On the day before Diwali they perform Kali puja

The uniqueness of the Diwali is lighting 14 lamps, preparing ‘chothyo saag’, paying respects to 14 ancestors and performing Kali puja offering ‘karan’ as bhog for most of the Bengalis in the city.

Some Bengalis celebrate the festival of lights for three days. The day before Diwali is known as ‘chothyo prodeep’ (14 diyas) or ‘booth chaturdashi’. On this day, Kali puja is performed from midnight till early in the morning. Karan (country liquor) is offered as bhog to the goddess. Chothyo Prodeep is observed to pay homage to 14 ancestors, requesting them to save everyone from evil spirit and ghosts, narrated Paromita Banerjee, a Bengali living in the city for more than a decade. “We light 14 lamps and place them at 14 corners of the house to eliminate evil and darkness.” Kali puja is done mostly at the community halls or at the temples while some perform it at home and observe fasting on the occasion. Bengalis cook ‘chothyo saag’ using 14 varieties of green leafy vegetables and eat it with rice.

Performing Lakshmi puja, catching up with friends and relatives, bursting crackers, eating kichdi or payesh as bhog at one of the community halls appear to be the customary ritual for the Bengalis on Diwali. The next day of Diwali is ‘Bhai Phota’ where brothers visit sister’s house and feast. It is celebrated to signify the safety of brothers from the threshold of Yamaraj.

For Ritu Biswas the festival means triumph of good over evil. “Worshipping goddess Kali is more important to us. A minimum of 108 ‘bel pathas’ are offered during puja. Most of the time, it is the male member of the family who presides to offer worship. I like to spend time with my family, burst crackers and visit Kalibari on Diwali,” she added.

Recipe of payesh

Ingredients: Milk- 1 litre; Govind bhog rice - a handful; sugar or jaggery - 200 grams; crushed cardamom- 2; dry fruits to garnish.

Boil the milk and simmer it. Add Govind bhog rice and let it cook in the milk. Keep stirring the milk so that it doesn’t stick to the pan. When the rice is cooked and the milk gets condensed, add jaggery or sugar and blend the mix well. Cook for 10 more minutes by stirring constantly.

Add cardamom, dry fruits and cover it for sometime. Payesh can be had cold or hot depending on one’s preference.

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