitably, reigns supreme; One may be able to resist the urge to buy the Notun Jama (Bengali for new clothes), but it is difficult to overcome the constant yearning for the Bhog-er Khichuri (Durga Puja community festival, Khichdi).

Home chefs, restaurants and delivery kitchens have risen to the occasion. Their menus include items synonymous with Durga Puja; - Must-haves include - Bengali Fish Fry, Kosha Mangsho, Payesh and Bhog-er Khichuri. However, a conversation can be started about why the last item is included in the food distribution menu, which is not officially associated with the Durga Puja Committee.

Bhog, used during Hindu festivals, loosely translates as an offering to God. When the dish is thus named, it indicates a link to this practice. “To worship Goddess Durga, in general, a large vegetarian spread is made and is one of the Khichuri dishes. There are strict rules: the cook must shower and swatch clothes, he or she should fast, the food should be prepared entirely in swatch utensils, no taste and no onions and garlic, ”says Pritha Sen, a culinary historian and consultant in Bengali cuisine. The cooked food is thus offered to the deity and some of it is set aside as Prasad. Worshipers come in large numbers and it is impossible to feed everyone. Therefore, the community kitchen cooks the food separately and mixes a small amount of prasadam with it. It is distributed among worshipers who attend a community meal, also known as a bhog. The menu is baked with khichuri with carrots and peas, tomato chutney, aloo dum and batter fried eggplant or bengun bhajas. The committee organizes every Durga Puja celebration and they usually have members living from neighboring areas. Bhog is served to them and to visitors to the place of worship during the meal. The attitude of service permeates this community's diet; No one can refuse food. Sen says the community's bhag is vegetarian. This year, without allowing public gatherings, the bhog is being delivered to members' homes through swiggy and omato, and worship organizers are involved in social causes related to education, health and elderly care, or charitable initiatives that distribute food and money. Affected by lockdown. Bhog-er Khichuri is part of these food distribution drives

Sen pointed out that restaurants or home chefs get disconnected when they launch Durga Puja Bhog menus or have items like Bhog-er Khichuri. Gormi Travel, a Hong Kong based food and travel company, works closely with home chefs in Kolkata. When they approached her to plan a Durga puja-themed menu, she was left with a bhog-er khichuri instead of a bhuni khichuri. Their recipes are no different, but why have different names? Sen says, "You see, in my mind, bhog-er khichuri is the thing that got the sanctity of the goddess. It's not a recipe, it's a concept."

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