The food served on this auspicious day in Bengal is a little different from that offered across North India.
Keeping in mind that India is a land of diverse regions and cultures, it’s no surprise that the food served during festivals also varies between states and sometimes even districts. Every food item on the thali has its own significance and reasons for popularity, and thus is different from the regular menus. In Bengal, for instance, the Mahashivratri thali comprises a lot of sweet items among others. Let’s take a look at the rituals and traditions practised in the state on this auspicious day.
The Fasting Tradition
The tradition of fasting on 16 Mondays for Lord Shiva and bathing the Shivalinga with milk or coconut water are among Bengal’s practices running for generations. The rules for fasting here are also different from the ones seen in other places of the country. Thanks to the availability of specific local ingredients, the food served during Mahashivratri fasts is also a bit uncommon.
Sweets And Local Foods
Sweet dishes are a primary component of Bengal’s Shivratri thalis. Among the top favourites are sweet potato kheer and sabudana kheer. Made in the evening before Shivratri, the desserts are an ode to Shiva’s marriage to Parvati. That night and next morning again sees fasting until the puja is complete. After that, women in Bengal break their no-water fast with a glass of batasha-soaked water. For this, simple red or jaggery-laced batashas are soaked in water, while a few drops of lemon drops are squeezed into the glass. This drink is a thirst quencher like nothing else. This is followed by a feast of fruit salad, deep-fried nimkis and some milk to calm the growling stomach. Next up on the Shivratri platter is luchi, pumpkin and black chana sabzi and some Bengali kheer or payesh as mentioned above. Cottage cheese or channar dalna is also a much-loved meal to go along with the luchis.
It’s All About Bel
The usual kuttu halwa and rajgira laddoos that are commonly found in most North Indian thalis during Shivratri are not found here. Another popular item preferred in most Bengali homes on Shivratri is the wood apple or bel. It is cut and eaten fresh with all its pulp and juice. A typical Shivratri drink, many people make a tall glass of juice out of bel too. Some North Indian homes have their thandai drinks as part of Shivratri tradition. In Bengal, it’s the bel.
A Fun Fast
Shivratri is a way to celebrate the age-old faith in the deity for his powerful facets. Girls and young women fast more for fun now than the intention to please the lord to bless them with a good husband or life partner. But when it comes to digging into an elaborate Shivratri food spread, no one shies away.
Satarupa B. Kaur has been writing professionally for a decade now. But, she is always on the go; she loves to travel, books, and playtime with her toddler as she explores new places and food!