Bengalis celebrate this day (first full moon after the Mahalaya), as kojagori Lakshmi puja. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped as the deity of wealth, prosperity and happiness. Since my childhood I have seen her seated on a lotus holding a bunch of paddy in one hand and a lotus in another. Lakshmi puja is celebrated in every house in Bengal. Home made sweets and savouries are offered to the goddess. Narkel naru (coconut balls), til-er naru (sweet sesame balls), khoi, murki have been associated with this puja.
Picture courtsey : http://onefinalblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/lakshmi-ganesh.jpg
Ladies decorate their house with the traditional Bengali floor painting (alpona).
My childhood memories of this day is a collage of several family members coming together to make one yearly celebrated event. My grandmother (thakuma) used to fry the rice in an earther skillet. To our amazement, the rice would puff into white khoi. My mother would clean the house and draw the beautiful alpona. My aunts would cut fruits and prepare prasad. And in the evening, the entire family would gather together to listen to “Lokkhir Panchali”.
Any auspicious occasion in the Bengali calendar doesn’t go without payesh (kheer/payasam). Payesh, also known as paramanna, is offered as prasad. This is perhaps the only recipe that is prepared in almost every region in India. Simple rice pudding, served as dessert on any occasion.
My father makes awesome Payesh. This time wasn’t any different. His years of experience in making this all time favourite, showed in the taste and consistency. This time he added camphor instead of the cardamom to give it the awesome prasad like aroma.
What you need:
- Milk – 500ml
- Gobindobhog rice (Jeera rice in Bangalore) – 50gm
- Sugar – 100gm (5-6 tbspn)
- Cashew, raisin and other dry fruits according to choice
- Cardamom powder – pinch (2-3 crushed cardamom will also do)
How to make Payesh:
- Wash the rice and keep aside
- Boil milk in a heavy bottom container.
- When the milk starts boiling , add sugar and dissolve well.
- Add the rice and dry fruits and keep stirring occasionally. Check to see if the rice is cooked and soft.
- Add cardamom powder and stir well to incorporate the smell. If you use crushed cardamom, add it to the boiling milk to allow the cardamom to release its aroma.
- Try a pinch of camphor instead of cardamom to get a different taste.
- Gur (jaggery), nolen gur can be used instead of sugar to get a more traditional and authentic bengali flavour (recipe awaited in winter, since the nolen gur is seasonal).