Saraswati Puja 2024: Why Bengalis Don't Eat Ber Before The Puja

Ber or Indian jujube plays an important role in Basant Panchami celebrations in the east, especially during Saraswati Puja. In Bengali and Odia cultures especially, ber, which is also known as ‘kul’ is one of the most common fruits to be included in the offerings to the goddess. Kul is a small, reddish tart berry; it has a soft, fleshy body and is deemed as goddess Saraswati’s favourite fruit. 

In Bengali and Odia homes, kul is offered to the Goddess as part of the 'naivedya' and its use extends to a more ritualistic use as well. Students are encouraged to fill small earthen pots with milk and place them in front of the goddess with a reed pen on the side and a single kul on top, which serves as a symbol of wisdom and education. 

It is common for elders to warn youngsters to steer clear of the fruit before Saraswati Pujas; since Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom and is widely worshipped by students and youngsters, they are often warned by elders that eating ber before they have been offered to the goddess Saraswati may earn them bad grades. This is what led to the common rule that Bengali and Odia children are urged to follow during this season.

Priyanka Nath, a researcher points out that Saraswati isn’t the only deity that ber is associated with. The Indian jujube is also named among Shiva’s favourite fruits and is offered to him on Maha Shivratri, though the most common reference to ber is found in Ramayana, in the chapter about Shabari. The story talks about an older ascetic woman who is visited by Lord Ram and Lakshman and offers them half-eaten ber. Though a sceptical Lakshman stops Ram from eating the ber, Ram consumes the ber as the half-eaten ber were proof of Shabari’s devotion to Ram, since she had bitten each ber to check if they were ripe enough

Hindu mythology, especially Vedic Literature has several references to the jujube including the Brahmanas and Samhitas and later in Sutra literature. Nath shares that in Valmiki’s Ramayana, too ber which is also known as ‘badari’ or ‘badri’ has been mentioned in the chapter where Ram performs his father’s last rites. Ram offers the pressed pulp of the Ingudi tree mixed with Badari fruits on the Dharba grass during Dasarath’s funeral near the Mandakini river.

Ber, The Superfruit

Ayurvedic texts like the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita mention different kinds of jujube fruits, depending on wild or domesticated variants. Indian jujube has plenty of medicinal virtues and has been long used to make pickles and preserves.

The Charaka Samhita, one of the principal contributors to Ayurveda, lists ber as a fruit that can be a part of several different cures and can help heal haemorrhoids and hair fall. Malabar spinach soured with 'badara' or ber can be used to heal haemorrhage, whereas ber fruit powder and its leaves can control hair fall when applied on the scalp directly.

Another formulation in Charaka Samhita prescribes ghee cooked with a decoction of kola and lac, 'eight times milk and paste of aralu, dáruharidrá (bark) and kutaja ( bark and fruit)' to treat chest wounds. 

Indian jujube is a low-calorie fruit which is a great source of dietary fibre and vitamins A, C and B. “There’s a reason uncooked versions of kul are more popular in Bengali tradition than cooked versions. A ‘makha’ or a crushed kul er achaar or a kul-tomato chutney are very popular during this season. I used to include kul er achaar in my seasonal menu. However, I would say that for some it’s an acquired taste. It has some strong tarty notes and if you haven’t experienced it before or grown up around it, the sour flavour may not work for you,” shares Purnima Sharma, a Noida-based home chef.

If you want to make a home-style ber ka achaar at home, follow this simple recipe:


250 grams of fresh jujubes (kul)

2 tablespoons mustard oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)

1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)

2-3 dry red chilies

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional, for extra tanginess)


Wash the jujubes (kul) thoroughly under running water. Pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Remove the stems from the jujubes and cut them into halves or quarters, depending on their size. Remove any seeds if they are large and hard.

Heat mustard oil in a pan or kadhai over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, and dry red chilies. Let them splutter and sizzle for a few seconds.

Add turmeric powder and red chili powder to the oil. Stir well to combine the spices with the oil.

Add the chopped jujubes (kul) to the pan. Mix them well with the spices so that they are evenly coated.

Add salt and sugar to the jujubes. Mix well.

Cook the jujubes over low to medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The jujubes should soften slightly, but they should still retain some crunch.

Once the jujubes are cooked, turn off the heat and let the pickle cool down to room temperature.

Once cooled, transfer the kul er achaar to a clean, dry glass jar or airtight container.

Optionally, you can add lemon juice for extra tanginess. Mix well.

Allow the pickle to mature for a day or two before consuming. This will allow the flavors to develop and meld together.

Serve kul er achaar alongside rice, roti, paratha, or any other main