Monday, October 24, 2016

Narayan Pujo'r Shinni - a Prashad fit for Dessert

Bengali Shinni - a Prashad fit for Dessert

Shinni, is a very simple prashad made with atta(whole wheat flour), sugar, bananas, milk--- many of you are thinking banana bread at this point but no--all mixed together with hand and offered to Lord Satya Narayan. This is a typical prashad made only during Satya Narayan Pujo in Bengali households. There is a very interesting story associated with this puja and subsequently the proshad. Centuries ago in Bengal, the Satya Narayan Puja was performed by Hindu women, but they prayed interchangeably to Satya Pir(a Muslim fakir or saint) or Satya Narayan (an avatar of Vishnu). As per the story, Satya Pir or Satya Narayan, the lord himself, had asked his devotees to prepare this simple prasad and even given them a rough recipe with ingredients available to all. Since then this simple proshad is what is made to appease him during Narayan pujo

I am not a very ritualistic person. I am kind of wishy-washy around them. If a ritual is something that my heart takes after and is easier to get done with, I will do it. If not, I will probably skip. I am not a very religious person either or rather I am not very ritualistic about the religion that I follow. I like praying and I light incense sticks almost every other evening for a set of gods in my Puja corner. It doesn't matter if I am having my periods, I will still do it. If I don't feel like on some evening, I don't.

This is very different from the way I have grown up in a home where rituals were strictly adhered to.

With age, I see my parent's vision has changed regarding religious rituals too. My father is no longer as conservative as he was some twenty years back. He reads vedas and the other day was telling me, how some of the words in Sanskrit mantras like "Hrring", "Krring"-- which are actually sounds(dhwanis) with no literal meaning -- were actually derived from the sounds of nature, which was what the early humans were afraid of and thus prayed to. His belief in the ritualistic form of prayers has waned too, making it easier for me to relate to his pujas.

So this time when my parents wanted to do the Kojagari Lakhsmi Pujo , which they have been doing at their own home for many many years on the night of the first full moon after Durga Pujo, I agreed to all the little nuances. I do this Pujo, other years too, but in my own very random way. This time I agreed to the rituals as they did not seem too rigid and gave me excuses to buy the the brass lamps I have always had eyes on.

Since we were having the Pujo, I asked my Mother to make Shinni. Shinni, is a very simple prashad made with atta(whole wheat flour), sugar, bananas, milk--- many of you are thinking banana bread at this point but no--all mixed together with hand and offered to Lord Satya Narayan. This is a typical prashad made only during SatyaNarayan Pujo but I love it so much that I insisted and my Mother obliged this time.

There is a very interesting story associated with this puja and subsequently the proshad. Centuries ago in Bengal, the Satya Narayan Puja was performed by Hindu women, but they prayed interchangeably to Satya Pir(a Muslim fakir or saint) or Satya Narayan (an avatar of Vishnu). This Puja, came into being when under the influence of Muslim conquerors Islam had gained weight in Bengal and maybe the Hindu women afraid of the Muslim rulers had come up with the story of Pir. Whatever the reason and whether Pir or Narayan, this Puja was done both by Hindus and some Muslims in those days, and the vrat katha, the story, has different versions with both characters.

Surprisingly, it is only the Bengali version of the story, which mentions Satya Pir -- the Muslim saint. In all other parts of India, the story sticks with Lord Narayan -- the Hindu avatar. If you are interested, you can read the story here in this book, Sacred Tales of india by Dwijendra Nath Neogi.

The influence of the Muslim rule is also visible in the fact that unlike other Hindu pujas where prayers are offered to a deity or at least an imgae, in this case there is only a symbol representing Narayan.  The rituals of Narayan puja are very simple and the prashad to appease Satya Narayan or Satya Pir, the Shinni is also very rudimentary, something that any home in rural Bengal could put together without much preparation.

