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What do the 3-day sumptuous bhog of Durga Pujo signify?

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Bengalis may claim to be the Proust, Foucault, or Wilde of their generations, the more intellectually inclined culture, but come Durga Puja, one of the most important aspects is not visiting pandals or shopping with family and friends -- it's pampering our weak tummies that need digestive aids after every meal!

While many visit pandals, or bonedi bari, old mansions of erstwhile aristocrats, to partake of bhog, many choose to cook the food, faithful to the occasion, at home. Following tradition, food items are cooked on certain days, to mark the auspicious date. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what to make on the three days of the festival:

SAPTAMI:

The seventh day of the festival is concerned with the bathing of the goddess and recitation of texts describing Durga heading to war against evil. Food consumed on this day would be -- khichudi -- a mix of fragrant rice and pulses, bandhakopir torkari -- cabbage curry, aloo foolkopir torkari -- spicy potato and cauliflower, bhaja-bhuji -- thinly sliced fried vegetables and served piping hot, tomato chutney, papad, and sweets.

MAHASHTAMI: 

Mahashtami is the most auspicious day because the moment when it ends and ninth day begins is considered the moment Durga kills the buffalo demon, and good once again emerges victorious over evil. The fare is to be vegetarian, but do not despair! The menu consists of luchi, flattened dough balls fried in oil; cholar dal -- split Bengal gram; a curry of cottage cheese balls; korma, alur dom - spicy potato curry; fried vegetables; the famous mishti doi of Bengal, sweet curd, chutney made with dates and nuts, papad, and sweets -- gulab jamun, roshogolla, etc.

MAHANAVAMI:

The ninth-day of festival observes rites similar to Saptami, and the celebration is after Durga's victory. In the old days, human sacrifices were offered to appease the goddess -- nowadays, in its stead, a male goat may be sacrificed, or ash gourd -- chal kumro -- for those who are not willing to harm animals. On this day, non-vegetarian food is consumed -- pulao, mutton curry cooked in the traditional way, sans onions and garlic, payesh, sweet chutney and papad, and sweets.

Alter these food items to your comfort, but remember to enjoy, and fill tummies to the brim! After all, this grand excuse to stuff ourselves comes but once a year! 

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