I know am awfully late in wishing you Shubho Bijaya, Happy Dassera and Shubh Navrati. But trust me, I have reasons and these are not at all lame excuses. I have been travelling a lot which has made me tired, sick and weak. So much so that right now am on antibiotics to overcome the congestion in my chest. Yes its that bad. But being late is always better than not wishing you at all. So here is a big bear hug coming your way with Bijaya greetings. How did you enjoy the puja my friends? Mine was very relaxed. We spent time together as family but missed going out and pandal hopping. Kolkata was full of huge pandals and beautiful artistic decorations. Even our own apartment association celebrated the puja in a very nice homey manner. We loved the themes and decorations that the famous pujas of Kolkata selected this year and wanted to visit the pandals. But they are not my cup of tea. One has to stand in a que at least for 2-3 hours or more to get into the main pandal near the Durga idol. That too after covering a 10 minutes distance in a couple of hour. Most roads are blocked and it seems whole Kolkata spent time on streets on those five days. So we rather chose to get away from all the hustle and bustle to spent time in a quite village at my in laws place.
We only went out once all decked up in new sarees and matching jwelleries, Visited lots and lots of relatives and enjoyed our time of togetherness. We also went to Santiniketan to my parents and loved our mid night quite visits to all the pandals in Santiniketan and around.
Below are the pictures of one of my favourite puja which I love to visit every year. Remember this post where I shared the story behind a very unique weekly craft market? This puja belongs to the same area of Boner pukur danga near Santiniketan Ashrama. This puja is called 'Hiralini Durgotsav, which was started in 1989 by an artist and teacher Bandhan Das. He is no more but what he has left is his touch of beauty and art. Right from the idol to pandal decorations to puja preparations, everything have a touch of art. He planned to create 5 different Durga idols which would be totally different in material and look. Which they use on alternative years and repeat the same after each 5 years. When one idol is made of the regular clay the others are made of wood, metal and other materials. The protima is unlike any we generally see in pandals. Here Maa does not hold any weapon rather she holds beautiful lotus flowers in her ten hands to bring in World peace. Another unique point about this puja is the involvement of local santals. They take care of every preparation and minute details. They bring a distinctive tribal flavor to the whole atmosphere. The evenings are filled with their performances like tribal dance, drama and weapon skills. I have heard that along with regular khichuri bhog they also offer tari (fermented Palm sap; Toddy).
|Picture: Somnath on picasa|
|Picture: Sujit Sengupta|
|courtesy: Subhendu Dhabal|
This year they were worshipping the metal idol. We went there at about 11:30 at night and there was not enough light. But still we managed to get some photos which I am sharing below. It had a very quaint feel to it amidst the sonajhuri forest and the unique wavy red laterite soil formation called Khoai. Local craftsmen sell their art in small stalls around the area. They also bring in authentic Bengali festival foods like ghugni, pithe etc.
Today am also sharing a fried dough sweet pastry called Elo jhelo which is almost synonymous to Bijaya or the last day of Durga puja, symbolizing good over evil. This is very similar to the preparation of Jibe gaja that I shared earlier, but the form of this snack is very different. Below is my quick recipe.
Elo jhelo or Bengali Fried Pastry
All purpose flour: 11/2 cups
Oil/ghee: 4 tbsp (I used saffola gold white oil)
Salt: a pinch
Nigella seeds: ½ tsp
Water: as required
Oil for deep frying
For the syrup:
Sugar: 1 cup
Water: ½ cup
Cardamom pods: 2-3 pieces
Take the flour in a big bowl and mix in the salt and nigella seeds. To this add the oil and rub with your finger tips tips to get sand like texture. To this add water very little by little to make nice, soft and firm dough. Cover and keep aside for 20-30 minutes.
After that pinch and take small ping pong ball size dough. Press and smoothen it between your palms. Roll out in small disks (2”-2.5” diameter) like puri or luchi.
With a sharp knife make 8-9 slits vertically on the disk. Leave 1 cms each on top and bottom.
Holding the end sides together loosely roll the disk like you do for swiss rolls. Press the ends to secure the pattern.
Prepare the same with the remaining dough.
Heat oil in a heavy based deep pan or kadhai to medium heat. The temperature of the oil is very important, very hot oil will make it soft at the inside. Check the heat by dropping a pinch of dough in the oil if it takes some time to come up n the surface, the oil is ready. If it immediately comes up then the oil is too hot and you run a possibility of burning them.
Fry the elo jhelo in small batches till golden brown. Take out and soak the extra oil on absorbing paper.
The elo jhelo should be cold completely before adding them to the syrup. So give it ample amount of time to cool down.
Once the elo jhelos are completely cold, start making the syrup by boiling the sugar in the water. crush the cardamom and add this to the biling syrup. Boil for 3-4 minutes till one string consistency is achieved. At this stage lots of bubbles will start to appear on the surface too.
Quickly add all the elo jhelo in the syrup and mix them to coat with sugar syrup. The syrup will harden once the elo jhelo touches the hot syrup, so work with very quick hand.
Spread the elo jhelo on lightly oiled plates to cool down.
Store in air tight container and treat your family and friends.
A Homemaker’s Notes:
- The heat of the oil is very crucial and I can’t press this point enough. This is what I do. I always heat the oil to smoking point and then switch off the heat and again switch on after 3-4 minutes. That way the raw smell of the oil is gone and the oil is hot enough to cook the gaja till light brown. Also keep on adjusting the heat by increasing or decreasing the flame.
2. You can also check the syrup by putting a drop of syrup in a bowl of cold
water; if it doesn’t dissolve and immediately comes on the surface…the
syrup is ready.