Though so simple, Shinni, is a favorite of many Bengalis. Since I am not into these rituals, I had never made shinni myself, until this Lokkhi Pujo. I had thought it would have some amount of complicated procedure to it. But guess what ? It was the simplest thing that anyone could ever make.

Everyone loved the Shinni. Our Indian friends, who are not from Bengal, were very impressed by it and there were repeated requests for "woh waali kheer". I don't understand why such a simple preparation is not made as a dessert separate from the Pujo. This has immense potential and as a friends said, Shinni topped with some grated chocolate or chocolate curls, could sweep away the fanciest of desserts in the market.

Bengali Shinni - a Prashad fit for Dessert

Shinni, Bengali Shinni, Shinni Proshad

So the key thing my Ma said that goes into making a Shinni, was to have a measurement which was 5 of each ingredient. Whatever unit of measurement you choose, just go with 5 of it for each ingredient. Well, she started off by giving measurements in "ser" and "chhatak" which was worse than Latin to me and so she quickly simplified it to the "times 5" rule.

For our Shinni this is what we did

Main Ingredients

Whole Wheat Flour(Atta) -- 5 of 1/2 cups = 2.5 Cups
Whole Milk or Half-n-Half -- 5 of 1/2 Cups = 2.5 Cups
Sugar -- 5 of 1/2 Cups = 2.5 Cups
Bananas -- 5 of large bananas. For the small, petite ones, about 9 (odd number being the key)

Good to Haves Ingredients (these don't need to follow the measurement rule)

Cashew -- 1/2 cup
Kishmish (Golden raisins) -- 1 cup
Grated Coconut -- 1/2 Cup to 1 Cup

This is How I Did It

In a big bowl, in which you will be offering the Shinni
   1. Add the bananas and with your fingers mash the bananas until they are all mushed up
   2. Next add the sugar and mix with the bananas until the sugar is well mixed with the bananas. You should not feel any grain of sugar in your fingers. The sugar and bananas should be uniformly mashed up to a smooth paste. If you see any lumps, try to mash them up with your fingers.

Now add the wheat flour and mix it gently

Gradually add the milk, mixing with your fingers to get a smooth batter. At this point the batter should be like a banana bread batter, with no lumps.

Add the cashews, raisins and the grated coconut

After the Puja is done, and you are ready to serve, Mix everything again and add some more milk if necessary. If this is a dessert without the Puja, do this step just before serving.

Be sure to finish each drop whether as a prashad or a dessert.

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  1. Is Shinni limited to Satya Narayan or can we add it to Kali Puja ? trying to stay authentic here

    1. Don't. Try to stay authentic that is. I would have it anytime


  2. I absolutely agree with you. It should be made not just for a Pujo but just :) such deliciousness! A lot of people here seem to add khoya barfi to it as well. I suppose it is an addition made to the recipe over time...

    1. Yeah, my Ma does add sondesh but I didn't have any
      Bong Mom

    2. My Maa adds sondesh to shinni always :) This post made me so nostalgic for my childhood days and Satyanarayan Puja at home.

  3. Doesn't the wheat flour taste raw? or do you toast it a bit in ghee? That Pir story is funny and sad at the same time. How loyalties swing to please dominating ruler! A lot of us are like you Sandeepa believers but not ritualistic.

  4. I bet one of these days shinni is going to find its way to Starbucks menu! Just like how "turmeric latte" is catching on! :p

  5. Nicely wrote article .. and your blog is too good.. thanks for sharing such articles

  6. I love shinni, really I simply love reading your blog maam.

  7. Thanks for a great recipe. A word of caution. Why I don't know, but Shinni does not keep too long. (Like Shukto). You can add cashew and kismis flower petals and Tulsi pata for that nostalgic taste. But don"t store. A good idea is to serve as Prashad and finish it off soon after! If guests are coming from afar, keep it overnight in the freezer, but no more. It's finger lickin' good anyway. Best when fresh. Thanks BongMom!


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