Religious occasions in a typical Hindu Bengali household can never be a ‘small affair’. Even if it is supposed to be an intimate gathering, there are so many rituals that always keep you at the edge of your seat. Like this fascinating ritual of preparing 14 types of greens (shak) on Kali Pujo. As most of us know, that Goddess Kali is one of the most revered deities in the eastern side of the country. Kali Pujo is mostly celebrated on the night of Diwali. An overnight vigil is arranged for devotees who visit temples to pay their obeisance, it is also followed by a delicious bhog or Prasad. A day prior to Kalu Pujo, is celebrated as Bhoot Chaturdashi. On this day, Bengalis lit 14 diyas for the ancestors, so that they help ward off all evil energies. Additionally, there is also a ritual of eating a mixed vegetable dish made with fourteen types of greens or Choddo (fourteen) shaak (greens).

 

The legend of ‘Choddo Shaak’

The “Bhoot chaturdashi” falls on the 14th day of krishna paksha (waning phase of moon), which perhaps explains the emphasis on the number 14. Since monsoons are the time where the greens are kept aside, for the risk of catching bacterial infection, Bhoot Chaturdashi is the time to bring it back on our plate. Greens are loaded with a myriad health benefits, alongside they are also very crucial to build our immunity, which is required at the time of Bhoot Chaturdashi and Kali Pujo that often fall on the cusp of winter. It is believed, that during this time many unsatiated souls are taking rounds of earth, bringing sickness and maladies. Eating a diet rich in greens helps you fortify from within.  

Since a big component of Bengali food habits are still aligned with Ayurveda, even in Charaka Samhita the importance of eating immunity-boosting vegetables and greens during the month of Kartik(October-November) has been highlighted many times.

The types of greens that are included in the spread are shorshe shaak, lal shaak, pui shaak, palong shaak, methi shaak, muli shaak, paat shaak, chola shaak, lau shaak, helencha shaak, kumro shaak, kochu shaak, note shaak, neem pata etc. One can always mix and match the varieties.