Kaali Puja Maha-Prasad - Niramish Mangsho And Pulao
Image Credit: Niramish mangsho maha-prasad | Instagram - @bongo_lawlona

Diwali is one of the major festivals of the country. Most parts of India celebrate this festival in their own ways, which may be unique, but the festive fervour remains the same. It is the festival of lights, the celebration of the wealth, prosperity and happiness. Growing up in a Bengali household, Diwali was a little different for me. Of course, I was as excited for all the crackers and lights and diyas and rangolis as the other kids were, but for my parents, that is not where the Diwali night stopped – it was where the celebrations actually started.

The main point of interest for any Bengali during this time of the year is Kaali pujo. While mostly people worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha, we have a custom of worshipping Goddess Kaali. And mostly, the main ceremony would be held late at night. By the time the pujo would wrap up, it would be way past midnight. So, for me Diwali was a of of things at the same time – crackers to maha-pradeep, rangoli to alpona and soan-papdi to bhog.

Taking care of one of the main Kali Mandirs of Ranchi, our family hosts a a grand Kaali pujo. Now, one of the most interesting things about Kaali pujo is the unique bhog prasad that is offered to Maa Kaali and her devotees. After the late-night completion of the Mahakali pujo, I remember all of us cousins eagerly waiting for our favourite prasad. It consisted of a unique preparation called Niramish Mangsho, along with slightly sweet Bengali pulao and chholar dal. Even at 3AM in the morning, there would be devotees queuing up at the prangan of our mandir, waiting patiently to get a dona full of pulao-mangsho prasad. This has become one of the main core memories of my childhood.

Coming to the niramish mangsho, it is the sacrificial meat dish, prepared with mutton without onions or garlic. It is the main prasad that is offered to Goddess Kaali. Some places have animal sacrifice during the Mahakaali pujo, while other temples refrain from doing so. In our family temple, the head priest, who also my eldest uncle or Jethu, makes the niramish mangsho himself. Referred to as the maha-prasad, it takes several hours to cook. My jethu has always made the maha-prasad himself for as long as he has been the head priest, the responsibility which was earlier carried by my grandfather. The sweet pulao and chholar dal go perfectly well with this niramish mangsho, which is pretty spicy because of the lack of the sweetness that usually comes with onions.

Niramish mansho and pulao might not be the most conventional prasad offered to Goddess during pujo, but it is one of the main norms in many Bengali, Odiya and even Assamese households and temples. It is this diversity which makes India special and all our festivals so vibrant for all parts of this culturally diverse country.