If you find someone passionately talking about food, sports and politics, just be sure, he is a Bengali. Bengali community members reside in every part of India. Though originally belonging to the eastern part of India, many factors have contributed in the geographical shift to other regions. The division of Bengal and work related are two important factors for the spread of Bengali community. Bengali community members are found in almost all the cities and towns of India and the world. It is jokingly said about the community that go anywhere in the world and you will definitely find a Bengali settled there. Such is the strong presence of Bengali.
New Delhi, the capital of India, is home to a huge Bengali community. Chittaranjan Park, the locality is commonly known as mini Bengal. Visit the locality in any time of the day and you will find Bengali chatter. This is the Bastion of the Bengali Bhadralok community. Meet any Bengali residing in Delhi and you will hear the familiar answer. Chittaranjan Park is also known as CR Park or fondly as Chitto Park. This locality was earlier known as East Pakistan Displaced Persons Colony. During the division of Bengal and creation of Bangladesh, mostly the Hindu community members of Bengal from then eastern Bengal came and settled in this locality. This locality was part of the Government’s project to rehabilitate the Bengali. Over the years, this place changed into microcosm of the state of Bengal. So, it a familiar sight to find Bengali shopping for fish or enjoying the evening snacks in the various stalls.
People from Bengal coming to Delhi find this locality the best alternative. The surroundings, the familiar accent and the food make one feel at home. Even those, who cannot afford to rent a property in this locality (this is one of the posh areas of Delhi and property prices are steep) visit this locality for the monthly grocery shopping. Staying in other locations of Delhi, Bengali come to CR Park for the Bengali rice, lentils and food items. Even Bengali living in the neighboring regions of Delhi, in Gurgaon, Faridababd and Noida throng this locality for food and other Bengali items. Typical Bengali items like kashondi (Bengal style mustard sauce) and leafy vegetables (koi shaag, kolmi shaag) eaten in commonly in Bengal are available here. The local shopping centers selling all things Bengali makes this place reminiscent of the home state. During the Bengali Matrimony occasions, these shops have all the necessary items required. The shop owners are just like their counterparts from the state of Bengal. The shops are shut in the afternoon, after afternoon siestas are opened in the evening for the next round of business.
Moreover, why just the shopping centers and the people; even the houses in CR Park has similarity of design and structure found commonly in Bengal. The houses, individual houses or apartments have trees of shuili, bel and jova. The residential sections give the first time visitor a Bengali ethos.
The residents of CR Park still follow the Bengali rules and customs when it comes to weddings. Bengali Matrimony functions in this locality of Delhi still have the same rituals as happens in the state of Bengal. Even the festivals of Bengal are celebrated with the same fervor and the mood is all Bangla.
The most tragic thing about Bangla (Bengali) literature today is the absence of information about it in Internet. Internet is the biggest place for information and millions of people are browsing for information and entertainment everyday. If you do a search in Google about Bangla (Bengali) literature you will have to feel frustrated. Except Wikipedia and Bangla (Bengali)pedia there are not a lot of information about Bangla (Bengali) literature. This is ia tragic matter because Bangla (Bengali) literature is one of the richest literatures in the world. Rabindranath Tagore, the greatest figure in Bangla (Bengali) literature got Nobel Prize in 1913 and he was the first writer from outside of Europe and America to get this prestigious prize.
Tagore’s achievement did not take place all of a sudden. Rather it came after 100 years of modernization and reformation process in Bangla (Bengali) literature that started with Rammohan Roy, the father of Indian reformation movement. It was Ram Mohan Roy who realized the need to reform the Indian society and embracing the liberal and positive aspects of the western civilization. A little later Michael Madhusudan Dutt turned this concept into reality in to Bangla (Bengali) literature by introducing sonnet and blank verse. Thus social reformation and modernization in literature occurred hand by hand in Bengal. The ground was prepared for Tagore to come and shine in the world literature.
