After the immersions of Durga idols, it is time for greetings and merriment. Like a phoenix rises from its ashes, Bengalis tide over the sadness of separation from Maa Durga and engage in the happy flow of 'Shubho Bijoya' greetings, compulsorily accompanied by sweets.
Always a time for indulging the sweet tooth
People greet each other with ‘Shubho Bijoya’. They touch the feet of elders to get their blessings, called pronam. Men of similar age greet each other through kolakuli, which involves embracing each other three times. People visit their friends and relatives in large numbers. Not just their homes, wherever they meet, pronam and kolakuli become almost de rigeur. Old enmities are often forgotten and new friendships forged, for men, women as well as children.
Sweets displayed at a sweet shop
Bijoya goes hi-tech
Now with electronic communication having taken over our lives, these traditions have come of age, too, so to say. Sending 'Bijoya' greetings over SMSes, e-mails, chats, Facebook, Twitter and other such media is the norm, often because our increasingly busier lives prevent celebrations stretching beyond a day. There is a positive as well as a negative side to it. The negative is of course that people have little time for each other, and it becomes more apparent on these days. The positive is that the variety of ditties people can come up with as part of their messages can be amazing. Latent poetic skills come to the fore, thanks to electronic messaging.
Bengalis have always had a sweet tooth; the day for Bijoya is the day to indulge in that to no end, to do some 'mishti mukh', that is, 'to have something sweet,' to celebrate. Of course, diabetics need to be careful. For them, specially prepared diabetic sweets are available nowadays so as not to leave them out of the celebrations. People visit each other bearing boxes and bhad (earthen containers) with all kinds of sweets and savouries. With a mind to make it to as many homes as possible, the visits often continue late into the night.
For children, this day is also special as they get sweets wherever they visit. Often children touch the feet of elders just to get their share of sweets! And elders just cannot refuse, not on this day; a kind of sweet blackmailing!
Gen-Y favourite: Cadbury Sandesh
The variety of sweets available on this day in any sweet shop in Bengal can be mind-boggling. Some are often prepared specially for this occasion, once a year. Besides buying, women indulge in their culinary skills to come up with wonderful concoctions, both sweets and savouries. Traditional culinary skills handed down over generations, from mothers and mothers-in-law to daughters and daughters-in-law, make their presence specially felt on this day.
'Asche bochor abar hobe'
For Bengalis, the ritual of visiting friends and relatives is not just limited to this one day, though busier lives are making stretching this to more than a day rarer. However, Bengalis keenly await this day to indulge in meeting, greeting and eating.
For the old and the young, for women and men and children, it is often the best day of the year. And then the wait begins for 'asche bochor abar hobe.'
Lead image source: Taste of Kolkata