Thursday, 24 October 2013
A friend recently asked me how we, Bengalis, celebrate Vijaya Dashami or Bijoya, as we call it. The fourth day of Durga puja is called Dashami. That is the day that the Goddess Durga, along with her four children returns home to Kailash. The despondence felt from bidding adieu to the Goddess and her family soon turns into another round of feasting as we wish each other Shubho Bijoya.
Traditionally Bijoya was celebrated by youngsters touching the feet of elders, receiving their blessings and eating sweets. The men folk usually also hug each other thrice in what is known as kola-kuli. (Something that I’ve also observed Muslim men do while wishing each other on Id) Friends usually wish each other by saying Shubho Bijoya.
As a child, I remember being told that this exchange of wishes can continue till Kali puja / Diwali and no longer. So, during this time, from the last day of Durga puja till a day prior to Kali puja, we would visit all elders in the family. Our main attraction here was the food & we refused to go to those places where the food didn’t meet our expectations the year before. Needless to say, my Ma dragged us to these places too. J Relatives and friends used to visit us too. So right after the pujas, Ma used to get busy making mutton chops (that’s cutlets, for the unaware, because we have something else that we call cutlet), fish chops, fish fry etc. because although traditionally sweets were the only thing served at Bijoya, the Bong palate was dulled by only sweets and needed some savouries too. When the pre-made savouries got over, Ma made egg roll or moghlai paratha (a paratha stuffed with an egg + mutton keema mixture) or chicken roll. At our house, the sweets served were usually store bought. Some of our relatives and friends also made delicious sweets at home like the narkel naru (coconut laddoos made with jaggery), narkel khaja (a coconut sweet made with sugar … used to be so juicy inside) and such other sweets.
I always loved to eat and hence was disappointed at some relatives who served me half the portions of what they served my Ma & Dada (elder bro) because I was a child. Humph !!! So you see, Bijoya to me & most Bongs meant a time of continued feasting after Durga puja. A huge part of Bijoya also meant that we, especially the children, visited every house in our para (locality), touched the elders’ feet and took their blessings and of course, gorged on the delicacies prepared at their home.
When I started working and moved away from Kolkata, Bijoya meant writing letters to all elders, sending them my regards and also writing to close friends to greet them. Slowly, as STD rates started falling and cell phones made their way into our lives, Bijoya meant calling up elders and conveying regards over the phone and sending SMS-es to friends. Today, even those who stay in Kolkata don’t visit each other anymore. Greetings are usually exchanged on the phone and we, who stay away from Kolkata, wish our friends, not only through SMS-es but also on WhatsApp. J