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Ranna puja or cooking festival is celebrated widely across West Bengal, usually in the villages. This occasion is celebrated before the day of Vishwakarma Puja. This year, ranna puja is celebrated on 17 and 18 September. During this festival, Oshtonag or the snake goddess (Ma Manasa) is worshipped.
Traditionally, the ritual of the festival involves cleaning of the kitchen, the utensils and other equipment like the iron mortar and pestle, clay stove and the grinding stone. After which the cooking starts where various types of food items are cooked and prepared throughout the day and is eaten the next day. On the day of the puja, people abstain from cooking which is why food is prepared the previous day.
On the day before the puja, a new stove is made out of mud on which the cooking is done. The cooking preparation starts in the day and the actual cooking starts at night. The meal is eaten cold the next day which comprises of the following food items:
- Rice- Boiled rice soaked in water overnight (panta bhaat) , along with a slice of gandharaj lemon to give it a delectable aroma.
- Vegetable curry- A mixed vegetable curry is made with taro root leaves (kochu pata), coconut and gram seeds.
- Fries- Five types of vegetable fries are prepared. These include potato fry, brinjal fry, banana fry, lady's finger fry, pumpkin fry, coconut fritters, and snake gourd fry.
- Dal- A simple yellow dal is served along with rice.
- Fish- Rohu and Hilsa are mandatory items on the menu.
- Chutney- Elephant apple (chalta) is cooked and made into a sweet and sour chutney that gives a perfect finish to a meal.
The spatula which is used for cooking is made out of a branch of the date palm tree. On the day of the puja, seven leaves of the Shapla flower is used to serve the bhog to the snake goddess. Seven plates are placed around the deity and on each plate, all the food items are served.
The puja is done with all the rituals and the family members of the household offer prayers. It is believed that if Ranna puja is conducted well, the snake goddess will be pleased.