What ‘veg mutton’ offering to Kali tells about Bengal’s culinary history

Vegetarianism in India is a largely an upper caste practice and many of the marginalized castes eat meat as part of their diet. Photos: iStock

Vegetarian mutton! If that sounds incredulous, visit Bengal to savour it during Kali Puja, which coincides with Diwali.

Kali, the four-handed, dark-skinned warrior goddess, her naked body covered only with ornate jewellery comprising garlands of demon heads and limbs she has chopped off, is the ultimate embodiment of shakti, the female power, as per the Hindu tantric tradition.

Her boundless freedom and escapades on the battlefield have all the trappings that qualify her as the oldest feminist icon. Even her husband, the indomitable Shiva, lies under her feet. She represents the vagaries of nature, both destructive and benevolent.

To invoke her, she needs to be served meat and alcohol. Again, if that sounds debauchery to self-proclaimed purists - who cried doom after an American brewery company, Burnside Brewing Company, named its beer after the goddess - Kali cares a hang.

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