Goddess Durga returning to her abode on Vijaya Dashami marks the end of Durga Puja celebrations every year. It’s an emotional moment for many in Bengal for whom bidding adieu to Durga is like parting with one of your own. The Durga Puja festivities in a Bengali household, however, don’t end with the immersion of the idols. As Vijaya Dashami signifies the slaying of demon king Mahishasura by the Goddess, this victory of good over evil is celebrated over a fortnight stretching up to Diwali. This auspicious period is called Bijoya, which literally means ‘victory’. People of the Bengali community meet up and exchange Shubho Bijoya greetings during this time.
The celebration of Bijoya begins right after the visarjan (immersion of the idols), when people hug each other and distribute sweets. Though not seen much these days, Neelkanth (Indian Roller) birds were released traditionally on the occasion to mark peace descending on earth.
The celebrations continue till Diwali, which comes a little more than a fortnight after Vijaya Dashami.
During these 15 days, Bengalis visit friends and relatives and exchange ‘Shubho Bijoya’ greetings. The younger generation touches the feet of elders to seek blessings, while all men do a ‘kolakuli’ (hug).
As per the custom, guests visiting any house to greet ‘Shubho Bijoya’ are to be served something sweet to eat. Any guest returning without ‘mishti-mukh’ (tasting sweet) is considered inauspicious. Needless to say, this meant every household is supposed to stay stocked to cater to the stream of visitors.
Bengali households may not receive as much visitors as they used to earlier during Bijoya, but the concept is still thriving.
Stocking up on sweets is mandatory during Bijoya. While readymade sweets come to the rescue these days, there was a time when sweets used to be made at home to be served to the guests.
Some of the quintessential Bengali sweets are listed below — with recipes that everyone can try at home and enjoy.
Very commonly found in a Bengali home, naarus are usually made of either sesame seeds or coconut. The delicious small laddus are very easy to make, and you need only two main ingredients.
Coconut: 1, grated
1. Grate coconut and keep aside.
2. Heat the jaggery with a little bit of water.
3. Once thick and sticky, mix in the grated coconut and stir.
4. If the mixture is not sticking to the pan anymore, increase the flame and continuously stir for 2 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat, and let it cool.
6. Grease your palms, take some of the mixture in your hands and make small balls out of it.
Tips: Laddus won’t form if the jaggery-coconut ratio is not right. Keep some extra grated coconut handy in case the coconut used in small in size. Naarus get harder if the mixture is overcooked. The same mixture can be used as stuffing for a lot of Bengali sweets — Puli pithe, Gokul pithe, and Patishapta for example, the recipes of which you can find on this page below. You can replace coconut with sesame seeds to make ’tiler naaru’.
To make this delicious sweet snack too, you need only two ingredients. Moa, which stays fresh for long if kept in an air-tight container, used to be found in Bengali households round the year.
Muri (puffed rice): 250g
1. Heat the jaggery with a little bit (1/4th cup) of water.
2. Switch off gas once the liquid is thick and sticky.
3. Add the muri.
4. Fold the mixture well and make balls of the size of your choice.
Tips: Apply ghee or oil in your palms while giving shape to the sticky puffed rice mixture.
Bengal’s claim to Rosogolla may be disputed, but Sandesh is very much the state’s own. This mildly sweet dessert dish also requires only two main ingredients, and is again very easy to make.
Milk: 1 litre
Sugar: 3-4 tablespoons
A pinch of salt
1. Curdle the milk to make chhena using a sour agent, preferably lemon.
2. Strain the chhena and wash it thoroughly.
3. Hang the curdled milk for 30 minutes.
4. Powder the sugar along with cardamom and keep aside.
5. Once the chhena is firm, drained of all the water, take it in a wide bowl.
6. Mash and smoothen the chhena using your hands. There should be no lump left.
7. Mix in the sugar.
8. Grease a square tin and and spread the mixture. (You can use a metal lunch box too)
9. Heat some water in a pressure cooker and down in it the tin covered with an aluminium sheet. The water level should reach half the tin’s height.
10. Cook on high flame. After two whistles, put the gas on sim and cook for another 10 minutes.
11. Turn off the heat. After 5 minutes, take off the cover. The Steamed Sandesh is ready. Cut it into small squares. Bring it to room temperature before you serve it.
