Bardhaman: Gajan mela & Sita bhog

Bardhaman is a city of West Bengal state in eastern India. It is the headquarters of Bardhaman district. Bardhaman was a district capital of British India. Burdwan is an alternative name for the city, which remains in use since the British period. The history of Burdwan is known from about 5000 BC and belonging to the Mesolithic or Late Stone Age. The origin of this name dates back to the 6th century BCE and is ascribed to Vardhaman Swami or Mahavira (599-527 BCE), the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, who spent some time in Astikagrama, according to the Jain scripture of Kalpasutra. This place was renamed as Vardhamana in his honour.

During period of Jahangir this place was named Badh-e-dewan (district capital). The city owes its historical importance to being the headquarters of the Maharajas of Burdwan, the premier noblemen of lower Bengal. Bardhaman Raj was founded in 1657 by Sangam Rai, of a Hindu Khatri family of Kotli in Lahore, Punjab, whose descendants served in turn the Mughal Emperors and the British government. The East Indian Railway from Howrah was opened in 1855. The great prosperity of the raj was due to the excellent management of Maharaja Mahtab Chand (died 1879).

Mahtab Chand Bahadur and later Bijoy Chand Mahtab struggled their best to make this region culturally, economically and ecologically healthier. The chief educational institution was the Burdwan Raj College, which was entirely supported out of the maharaja’s estate. Sadhak Kamalakanta as composer of devotional songs and Kashiram Das as a poet and translator of the great Mahabharata were possibly the best products of such an endeavour. Pratap Chandra Roy was the publisher of the first translation in the world to translate Mahabharata in English (1883–1896).[3] The society at large also continued to gain the fruits. We find, among others, the great rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and Kala-azar-famed U. N. Brahmachari as the relatively recent illustrious sons of this soil. Batukeshwar Dutt an Indian revolutionary and independence fighter in the early 1900s was born on 18 November, 1910 in a village Oari in Burdwan district. He is best known for having exploded a few bombs, along with Bhagat Singh, in the Central Legislative Assembly in New Delhi on 8 April 1929. The city became an important center of North-Indian classical music as well.

One of the interesting and worth mentioning part of Burdwan is Gajan mela. During the end of the Bengali calendar, a folk festival of Lord Shiva is observed.  In kurmun palashi, a village in Burdwan district, it is a traditional festival for long time. The word gajan in Bengali comes from the word garjan or roar that sannyasis (hermits) emit during the festivities. Alternatively, the word gajan is considered a combination of parts of two words – ga is from the word gram meaning village and jan is from the word janasadharan meaning folk. In this sense gajan is a festival of village folk

It is a festival of the Hindus where they fast and celebrate the marriage ceremony of God Shiva with Parvati, the source of power in the universe. Devotees sing and dance with folk songs and perform various rituals to show their devotion. Devotees of Krishnsdebpur,  (Burdwan, Bengal, India) perform an unique show of mythological dance drama, roaming from home to home. This age old tradition has been abolished long time ago but Krishnadebpur is one of the few place in Bengal where the tradition has been maintained.

Worth mentioning classic delicacy of Burdwan is Sitabhog. On February 10, 1904, Viceroy Lord Curzon visited Burdwan to confer the title of maharaja on then king of Burdwan, Bijoy Chand Mahtab, says Niradabaran Sarkar, a historian of Burdwan.

To welcome Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, Curzon Gate, one of the popular tourist destination and historical place in Burdwan (Bardhaman) District,  was constructed by the Maharaja Bijoy Chandra Mahatab. This historical place is located near the main city.  Officially the name of this gate was Star Gate of India, but nowadays it is known as Bijoy Toran. This gate was structured by Italian architect and it is the perfect example of Indo-Italian architecture.

Bhairav Chandra Nag, a local sweet-maker, had made the sitabhog to mark the occasion.

Sitabhog is a cottage cheese or chhana and powdered rice are rolled into a dough. It is broken into tiny bits and fried in ghee, then soaked in sugar syrup. But Nowadays in West Bengal including Kolkata at each and every sweets shop you will find it. As the whole preparation is little difficult than other sweets so price wise its little costly too.

Ingredients:

1. Basmati Rice Flour: 500gms
2. Ghee: 100gms
3. Paneer Cheese: as Much Required
4. Sugar: 2 cups
5. Water: 2 cups
6. Saffron: 5-6 strings

For Nikhuti
1. Milk Powder: 2 cups
2. Maida: 1 cup
3. Soda-Bicarbonate: 3pinch
4. Ghee: 3 Spoons
5. Curd: As much Required

Method

1. In a Mixing Bowl add rice flour, Ghee as much required. Make smooth dough.
2. Add grated paneer cheez and mix well to make smooth dough. Keep aside for half an hour.
3. In another pan add water and sugar and put it into the oven, Heat until it makes a light syrup.
4. Add little saffron for flavor and color. Heat ghee in a deep frying pan. Now with a perforated Ladle prepared dough has to be strain like vermicelli into the Pan-Fry for sometimes then put it into the Syrup.
5. Keep 10-15 mins. And spread on the tray to make it cool.
6. For Nikhuti In a Mixing Bowl add Milk powder, Maida, Soda-Bicarbonate,3 spoons ghee and curd as Much required to make a dough.
7. Heat ghee in a deep frying pan.
8. In another pan add water and sugar and put it into the oven, Heat until it make a light syrup. Make small 15-20 oval shapes and fry until golden brown in color. Put into the hot syrup.

*Recipe credit: Ms. Nabonita Das

*History credit: CSS WORLD

*Picture credit: The Mental Club

About Bohemian Chef

Father to a lovely daughter, chef and traveller. Cooking is my passion and it has taken me places. Different cuisines and cultures have deeply inspired the stories I tell and the food I cook. This diary is a way of sharing those experiences about the food and travel journeys that touched my heart.

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