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Nakshi Pithe – artistic delicacies of Bengal

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When sleep is sacrificed in favour of scriptures and storytelling, while churning out artistic Nakshi pithes, don’t we remember that immortal verse of poet Jasimuddin? The tale of love between Shaju and Rupai and the ‘Field of the Embroidered Quilt.’ Nakshi Kanthar Maath somehow merges with the artistic splendour of Bengal’s very own Nabanna dessert of Nakshi pithes.

 

Different forms of nakshi pithe

About thirty years ago, when villages of Bengal were far from pangs of urbanisation, Bengali harvest festival of Nabanna, used to be celebrated with home-made delicacies. Despite globalisation changing the focus of Bengal’s dessert platter from indigenous pithe puli to cup-cakes and choco-balls, the seasonal cycle of Nabanna still brings an unknown fervour. Each year, every household in Bengal tries preparing those rice cakes or pithes, to hold on to that sheer nostalgia of Jasimuddin’s verse and the essence of rural Bengal, its love and loss.

Different shapes of nakshi pithe

In the ’70s and ’80s, villages of Bangladesh rarely cultivated flowers, but residents were very fond of floral motifs that popped up in the most unlikely places: On a nose ring, bow of a ribbon, or even on a pithe. Such floral pithes were called ‘Phool (flower) pithes’ or ‘Nakshi pithes.’ These home-made delicacies were served to guests all year round, that created the perfect opportunity for family members to showcase their unique artistic sensibilities in a relatively mundane context of everyday culinary skills.

A plate of scrumptiuous nakshi pithe

Indeed, the Bengali way of life is always steeped in artistry, in the manner we eat, sleep and express ourselves. The particular art of creating intricate patterns on desserts, has the fingerprints of the ever innovative and evolving Bengali bride. The Nakshi Pithe happens to be such a shining star, fresh from Bengal’s kitchens. Originating from the fertile grounds, this loving and imaginative art form speaks of the simple aesthetic pleasures of a life, anchored in reality, but often venturing into the realms of fantasy.

Varieties of nakshi pithe

Bengal’s very own tradition of Nakshi pithes denotes a specific geographical region like the classical music gharanas of North India. The making of Nakshi pithes need boundless patience and immense labour. It is veritably a strenuous, long-drawn arrangement with a multitude of delicate steps, that need to be dealt with, before the pithe is finally ready for tasting. Just like embroidering blankets or drawing alpanas, a Bengali woman’s loving tenderness, goes into etching of each pattern. In reality, Bengali women simply love to serve their dear ones, dishes they prepare with their own hands. And it is their intrinsic affinity for creating beauty all around, that transforms an ordinary rice pithe into an extraordinary work of art.

'Suryamukhi' nakshi pithe