Our ancestors have always emphasized on fasting for every festivals. Traditional joint families are rare entities in metro cities these days, and if we shift our eyes from metros to small cities and then to villages, there number would tend to increase in that particular order. In fact most of the homes in rural Bengal are all traditional joint families.
The main lady of the house and the gentleman of the house have bigger responsibility of enduring all the rituals and to an extent making it sure that it should be passed on to younger generations as well.
I have been getting a lot of search queries past these years about the food to be eaten on Shashti Brato which include- Neel Shashti, Ashok Shashti and Durga Pujo Shashti.
I don’t claim them to be accurate but generally these basic principles are observed while following these Broto/fast in traditional Bengali Home.
Talking about fast , Shashti Brato/fast is the main fasting ritual of married Bengali ladies and specifically blessed with children.
As Durga Puja is coming near, Bengali married ladies will be observing their Shashti Brato.
- Menu is driven basically on a fact that anything which is cooked with rice flour or has rice is not eaten. Menu is purely vegetarian. That means not even fish – a staple Bengali favorite.
- Any thing which is burnt or charred is not eaten which includes rotis/ bread /toast and also all the oven baked vegetables as that equals being charred or burnt. However all the fried things like Luchi and paratha generally can be eaten.
- Sprouts are healthy option if you want to snack in between. Onions and garlic, sometimes even ginger is a strict no in case of a Shashti food menu. Seasonal fruits and juices however are integral part.
- Sweets and fruits are offered to Goddess on 6 Th day of Durga Pujo.
- Yogurt /dahi /doi is very essential.
- Scientifically Yogurt has this soothing effect on stomach as after a rigorous fasting routine our body releases many digestive enzymes which may turn harmful to our body otherwise as stomach is devoid of any food. Yogurt helps in reducing the acidity formed due to fasting.
- A plate of freshly fried luchis and cholar dal ( sans onion/garlic/ginger tempering and garam masala tempering) begun bhaja is considered edible as far as Shashti Menu is considered for a typical Bengali home.
- Menu for Neel shahsti and Ashok Shashti remains the same. Both these shashti is slated on the other nabaratri –the nabaratri which ends with Ramanabami in the month of April which also coincides with Poila Boishak or Bengali New Year.
- Neel shashti- which is actually a fast related to Lord Shiva, as at the end of the day precisely at Suryasta or in the evening, puja offerings are made to Lord Shiva to seek his blessings for the well being of entire family, children specially.Milk, sweets and , Trumpet Flower -Dhatura Phool/Akondo Phol and Calotropis - Akando phol , and trident leaves of Bael tree are offered to Lord Shiva.
Kali Pujo Brato-
- A very strenuous fasting ritual. Some even don’t drink water or eat any food on this day.
- While for a easy ritual stick to basics of having seasonal fruits, milk or lentils/Sprouts, even boiled vegetables can also be eaten.
- This fast is broken at midnight at nearby Kalibari (abode of Ma Kali or Ma Kali temple) with 5 types of different seasonal fruits and sweets as offerings and a long Jabaphol’er mala or China rose flower necklace. Many a times some cults are also associated with it. But let’s not go into those details.
Lakshmi pujo Brato-
- A fasting ritual on Lakshmi Puja, the 8th day after Vijayadashmi.In the evening “Lakhi Brato Kotha” a mythological and sacred story is read and all the bhog is offered to Goddess Lakshmi.
- The menu for the Bhog is purely vegetarian –
- A dal preferably Cholar Dal, aloo phulkopir torkari, payesh, chatni and some dry fruits like roasted cashews and Chirey/poha with til candies/white sesame seeds candies or some white sugar candies and Batasha is offered as bhog to Goddess.
- Entire house is swept clean before this Puja.And entrance to every door in rooms and the main entrance of the house are decorated with Goddess Lakshmi‘s symbolic footprints. These are made from a thick paste of grounded rice. I remember making many “alponas” on every Lakshmi Puja in our paternal home with balls of soft cottons dipped in this paste and then going along with the free flow of creativity.
- The person, who is cooking the food which is “bhog”, should be clean, must be on a strict fast and should have proper bath prior to cooking, should also wear clean and washed clothes. He/she should not taste the food while preparing it as this will mean its “entho” meaning food is not appropriate or pure for Goddess as bhog.This principle stands for every bhog that is prepared which includes the Saptami and Ashtami Bhog during Durga Pujo as well.
- Ekadashi Brato is a Folahaar Brato meaning only fresh seasonal fruits are eaten, not even anything related to flour/rice/pulses/legumes if I am not wrong. However there is always better to balance things while folowing any ritual.This fast is very pious and strict.
- This happens twice in every month as there are two ekadashi in every Bengali month I guess.
There are other Brato as well like Shibratri Brato and Janamashtami Brato as well.
- Fruits and sweets, milk and Dahi is part of food menu.
- Apart from that a special flour “Singhare ka atta” is used to make a sweet halva as bhog to Lord Shiva on Shibratri at my parental home.
I have tried to include all details as per best of my knowledge about these fasting, however if anything is left, do let me know if there are other fasting rituals as well.
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