A Bengali mother's Lokkhi Pujo

A Bengali mother's Lokkhi Pujo

Delicious Tradition

The sadness that Goddess Durga leaves behind in hearts of Bengalis lasts long but the community still choose to celebrate other festive occasions soon after it, believing that certain celebrations are better if they come once a year.

The full moon that appears right after Durga Puja is the day when Bengali mothers celebrate Kojagori (a mother who stays awake at night to worship Goddess Lakshmi) Lokkhi Pujo.

Well, this tradition is perhaps restricted to Kolkata and only Bengali colonies in cities across the country. As the 10-handed super goddess and mother doesn’t mind or curse the devotees for eating non-vegetarian food during the four-day carnival, so does her daughter Lakshmi.

While non-Bengalis worship Ganesh and Lakshmi on the day of Diwali, Bengalis worship Kali on that particular ‘no-moon’ night. Bengalis, especially the Bangals (the refugees from Bangladesh), prefer eating jora Illish (double Hilsa) on this occasion of Lokkhi Pujo.

On the occassion a Bengali mother is expected to eat minimum eight kinds of food, including Hilsa, for dinner after the puja. The dinner comprises three kind of fries, daal, chawal, laabra (sabzi), chutney and fish.

While the traditional approach to this particular puja is that it should be celebrated on the same mondop or pandal and at the same sthaan or thaan (the place where the Goddess was worshipped days ago), places almost everywhere in Kolkata dismantle the pandals only after this puja is over.

A similar scene greets one here in Chittaranjan Park, the hub of the Bengali community. The orange B Block pandal with a green ‘coconut’ atop, was intact evoking childhood memories and familiar lines, “Lokkhi Pujor purnima te, aalpona dae aapon haate” (she designs the thresholds on the full-moon night of the Lakshmi Puja).

This year, however, the purnima (full moon) was on Tuesday and as per the Bengali calender, the tithi (time) of the puja was on Wednesday.

Mothers wake up early on this particular day to gather shiuli phool (jasmine), dubbo (grass twigs), aam pawllob (mango leaves), lotus, paddy (unmilled rice) and paddy twigs. They fast till evening and cook a variety of dishes for the family and guests.

“I worship Maa Lokkhi for my family’s good luck. I have been worshiping since my wedding in 1996. Earlier, I used to assist my mother and elder sisters at my parental home,” says Sumita Shome, a homemaker.

“I try and prepare as many dishes possible for my family on this day. Paayesh is a must beside khichuri, luchi and aalur dum.”

The mouth-watering moong daal khichuri is a must in every house. Along with ghyat or laabra that is basically made of seven vegetables, including radish, brinjal, spinach, green banana, pumpkin, beans, potato and bori, a typical Bengali food prepared from paste of pulses.

Also on the menu is aalur dum (dum aalu) and baadhakopir torkari (cabbage) or bandhgobi ki sabzi. Paayesh (kheer) served with hot golaap jaam makes up the dessert.

The preparation for the puja starts around noon after the mother dons a beautiful taant saree and makes alpona (design) at the threshold of each and every door with liquid chalk.

She assembles the essentials for the puja, mainly, fruits of seven to nine types are chopped and kept in brass utensils and a swastika or Om is made on a small pot, filled with paddy and adorned by five mango leaves, placed atop along with a small gamchha and betel nut.

The puja mainly starts in the evening with the mother reading the paanchali, a beautiful story written in Sanskrit. At times, she rings a bell and blows a conch while offering the puja but other musical instruments, like dhaak (drum), are a total no-no on this occasion as Bengalis believe Lokkhi is the epitome of peace and she flees if loud sound or music is played.

Do experience this occasion once. The fragrance of dhoop mixed with different fruits and baked moong daal make for delicious memories.