Countdown To Durga Puja with a cup of chilled Malai Kulfi

by - 10:24

O aaere chute aae pujor gondho eseche
Dhang kurakur, dhang kurakur baddi bejeche
Gache shiuli futeche, Kalo bhomra juteche,
Aar palla diye akashe meghera chuteche||

Come on everyone, the  whiff of Puja is here
The dhaks have started to sound
The Shiuli’s have blossomed in the trees , Bumble bees have flocked around them
And competing with this the clouds have started sailing in the sky||

This old song by Antara Choudhury still sends shiver down my spine…it vividly reminds me of the Durga Puja time during my childhood days. A simple and picture perfect description of the onset of this Autumn celebration in Bengal…how the weather changes declaring the festival time has arrived, the sublime smell of Shiuli mingling with the dew laden morning air, Kash ful adorning the grasslands, the powder blue sky with whipped cream like clouds, the rhythmic beats of the Dhaks along with the baritone chants of the Purohit  and of course the yummilicious Pujor bhog or Khichdi with begun bhaja. For any Bengali there is nothing more important at this time of the year than welcoming Goddess Durga to Earth.

It’s time again for the 10 day festivity. Today is Sashti. This would be my second Durga Puja at Pune. It’s not the same here as it’s back home. The air misses the fragrance of the flowers and scents that we are so used to during the Durga Puja. Quoting Vir Sangvi – “You can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janerio, Valentine’s day in Paris and then add it to the month long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of 5 days and you still wouldn’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been in Kolkata during Durga Puja”

Mahalaya ticks off the countdown timer. Earlier it was waking up early for listening Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Sanskrit recitation of the Mahishasura Mardini on radio. Later on it was replaced by mahishashur vadh drama telecasted on TV. Audio-visual of the Goddess Durga fighting the evil was more interesting than Sanskrit slokas but still the dramas also incorporated parts of Birendrakrishna’s recitation.

In Bengal at this time the excitement among people is palpable , ladies  doing the last round of Pujo shopping, teenage girls combing every store in the street to find that right pair of Oxidized earrings to go with her new Anarkali kurta, elders deciding on the  elaborate menu for ashtami and nabami, youngsters deciding the list of all the pandals to be visited – everyone is super busy gearing up for the Pujas.

In Pune you won’t find the same hype but within the Durga Puja Pandals it’s a different story all together. It’s a mini Bengal out in there. Women in heavy silk or 'taant' sarees flaunting cartload of gold and signature big 'bindis', the men in crisp kurta-pajama or dhoti-kurta and kids in colorful festive attires add to the color of the celebrations. Dhakis are brought in from Kolkata to play the Dhak. The best part of the probashi pujas is the very traditional “Ekchala Thakur” (Durga and her children in a single frame) unlike the Theme pujas happening in Kolkata now-a-days wherein sometimes it’s more like the enigmatic modern art than traditional puja. Durja Puja is also the time for eating all the goodies, indulgence at its height. Weight gain concerns are pushed to the back seats and people prefer to dig into their food. Keeping the Bengali appetite in mind puja pandals usually have arrangements for heavy snacks and eatables. Good food also attracts more crowd. So, several stalls are set up selling Cutlet, Biryani, Rolls, Moghlai parathas, Mutton-kosha, Kabiraji, Kababs, Kochuri, Fuluri and other drool worthy eatables. The usual chat stalls of bhel puri, chowmein and burgers, soft drinks are also there. In fact in one of the Pujas last year one stall was serving sojne datar Macher-jhol bhat( Fish curry with drumsticks and rice). That was the first time in my life I tasted a fish curry with drumsticks that too in a Puja Pandal. Seems like it is more of a Ghoti preparation than Bangal. So while I was super-surprised at the combination.

Usually the housewives during Durga Puja would not cook at home and the whole family would dine at the pandals eating Bhog or other delicacies available. During my childhood, we used to spend all morning in the IIT Puja Pandal, have our lunch then come back home for a quick nap and by the time its evening get decked up and spend the rest of the evening in Pandal as well. In the evenings there used to be many cultural programs like song and dance, the usual Dhunuchi competition, lamp lighting competition or magic shows. In Mumbai big starts were hired to perform in the evenings. In Pune its more homely, local people usually perform.

Sometimes in perspective I feel Probashi Pujas still have the old world charm and integrity left, too much pandal hopping defeats the serenity of the celebration. Here it’s like the Colony Pujas where you sit in the same Pandal for long hours and peacefully enjoy the festivity. But then to each his own. Kolkata loves the madness and now it’s a part of their celebration.

After writing so many lines about the Durga puja and the food it’s time for the recipe. There is nothing like having a comforting serving of chilled dessert after pandal hopping the whole day. And when it’s chilled Bengali dessert it should be Malai Kulfi.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes 

Cooking Time: 15 minutes


Cuisine: Bengali


  • Full Fat Milk - 1 litre
  • Milk Powder - 1/2 cup
  • Nestle Milkmaid (condensed milk) - 1/2 tin
  • Corn flour powder - 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Cardamom Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Dry Fruits (blanched almonds, pistachios, raisins) - 1/3 cup
  • Saffron - 1/4 tsp
  • Powdered sugar as per taste 

1. In a heavy bottomed pot or pan, mix in the milk, condensed milk and milk powder and cook on low heat. Keep stirring in between to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

2. Pulse the nuts in a blender, till they are coarsely ground. Add the ground nuts and raising to the milk and fold in.

3.Add the condensed milk and milk powder and mix well. Keep stirring, the milk will start to reduce. Adjust the Sugar at this point.

4.In  a glass take some of the boiled milk and dilute the cornflour in it. Now add the cornflour mix to the reduced milk.

5.Add the saffron strands

6.Cook till the milk attains a thick Rabri like consistency.  When the milk is reduced to half the original quantity and looks ivory- brown, turn off the heat.

7. Let it cool for half an hour at room temperature. A layer of thick cream will form on the surface after a while, mix that with a spoon.

8.Pour the mixture into Kulfi moulds, or shot glasses or dessert bowls and refrigerate for about 3-4 hours.

9.Top it off with a little rose syrup and honey and enjoy your chilled dessert.

Sending this recipe to Kolkata Food Bloggers event, Pari & Jiya's "Only Traditional Recipe", Priya's and Spicy Treat's "Diwali Delicacy" event,Recipe Junction's "Spotlight : Festive Treats",Guru's "Vegan Special'13", Merry Tummy's "Cook with White", Motion and Emotions' "Theme Party" event, Gayathri and Asiya's WTML event, Simply Tadka's and Swetha's foodabulous fest .

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