June 11, 2013

The Sixth Day

(the Bengali version is here : http://bokombokom.blogspot.com/2013/06/blog-post.html )

History has pegged Jamaishoshthi as an important and integral part of every Bengali household. What is not so widely known is that in many households, children count before the son-in-law, on this auspicious sixth day. Those houses have their priorities right, methinks. 

Take our household, for instance. Growing up in a semi-joint family, Shoshthi was a grand summer affair. Typically occurring in the middle of summer vacations, we'd look forward to D day with anticipation and excitement. New clothes would be bought for the kids (and the sons and daughters and their spouses too) and we'd spend agonizing hours on colour-coordinating outfits for our entire band of cousins. 

And this is how it would unfold.

The night before. We gather, wash and trim bunches of kathal pata and Mami soaks a bowlful of kauner chal. Karamcha, dubbo and kacha holud grace the top of the large sideboard, along with spools of new thread and taalpatar pakha. Mama returns from Gariahat Market with large Ilish, mangoes, lichu and kalojaam. Gourda gets doi and mishti from Jadav Das. Baba brings the fattiest mutton from Monohor Pukur Road. And we set alarms to wake up early and catch the "Mother Dairy" dudhwala to buy extra packets of milk for kheer. The dried-milk version, not North Indian payesh.

Day of. Ma Mami Didu shower and collect some chul-dhowa jol in bowls, and make little putli of durba, karamcha and dhaan. And then get busy in the kitchen, making mowa, kheer and narkel naru.  We quick-shower, wear our new clothes, and assist in the cutting and peeling of fruits (in the process, eating a few lichus and kalojaams here and there). Mami then makes a Ma Shoshthi idol with moyda/chaler guro paste, and paint eyes and nose and mouth and hair and a red tip. We make a dozen of her chhanapona idols, and giggle on their ungodlike appearance. Oh and of course the cat-idol is made with great care too, complete with a curled tail and stiff whiskers. Now Mami sits Ma Shoshthi down on a piri, puts her children and her cat around her, and sticks a kathaler daal as background, to make things sylvan. 

Pilsuj-prodeep, shonkho, ghonta and other paraphernalia are brought down from Thakurghor to tintolar boroghor; chondon paste is made, flowers overflow from the big copper pushpo patro, and wisps of dhup-smoke carry that special pujo-fragrance to every part of the house. 

The pujo is the least time-consuming action of this day. More time is spent on prepping cotton thread with holud, and durba, arranging noibidyo and making today's piece de resistance - bana. What is a bana? Take a kathalpata, trim its top and bottom end, put a little bit of everything on it (aam lichu kalojam doi kheer mishti kauner chal) and voila! you have a bana! They come in two versions - with kathal, and without kathal. And you have to eat the whole thing at one go. No, not the leaf, but the contents of the leaf. The taste? Hamin ast!

So we arrange the stacks of bana, light more dhup, make a lot of noise with kashorghonta and shonkho, then sit ourselves down in a semi circle, and Mami starts to recite pNachali. After the littany, Didu fans her children with her special haatpakha, and sprinkles water on their heads with the koromcha-dhaan putli (which has a long tuft of  durba for this express purpose) then we present our collective heads to be fanned and sprinkled with water as well. (Gullu, Pingu are not exempt). Ma, Mami, Didu chant " katlo katlo mashir sari, tobu boli shaat shaat, katlo katlo pishir naak tobu boli shaat shaat " thus letting us know that today is the day of permissiveness, today we can do no sin. Of course, being good kids, we never put that to test.

After the fanning and the chanting, yellow threads are tied on our wrists, and we let Ma Shoshthi enjoy the fruit and sweet fare for all of 15 minutes. Then, competition on who can eat the most "bana" heats up, so much so that we have to make some extra ones for everyone else.

Lunch is served to the sons-in-law and the kids first. Pachta bhaja, neem begun, shaak, daal, shukto, shorshe ilish, mangsho, koromcha chatni, doi, and proshaad is eaten with much slurping, and almost always, the afternoon sees bunches of rainclouds gathering eastward, thus making post-lunch adda so much better. 

Evening brings a snack of muri and peyaji, and then leftovers for dinner. We step back into the mundane, but not before counting out the days until Rathjatra, then Rakhipurnima, then Bishwakarma pujo...

Ours is a culture of Parboni. One more than the number of months there is.


  1. aamaader'o same! shontaan-shoshTi, a day for all children. And one of my mashis makes the holud shuto extra decorative with a couple of bel phools stringed on.
    I am off to my Dida's this Friday for shoshTi. :D

  2. - Why was this written in English?
    - Festivals. Meh.

  3. Great lekha. Everything, every scene almost became jibonto in front of my chokh. You have the gift of bornona in plentiful. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    [glossary: lekha = write-up; jibonto = alive; chokh = eyes; bornona = description]

  4. Suji - more same pinch :)
    Abhishek - this was written for Sandeepa. I will redo this in Bangla soon
    Kausik Da -Thankoos :)

  5. Khub shundor.........loved reading the entire account of Jamai Shoshti celebration in your dida's house :)

  6. Loved this. Can you tell me a bit about the history? why we do this?


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