Kali Pujo And The Bengali Ritual Of Eating Choddo Shaak
Image Credit: Choddo Shaak, Image Source: Instagram

Born in a Bengali family, I grew up with memories of celebrating Diwali as Kali Pujo. As soon as the Durga puja gets over, it is followed by Bijoya. So, there is never a dull period. I remember, a couple of days before Diwali, a bag full of firecrackers would arrive home. With them, there would be earthen lamps or prodeep or diya. My sister and I would be assigned to clean the diya and prepare them with greased home-rolled wicks made from cotton. But one of the fascinating parts used to be on the day before Diwali, called Bhoot Chaturdashi. Apart from lighting up 14 lamps, symbolically honouring 14 forefathers, this day would entail the preparation of Choddo Shaak. Often leafy veggies aren't liked by children. But the stories intertwined with Choddo Shaak or 14 types of fresh greens or leafy vegetables were intriguing enough to develop a taste for it. 

As passed on by the elders in her family, my mother used to narrate why we should follow this ritual. On the fourteenth day of Krishna Paksha, Bhoot Chaturdashi occurs. The veil between the two realms (worlds) becomes thin on this day. The 14 lamps positioned throughout the house help our 14 ancestors guide them when they come to see their living descendants. Since the veil has thinned, it has also opened the door for malevolent presence to make rounds on earth, causing suffering. The 14 greens help one develop internal immunity and protect them from all forms of evil, while the forefathers drive away the ghouls.

Listening to these stories, I would help my mother clean the greens and vegetables to cook Choddo Shaak. 

Here is the recipe!

Choddo Shaak


14 edible greens usually have mustard greens or shorshe shaak, radish greens, Malabar spinach or pui shaak, spinach greens, red greens or lal shaak, fenugreek green or methi shaak, bottle gourd greens or lau shaak, margosa leaves, kumro or pumpkin greens, Ol kopi shak or German turnip leaves, patal pata or pointed gourd leaves, buffalo spinach or helencha shaak, bhant pata or hill glory bower, and kochu shaak. However, one can substitute the greens with some other available options. 

  • 2 cups of 14 greens 
  • 1/2 cup white radish,
  • 1/2 cup brinjal (diced)
  • 2 tsp kalo jeera or black cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp chopped green chillies
  • 5 whole red chilli 
  • 10-15 musoor dal bori or red lentil sun-dried dumplings
  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar 

Bengali choddo shaak, Image Source: Bengaligourmet


  1. Chop or coarsely hand-crush the 14 greens
  2. Wash and clean all the greens to remove the dirt with clean water
  3. Transfer them to a colander to drain the water
  4. Peel, wash the radish and cut it lengthwise to make small cubes or juillians
  5. Dice the brinjal and wash it with water
  6. Heat mustard oil in a wok
  7. Fry the bari or dumplings on low flame and take them out on a plate. Keep the aside
  8. In the same oil, fry the red chillies till they turn crispy. Take out four.
  9. Now add the black cumin or nigella seeds and green chill. Let them splutter
  10. Add the radish and cook for two minutes
  11. Blend in the brinjal cubes and add salt to taste
  12. Cook for a couple of minutes, and add the greens
  13. Add the greens and some more salt to taste, and give a thorough stir
  14. Add sugar to taste
  15. Cover the wok and cook for a few minutes, keeping the heat on a low flame
  16. Remove the lid and stir well to ensure the veggies and greens are cooked evenly
  17. Fry for another 5-6 minutes until the veggies become tender and get mushy. Don't cover it
  18. Add the bori and give all the ingredients a thorough mix
  19. Switch off the stove

The delicious dish is ready to be served with rice.

Charaka Samhita 

We must consume edible green herbs, claims the "Charaka Samhita." It enables us to break free from the pull of "Kartik," the Bengali pre-winter month. Every entrance leading to the residence of Yam, the God of Death, is left open throughout the Kartika season.