Here’s Why Bengalis Refrain From Eating Ber Fruit Before Vasant Panchami

As we get ready to embrace the spring season this year, we know it’s time for us to welcome and worship the goddess of learning. Saraswati Puja or Vasant Panchami is the spring festival of India and is celebrated to worship Goddess Saraswati. The festival is celebrated with pomp and fervour around the country on the fifth day (panchami) of the month Magh according to the Hindu calendar.

As a kid, I always used to eagerly wait for this festival, the main reason behind being the vast assortment of delicious delights exclusive to this festival. From boondi laddoo to kanika and rasgulla, my Odia household used to zing with the aroma of some moreish delicacies that I have always loved. However, when I moved to Delhi, my worst fear of missing out on the delicious treats got real. Seeing the same, one of my Bengali friends invited me to her home for a feast. Along with some of the exclusive foods that are common to both Odia and Bengali cultures, such as rasgullas and khichdi/khichuri, I came across another ritual of offering the goddess jujube fruit. Upon asking the reason behind the ritual, her grandmother mentioned that Bengalis are barred from eating the fruits before Vasant Panchami.

As my friend’s grandmother continued telling us the story, her mother served us the platter comprising labra (mixed vegetable), khichuri, payesh, beguni and a delicious sweet and sour kul chutney. Grandma reminded my friend how she was told that eating ber fruit before Saraswati Puja would fetch her poor grades. That was just a tactic to refrain her from eating the delicious winter fruit. It is deeply strewn in Hindu mythology that ber fruit is one of the favourite foods of the goddess. As she blesses the earth with the spring bounties, ber fruit becomes an eminent part of it too. As a part of the custom, Bengalis offer ber fruit to the goddess on Vasant Panchami before the mere mortals could devour them. This custom is rooted in the belief of paying a tribute to the goddess in the form of offering her the initial bounties of the fruits.

The fruits are served as a part of naivedya in Bengali homes on Saraswati Puja and chutneys or pickles made out of it are also served in the community feasts. In addition to this, a ber fruit is balanced on top of earthen pots filled with raw milk (symbolic of ink) along with a reed pen immersed in it and these pots are placed before the goddess.

As Vasant Panchami is arriving in a few days, why don’t you try this delicious ber fruit and tomato chutney at home this year? Do let us know how you like it.