Saraswati Puja food or Vasant Panchami food is prepared in West Bengal, India as an offering to the Goddess Saraswati, who is the goddess of knowledge and fine arts. The occasion is celebrated by the Indians in different months of the year, and the Bengalis celebrate it on Vasant Panchami day which falls in the spring season ( vasant ritu in the Indian language), sometime between January and February.Offerings are made to the Goddess in three separate phases, one while the puja( rituals associated with the worship of a Hindu deity) is being performed, another after the completion of the puja and the third one on the next day while bidding the Goddess farewell.
The Naivedhya platter( food offered to the Goddess during the Puja) includes the following items:
- Khoi- puffed rice which, being white in color, is the favorite food of Shubhra Devi (Shubhra in Sanskrit is the term used to describe divine purity which is best represented by the color white. It is another name by which the all-white Goddess Saraswati is known by).
- Atap Chawal( sundried rice grains) which are moistened before being used as the Naivedhya
- Fruits- Five different varieties of fruits of one’s choice, neatly cut into cubes and mixed together are presented in the platter along with the other items. A mandatory fruit to be included in the Naivedhya platter is a plum variant known as “Kool” by the Bengalis. The spring season is the time when these fruit ripen and thus, there is no better time to eat them than this, of course, after offering them as Naivedhya to the Goddess. It is said that the devout Bengalis do not eat this fruit before offering to the Goddess. Some of them prefer to bite into the fruit as it is, or in the form of a relish called Kool chutney (which the Bengalis would like to call Kool Chutney).
- Aam Shotto – dried ripe mango slices.
- Khejur-dates. The Bengali cuisine uses dates to produce two major foods of the cuisine known as khejur gur( jaggery made of dates which is served as it is or used in the preparation of a number of Bengali sweets ) and khejur chutney( which is an extremely delicious sweet chutney which is served as an accompaniment to papad( Indian lentil cracker).
The bhog, which is the offering made to the Goddess at the end of the puja is a sumptuous affair. The items offered as bhog are:
- Khichuri- a main dish prepared by boiling rice with lightly roasted moong dal and ginger- green chilli masala.
- Mixed vegetable curry- this is prepared with easily available seasonal vegetables and served with khichdi.
- Payesh- this sweet rice pudding made milk , gobindo bhog rice( a Bengali rice species), and patali gur( solid date palm gur). The pudding is enriched with cashew nuts and raisins.
The Dadhi Karma is offered to the goddess during the Visarjan ceremony on the next day. The goddess is bid a tearful farewell by her devotees with the following offerings:
- Doi- curd ( yogurt) – a conventional item that is offered in many Hindu homes when a loved one leaves home for good fortune and prosperity.
- Dudh- pure white milk
- Chiwda- flattened rice
- Murki- a dry sweet dish made of puffed rice and jaggery
Some milk and water mixed together are placed in a pot for the sacred Swan or Hamsa which is the Vahan (the item on which a person rides) of goddess Saraswati.