"হল মধু মাসে বিয়া বাসর সাজাই মধু কলস দিয়া হলুদ চন্দন দিয়া চাঁদের নন্দন বরন করি গিয়া ধনপতির কইন্যা যে সোন্দর চাঁদের নন্দন জামাই লখিন্দর"
A piece of music is immense powerful than science, it can transmit to you at any time zone without a time machine. And there Bengal’s own folk songs are like Pied Piper of Hamelin (হ্যামিলিনের বাঁশিয়ালা), who has the power of a magician to create an old brownish vintage landscape of Bengal suddenly, in front of your eyes. And it may look as simple as the writing of Aban Thakur (Abanindranath Tagore), as colourful as Jamini Ray’s paintings or as nostalgic as your first reading of Sahaj Path. Suddenly you will feel a humming sound that has been trying to pamper your earholes. First, you couldn’t understand those lines but you will feel hypnotised. And then you feel the chorus is slowly coming towards you. At once, when you open your eyes, you found yourself beside a small pond in an unknown village in Bengal. As far as your eye can see just green and green like a description of Rupasi Bangla. Suddenly you found yourself in the month of ‘Shravan(August)’ and that humming sound is a chorus of Manasa Panchali which is sung by some village women who came there to participate in an old Bengali ritual called Manasa Bhasan.
After a long monotonous monsoon, when you suddenly find some white cotton ball clouds playing like small children in the garden of the black giant sky, that means in the Bengali calendar Bhadra(September) arrives. And Bengalis are already started counting for ‘Durga Puja’. Actually, the warm-up match starts from ‘Biswakarma Puja’, the official end of Bhadra. But we, Bengalis love to live with each other. So to see us Biswakarma shares his day with ‘Manasa’. And that created Bengal’s own traditional folk festival – “Ranna Pujo”. It’s basically a cooking festival, where interestingly cooking is done in Bhadra and that food is eaten in Ashwin. Since childhood, I was very disappointed because why this event wouldn’t have occurred place at my home. Now at this age, I can understand the festival has much other significance than cooking, making it our folk culture because it’s related to your lifestyle.
The Preparation Begins:
The preparation begins almost a month before the festival. The preparation is nothing but cleaning up the entire household. Starting from bedding to all the washable items in the house are washed and dried in sun. The floors of the house, doors and windows all are scrubbed and cleaned too. And all are going on throughout the entire month. It’s a part of preparation.
Science Behind Rituals:
Who says, science belongs to only books and institutes? Behind all our customs and rituals science is sitting like a monk. Here the scientific reason behind this festival is quite interesting. This festival is generally surrounded by the Folk Goddess Manasa ( মনসা বুড়ি ), who is a Goddess of snakes in Bengali mythology. And during monsoons especially in villages, this festival is usually celebrated by villagers. This time ponds get over-flooded and incidents of snakes entering houses are very often. Since most of these household kitchens have stoves or ovens made of mud. And snakes find those stoves ideal for hiding. Cleaning the whole house including the kitchen ensures that the house is free of snakes, rats and other animals. As the kitchens are always operational in most households, and the most likely places for snakes and rats, cleaning up the kitchen thoroughly ensures that hygiene is maintained.
The Final stage show:
No no no! This is not eating time. I know like me, you are also a responsible person. And like all of us, one of your primary duties in any invitation house is to recover your gift’s money on the food table. Wait for a little, we are almost on there, just the puja part is remaining. Now it’s all about to end of the cleaning process. The day before the puja, every article in the kitchen is removed and the kitchen is cleaned thoroughly. All utensils are cleaned before this puja. After taking a bath, the elderly woman in the family starts preparing for puja in front of the oven and by playing the ‘shank’ the gigantic preparation begins. And the process ends in also the same manner.
A looooooong List of Dishes:
If Gujraties has their thali then we Bengali’s have our Ranna Pujo items. Here preparation of food is not smaller than a war. The entire process starts almost from the afternoon and goes on till midnight. All the members of the house take part in this huge celebration and play their own role in the kitchen. This festival is nothing but a reunion of family members and their stories in the kitchen. Now keep ready with your pen and paper and gets into the menu part-
- Panta Bhat [cooked rice soaked and fermented in water ]
- Aloo Bhaja [ Potato Fry ]
- Begun Bhaja [ Bringle Fry ]
- Kanch Kola Bhaja [ Raw Banana Fry ]
- Potol Bhaja [ Pointed Gourd Fry ]
- Chichinge Bhaja [ Snake Gourd ]
- Kumro Bhaja [ Pumkin Fry ]
- Ilish Bhaja [ Hilsa Fry ]
- Aloo Kumror Torkari [ Mix Vegitable with Pumkin & Potato ]
- Dal Chochhori [ Dry Daal Curry ]
- Kochu Saker Torkari [ Taro Leaf Curry with Fish Head ]
- Lau Torkari [ Bottle gourd Curry ]
- Chaltar Chatni [ Elephant Apple Chatni ]
- Different Kind Of Pithas & goes on….
And all are served as a thali form –
On the day of the puja, Seven leaves from the Shapla flower is used to serve the bhog including all the items for the Osthonag deity (Manasa tree’s branch is used as the Oshtonag diety).
Once the puja and the rituals are completed food is served. Bengalis believe that if the Ranna puja is done well, Ma Manasa (Snake goddess) will be pleased with them and snakes will not cause any harm.
Special Thanks For Image: Anupam Mandal, Swagata Kayal Some Image Source for decoration: Pinterest Information: Aupam Mandal,Rajashree Biswas, Just About Everything & Aj Taak Bangla Blog Page Song: Bariwali Film by Rituparno Ghosh