Tips: Do thoroughly washing the chhena to remove any taste of lemon or any other agent you may have used to curdle the milk. The Sandesh can turn rubbery of overcooked. Its firmness also depends on the depth of the mixture. A little cornflour can help bind the mixture better, but it’s completely optional.
This Bengali delicacy is one of those “my-mom-makes-it-best” dishes popular in every household. Patishapta looks like the French crepes, though tastes a bit different because of the filling used. Check out the recipe.
Rava: 2 cups
Maida: 1 and a ½ cups
Sugar: 2 tablespoons
Baking soda: ½ teaspoon
Milk: 3 cups (approx)
Oil: To fry
For the filling:
Coconut: 1, grated
1. Mix the rava and maida with 2 cups of milk and sugar. Set aside for at least 2 hours.
2. Make the coconut-jaggery mixture.
3. Take the rava-maida batter and mix it properly. If it’s too dry, add some more milk.
4. Heat a griddle and grease it. Spread the batter and wait till it firms up. The pancake should be super thin, so make sure the consistency of the batter is right.
5. Don’t turn over the pancake. Wait for the top side to become dry, and then spread the filling. Roll it up.
Tips: The rava should get enough time to soak. The Patishapta won’t be soft otherwise. The batter should rise a little by the time it’s ready for use. You can use a filling of mawa (khoya) instead of coconut. It tastes best when served with rabri or payesh (kheer/payasam). You can spread a layer of rabri on the pancakes before adding the filling.
The rice dumplings stuffed with a coconut mixture and cooked in sweetened full-cream milk is a delicacy to die for. Dudh Puli is one of the oldest traditional Bengali homemade sweets and is usually reserved for special occasions. It’s, however, not very easy to make. The complicated procedure requires real skill set, and a bit of luck (will tell you why).
Rice powder: 2 cups
Milk: 1 litre, full cream
Sugar: 1/2 cup
1. Make the naaru mixture (refer to the recipe mentioned above) and keep aside.
2. Heat some water
3. Heat the milk. Stir it frequently as it boils.
4. In a wide mixing bowl, take the rice powder, add the boiling hot water and knead a smooth dough, first using a ladle and then hands.
5. Make small calls out of the dough and keep them together in a bowl. Cover the bowl well to prevent the dough from getting hard.
6. Take a ball and uniformly flatten it out. Now, put a teaspoonful of the coconut mixture in the middle and join the two wings. Seal the sides properly. Repeat the process with the other balls.
7. Add sugar to the boiling milk after it has reduced to half. Bring it to boil again and let it be for some more time.
8. Add the rice dumplings and cook for around 10 minutes. Be careful and attentive during this time as the dumplings become tender now and can break. Stir them gently.
9. Once the dumplings change colour, becoming a little translucent, and start floating, switch off the gas. Cool and serve.
Tips: To make perfect Dudh Puli, you need a little bit of luck, unless you have mastered the art. Making the dough is quite tricky. Most people who don’t make it regularly complain that the dumplings turn hard. According to experts, the water used to make the dough should be boiling hot. Hence, do use a ladle to save your hands, but make sure it has been mixed properly. Once the temperature drops a bit, use your hands to quickly knead the dough to make it smooth. Traditionally, par-boiled and refined rice mixed in the ratio of 2:1 was used in the recipe, but you can use packaged rice powder too. The pulis tend to get hard when it’s very cold. So, eat it the same day to avoid refrigeration.
Gokul Pithe are batter-fried coconut-jaggery discs coated with sugar syrup. Yes, it’s full of calories. Years ago, culinary experts used a very time consuming recipe for Gokul Pithe. The batter would be made of Bengal gram that had to be soaked overnight, then boiled and ground. The recipe has been simplified by the Bengali households now. Though just plain flour is used for the batter now, the modification does not compromise with the taste.
Flour: 1/2 cup
Rice flour: 1/2 cup
Semolina (suji): 2 tablespoons
Milk: to make batter
Soda bi-carb: 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar: 1 cup
Water: 3-4th cup (for sugar syrup)
1. Make the coconut-jaggery mixture and keep aside.
2. Prepare a batter using the flours, suji, milk (not hot) and a spoonful of ghee.
3. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
4. Make a thick sugar syrup.
5. Take the coconut mixture, a little at a time, and make small discs out of it.
6. Dip the discs in the batter and deep-fry till golden brown.
7. Once cool, put them in the sugar syrup and take out once coated.
8. Sprinkle some granulated sugar on top of it and serve.