It is true that Tagore almost single-handedly elevated Bangla (Bengali) literature to become one of the richest literatures in the contemporary world. Tagore’s achievement made every Bengali writer proud and it created a new enthusiasm for them. After Tagore got Nobel Prize in 1913 the golden age of Bangla (Bengali) literature started and for the next 30 years it continued with a handful of writers in every genre. Kazi Nazrul Islam excelled in writing poems about social justice and he also successfully used both Hindu and Muslim heritage in his poems. It was in his poems that the idea of unity between Muslims and Hindus was echoed again and again. Sharatchandra emerged as the most popular novelist in Bangla (Bengali) literature. His novels touched people from every background in the society and still today his novels are most widely read in Bangla (Bengali) literature. Jibananda Das caught the attention of the readers for writing poems about nature and Bibhutibhushon Banerje did the same in prose in Bangla (Bengali) literature.
History of Bangla (Bengali) literature is more than 1200 years old and among the modern Indian languages (belonging to the Indic branch of Indo-European language Familiy) Bangla (Bengali) literature is among the earliest literatures. The first text of Bangla (Bengali) literature Charyapada was written perhaps in 9th or 8th century. This book is a collection of songs and poems written by a number poets (mainly Budhists). The poems contained description of everyday social life instead of praise to gods or goddesses. The most fascinating aspect of Bangla (Bengali) literature is that poets and writers from 4 religions have contributed in its development. Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian writers have their contributions in Bangla (Bengali) literature and Bangla (Bengali) literature has been enriched from these religions too. The presence and interaction among the poets of different religions have made Bangla (Bengali) literature a literature of liberal humanism. Bangla (Bengali) literature influenced its speakers so much that in 1952 Bangla (Bengali)deshi people sacrificed their blood against the Pakistani rulers to uphold the status of Bangla (Bengali).
Food is an important part of the “Bong” identity. History has weaved an intimate relationship between Bengalis and good food and this closeness reverberates through their weddings. No matter if you choose to go traditional or contemporary, here is a guide to set an impressive menu for your Bengali wedding.
What has changed?
Until a few years back most Bengali matrimony celebrations retained the original recipes of conventional dishes thus offering a chance to indulge into the real Bong treat. With urbanisation influencing every aspect of our lives, wedding dinners have also added a modern twist to the dishes and the way of serving dinner.
Traditionally in Bengali weddings food is served on plantain leaves and water in the rustic terracotta tumblers. Exotic buffet dinners are now rapidly replacing this tradition in most weddings.
The traditional Bengali menu
A traditional Bengali menu brings together the flavours of the Indian spices wrapped in interesting combinations. The rice with Moong Dhal is a staple in all Bengali weddings. The first round of serving starts with Shukto, a common household food in West Bengal. The dish is an assortment of vegetables that is seasoned to a slight bitter taste.
The main purpose of this dish is to clean the palate and ensure the upcoming treat is enjoyed to the fullest. This is followed by a list of other Bengali home delicacies such as channa dhal (a stew made of pulses), aloo bhajja (fried potato strips), and Phool kopi (potato and cauliflower mix) and beguni sliced aubergine fried with chick pea batter.
The modern Bengali spread
Contemporary weddings serve glamorous dishes that retain the traditional flavours with even better garnishing and presentation. Food counters serving Naan, Phulka, Pulao with an interesting array of both vegetarian and non vegetarian sides from the Bengali cuisine makes the reception dinner magnificent and outstanding. Traditional sweets are replaced by ice creams and gulab jamuns. Well decorated salad bars serving different kinds of salads, snacks and Tandoori dishes are becoming popular in Bengali weddings.
The love for fish
The Bengali love for fish is well renowned. However it is just not the fish but an entire range of non vegetarian Bengali dishes that must be a part of a wedding reception to ensure that you have satisfied the palates of all your guests. The Bhetki machar, Hilsha machar jhol, Koi Kalia, and Chingris are the popular seafood delicacies of West Bengal. Other popular non vegetarian dishes include Mutton Kabiraji (lamb cutlet), Dak Bungalow (lamb curry) and chicken cooked in tomato sauce and seasoned with poppy seeds.
Bengali desserts are loved by people of all states in India. No matter how elaborate and grand a wedding it is, it is only fair to serve these special desserts to the guests. The most popular desserts of West Bengal are Rasagullas, Rasa Malai, Sandesh and Jhola gur. The feast then comes to an end with a serving of the traditional pan.
Bengalis have an extreme love for food and a wedding is the best time to treat your friends and relatives to good food. Irrespective of the wedding style, it is recommended to retain the origin Bengali flavours to bring forth the true essence of the state’s rich culture and heritage.