Durga Puja is here, and the festive vibe is in the air. Can we be more excited? Undoubtedly, Navratri or Durga Puja is one of the most revered and eagerly awaited festivals. Whether you are Bengali or not, Durga Puja is something you just cannot miss. India is the land of diversity, and it is reflected in its people and their religious beliefs and rituals. Navratri is no exception. While celebrators in states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Gujarat fast for the nine auspicious days of Navratri and abstain from eating non-veg, most people in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam, Tripura, Bihar, and others don't fast rather indulge in a feast. 

Also Read: Have You Heard Of The Special Vegetarian Mutton Curry Served During Durga Puja?

But one question that all Bengalis are tired of hearing is: 'why they have non-vegetarian food during Puja'? It is a known fact that there is hardly any Bengali celebration minus maach, mangsho, and mishti, i.e., fish, meat, and sweets. Nevertheless, there are some mythological beliefs associated with it as well. 

                                      Image credits: India Food Network

Home-coming of the daughter to celebrating victory over evil

Durga Puja marks the homecoming of the goddess as a daughter with her children. Her baper baari, or maternal house, welcomes her with great pomp, fervour, and a Bengali feast. And pampering of a daughter involves decadent culinary fare.  Likewise, another assertion mentions Goddess Durga as Shakti, the supreme being. She slayed the demon king, Mahishasura. And thus, metamorphically, to celebrate the victory of good over evil, meat and fish sacrificial custom are done. 

Fish Bhog goes beyond Bengal

Besides, many Bengali families who trace their origin to Erstwhile East Bengal or Bangladesh offer fish as bhog to the goddess on Dashami, i.e., the festival's last day. A similar ritual could be seen in the Shakta sects of Odisha and Assam. Aside from hilsa or rohu, scaleless and dark-skinned bottom feeders like murrel, spotted snakehead, and wallago catfish are also offered.

Many people wouldn't know that goddess Vimala of Vimala temple, situated within the Jagannath temple, is also offered fish from the sacred Markanda temple tank. Moreover, in Bihar and Jharkhand, meat is cooked on the ninth and tenth days to celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. You didn't know this, did you?  

Hilsa and Dashami

Coincidentally, many believe Dashami is also the last day of the hilsa-eating season. Bengalis bid adieu to both their favourite fish and goddess with the hope of "ashchhe bochor abaar hobe" or "till next year." 

Roasting fish to negate hexing

While Hilsa or Rohu is offered as curry or fried, the single-boned fish is usually roasted over a fire in a chulha and offered in bhog. Even now, one can find these chulhas or clay ovens in the pandal or thakurdalan's corner. This is where the fish is roasted and offered to the deity before the submersion ritual. As per religious beliefs, the roasted fish keeps evil eyes at bay and ensures the daughter's safe journey back to her husband's abode. 

There are many reasons why fish became a quintessential part of the Bhog during Dashami. Just so the Durga Puja is here, why don't we talk about Macher Kalia? 

                                      Image credits: Sanjeev Kapoor

This simple yet essential fish curry which is quintessentially cooked in every Bengali household turns into a celebrated delicacy during Durga Puja. This culinary fare has Katla fish cooked in an onion-tomato gravy with some yoghurt. We bet it's worth a try! Let us give you a quick recipe for Macher Kalia. 

Ingredients 

  • 770 g Katla fish 
  • 2 onions 
  • 1 tomato 
  • 6 to 7 garlic cloves 
  • 5 gm ginger 
  • 4 to 5 green chilies 
  • 2 tbsp curd 
  • ¾ tsp cumin powder 
  • ½ tsp red chili powder 
  • 3/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder 
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder 
  • ¾ tsp garam masala powder 
  • ½ tsp sugar 
  • 3 pcs bay leaves 
  • ½ cup mustard oil 
  • Salt as per taste

Method 

  • Clean the fish, which is cut into round shapes. Drain the excess water and smear it with salt and turmeric powder. 
  • In a blender, pour onion, tomato, ginger, garlic cloves, and green chilies and ground them into a fine paste. 
  • Heat mustard oil in a pan until it releases smoke. 
  • Add fish pieces into hot oil, and fry them until they turn golden from both sides. Remove the fish pieces from the pan. 
  • In the same oil, add 2 bay leaves and sliced onion.
  • Fry until the onions turn soft, succulent, and golden.  
  • Add the onion paste to the pan and sauté for a few seconds. 
  • Add cumin powder, red chili powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, and turmeric powder. Mix well. Add salt as per taste. 
  • Then add garam masala powder, curd and sugar. Give them a thorough stir.
  • Cook the masalas until oil leaves the sides and the aroma starts releasing. Add water. Let the gravy boil. 
  • After a minute, add the fried fish to the gravy. 
  • Reduce the flame and cook the fish by covering the pan for five minutes. 
  • Remove the lid, turn the fish, and put on the cover once again. 
  • After the next 5 minutes, add garam masala powder and ghee. Mix it well. 
  • Cook it for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat. 

Mouth-watering Katla Macher Kalia is ready. Serve with piping hot rice, and enjoy your meal. 

 Happy Pujo, Everyone!