Goddess Kali And Her Food Habits: Influencing Indian Cuisine
Image Credit: Goddess Kali, Image Source: Shutterstock

In many parts of India and the world, especially in Nepal, Goddess Kali is venerated during Diwali. However, the fierce and enraged goddess Kali's food preferences have been a debatable topic. She is Kali, the ferocious and menacing goddess of unbridled power over suffering and evil. India is a land in which there is a culture of worshipping gods, and each one is intertwined with specific food and tastes. What dietary statement does India's most formidable goddess give? What cuisine does Kali favour? What impact has her legend, cult, and symbolism had on Indian food habits? 

Why Kali is worshipped during Diwali?

According to a narrative, the Mother Goddess donned the ferocious avatar after becoming enraged by the demons' transgressions. A different account claims that she became furious after witnessing the downfall of human ideals. She decided to uproot the demons/humans and switched into full-on destructive mode. Her main goal was to restore holiness and revive the true principles of civilisation. But the Devas feared the universe would end if she couldn't control her rage. They implored Lord Shiva to get involved. He made the decision to lie dead on the ground. And Goddess Kali walked on Shiva without realising it because she had lost her senses. She bit her tongue out of remorse by realising she had stamped on her husband. This episode is thought to have occurred on the night of the new moon in the Kartika/Ashwina month. To obtain her blessings, followers celebrate Kali Puja.

 Is she non-vegetarian?

The answer may consider the famous Kali temple in Kolkata, i.e., Kali Ghat. Do you know worshipers are prohibited after midday at Kalighat? Ritulistacilly, teams of chefs emerge from the temple kitchen carrying enormous brass platters. These are packed with a lot of food, including rice, dal, veggie fries and curries, deep-fried fish head, fish curry, chutney, and kheer. Exclaiming, 'Jai Ma!', as they draw near to her inner sanctum, " clang conch shells and bells. For a while, the doors are closed, letting the goddess feast quietly. The argument is that the goddess' standard meal is essentially typical Bengali food.

Earlier, in an interview with Outlook, according to Tupur Banerjee, an assistant professor of history at the University of Burdwan, the goddess Kali favours vegetables and cheap maach or fish such boal or Wallago Fish, magur or Catfish, and Shol or Snakehead murrel.

Shol macher jhol, Image Source: spicypunch

There is a contradictory explanation given by Srila Prabhupada, the founder and preceptor of the ISKCON organisation. According to Prabhupada, Goddess Kali will never eat anything that isn't vegetarian because she is the chaste wife of Lord Siva, who is a renowned Vaishnava. He consumes vegetarian fare. He leaves some leftover food, which the goddess Kali takes. She cannot possibly consume flesh or fish.

In the meantime, the ritualistic eating pattern of Kali Puja varies from region to region. Most households in Bengal, Odisha, and Assam are vegetarian only, with women following fasts. However, according to the current tradition, Kali Puja Day is a typical non-vegetarian day, perhaps with some added culinary treats.

 Kali pujo special food, Image Source: Instagram

Relishing rustic rice

Goddess Kali reportedly prefers rice that has been partially boiled or parboiled in the husk. In Bengal, it is known as Shiddha Chal. 

Parboiled rice, Image Source: Shutterstock

Isn't she rustic? Calcutta University's Mausumi Banerjee Saha, who has extensively studied the concept of "prasad," makes special notice of it. Compared to conventional white rice, this one is simpler to prepare, less sticky, and higher in B vitamins, thiamine, niacin, calcium, potassium, fibre, and protein. 

 Ragi Koozh and Keppai Kali

Ragi Koozh, Image Source: kaarasaaram

In the South, ragi, red millet, is revered as the goddess's preferred cuisine. Mariamman is described as a Kali incarnation. Ragi Koozh, or ragi porridge balls, is a typical "prasadham" in many Mariamman temples in Tamil Nadu. Koozhu, also known as Keppai Kali or just Kali, is a poor man's food: affordable, nutritious, cooling, and high in iron, vitamin B, protein amino acids, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. No celebration of the goddess is complete without ladies preparing ragi porridge in the temples and giving those to the underprivileged. Ragi porridge is a staple food in farming areas.

It remains unclear what she really enjoys eating or what are her favourite foods? But she is the goddess of valour and protects her devotees.