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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rituals of Durga Puja and A Traditional Bengali Sweet ~ Narkel Totki or Coconut Sandesh

        Hurray!!!! It's finally the time of the year, all bengalis(the natives of eastern part of Indian state, West Bengal) can't wait for. It's Durga Puja, the most important festival of bengalis, the worship of Maa Durga, the divine power. It is worshiped in the Autumn(in bengali "sharat") season. When you see the golden sunshine, fluffy white clouds allover the blue sky and the mild fragrance of 'Shiuli phool' , then you know that autumn has arrived. Every bengali, no matter which part of the world a bengali might be in, awaits for this time of the year, to be with their families and can't wait for long 'adda'(chat) sessions with families and friends.

The rituals of Durga Puja
         Once a year, in the autumnal month of ASHWIN(English month Sep-Oct), She, Goddess Durga comes on earth, together with her four children, Ganesh, Laxmi, Kartik and Saraswati, and enjoys all the love and attention lavished on her. Seven days before Her arrival starts the Devipaksha. The day is known as ‘Mahalaya’. On the dawn of ‘Mahalaya’, every homes in Bengal listen to the enchanting voice of Late Birendra Krishna Bhadra, who recite hymns from the scriptures of Devi Chandi(Chandipath). Thousands offer prayers to their ancestors at the city's river (Ganga) banks, a ritual called 'Tarpan'. The inauguration of the Goddess idol('Devi Bodhon) starts on MahaShasthi, on the 6th day from Mahalaya. Unveiling the face of the idol is the main ritual on this day.            MahaSaptami is the first day of Durga puja. The second and most important day is MahaAstami. Kumari puja, the worship of a little girl as the mother goddess is a special part of mahaastami puja. Another important ritual is Sandhi Puja, that means the end of Mahaastami and the beginning of Maha Navami. The main MahaNavami puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. All three days, devotees come to the puja pandals (the place where goddess is worshipped, a special kind of tent with lots of decorations and lightings) to offer Anjali to the goddess and take her blessings. Dashami, the last day of the puja, when she starts on her journey back to her husband's place in the mountain of Kailash. With a heavy heart bengalis immerse the clay idol of goddess in the sacred Ganges saying her goodbye and start counting days for the next year when 'Maa' will come again to us.
"Sindur Khela" is a major part of Dashami puja. Married women first apply vermillion to goddess before she is immersed and take her blessings and then they apply to each other.

                                                    [Pic Source : Google image]
After the immersion, bengalis greet each other with sweets and men follow the customary 'Kolakuli'(embracing each other).

                                                 [Pic Source : Google Image]

     Unfortunately, this festival lasts for only four days but in these four days, bengalis enjoy and live fully. Afterall, it's a celebration of family reunion, celebration of good food and celebration of lots of happiness...... HAPPY PUJA GREETINGS to all the bangalis allover the world...I wish Maa bless you all and answer all your prayers.........

Today as I write this post, I am very happy as today is Mahalaya, today starts our most favorite festival, Durga Puja. To celebrate this special day, I prepared some sweet for my family.

  Narkel Totki or Coconut Sandesh is my most favorite sweet of all. This sweet is my weakness, anyone can blackmail me for this sweet and I'll surrender, I'm admitting. If you want to serve something different and impress your guests, try this, they'll become your fan. The most fantastic fact about this sweet is it's very easy to make. Grinded Coconut cooked with sweet condensed milk in very low flame to get a very smooth texture and then moulded into a shape. I have used a traditional Sweet or sandesh mould to make this, which we call "chachh/mould". But one can make this sweet without these moulds and can give any shape or sizes. This sweet is often called by the name of "Chandrapuli", when it is shaped like a half moon.
Now let's move on to the recipe ........................
You Need :(makes about 15 sandesh)
Fresh Coconut : 1, big
Sugar : 1/3 cup
Condensed milk : 1/3 cup
Green cardamoms : 3-4 pcs, take out seeds and crush them fine
Pistachios : few, finely chopped
Saffron strands : few(optional)
Ghee : a little, to grease the moulds if using

How To :
  • Grate the coconut, then make a smooth paste of coconut and sugar in a blender.
  • Heat a non-stick pan, pour the coconut-sugar paste and start stirring the paste in a very low flame, do not let the coconut change its colour. 
  • After 7-8 minutes of cooking, add the condensed milk into it and in low flame, mix it well with coconut paste. Cook for another 5 minutes. When you see the whole thing is coming together and the texture is dry yet little sticky, it's done. Take a little portion of coconut paste in your hand and check if you can form a ball, if you can, then it's ready to remove from flame.
  • Add crushed cardamom powder in the mix and give it a good stir to mix well. Remove on a greased plate and let it cool a little. After some time, when it has cooled down a little, it's time to give it a shape, otherwise the coconut paste will become dry.
  • If you are not using a mould, then give it a round or square shape or any shape you want to. If you are using a mould, grease the mould first with a drop of ghee, then sprinkle little chopped pistachios and saffron strands and a little portion from coconut paste to cover fully the moulds surface. Then press with your hand to give it a shape of the mould. Wait a minute, then with a pointy knife, pull a corner of the sandesh and then carefully take out the whole sandesh. Place it over a greased plate and let it cool.
  • Make other sandesh same way with rest of the coconut paste. It will harden more when ti cools. 
  • Serve or store them in an air-tight container and keep in the refrigerator. It'll fine for few weeks in the refrigerator.

Here is another way, My blogger friend, Sayantani of A Homemaker's Diary has made Narkel Totki, check out her recipe here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014 / by / 3 Comments


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