What is Chappan Bhog?
Chef Shrunkhala Sharma prepares a mini Janamastami bhog platter comprising dishes like malpua, boondi laddoo, dhaniya ki panjiri, shrikhand, makhane ki kheer, gur poha, makhan mishri, and taler bora.
Chappan Bhog, a lavish platter comprising 56 signature dishes from various parts of the country, offered in temples, is the highlight of Janmashtami celebrations at homes across India. The platter, which is symbolic of the diverse culinary cultures of Indian states. From Bihar’s malpua, to chakhli and khaman dhokla from Gujarat, Sindhi kadhi, poori bhaji, curd rice and pongal from the southern states, payesh or kheer from West Bengal and Assam, Rajasthan’s motichoor ladoo and gatte ki sabzi, MP’s gulab jamum, and more, the chappan bhog consists a plethora of regional fare.
Why Chappan Bhog?
It is believed that Lord Krishna ate eight meals in a day, however, when he lifted Govardhan Parvat on his little finger, to save His villagers from the wrath of Lord Indra, He didn’t eat anything for seven days. On the eighth day, to express their gratitude, villagers offered him a meal comprising 56 items. (8X7).
Chef Shrunkhala Sharma prepares Janamashtami bhog
“The dishes are created keeping Lord Krishna’s love for milk and dairy products in mind, therefore, you’ll see dishes like maakhan mishri, dahi vada, chaans, shrikhand, basundi, mishti doi, makhana kheer etc on offer,” says Shrunkhala Sharma, a home chef, baker and MasterChef India participant, who specialises in vegetarian food, adding, “Each dish has its origin in a different Indian state or region.” The platter doesn’t have onion or garlic in it. Shrunkhala adds that the dishes celebrate different rasas, or emotions. “Sweet, salty, sour, spicy and savoury, these are five flavours or
dew that the platter must-have. It is also a symbol of oneness and unity of our culture,” she adds.
A glimpse of the traditional Chappan Bhog offered to Lord Krishna
While the idea of Chappan Bhog sounds tempting and looks Insta-worthy, making the dishes can be quite daunting. “Instead of an elaborate platter, one can choose 8-9 dishes that are both filling and represent different regions from the country. For example, poori bhaji or sabudana khichdi from Maharashtra, taler boda or phuluri (a traditional Bengali dessert made with the juice of ripened sugar, wheat flour, jaggery, and grated coconut), UP’s Gujiya etc, can showcase the diversity of the platter,” says chef Satish Gupta, from a thali joint in Delhi.
“Chappan Bhog is offered in temples for Janmashtami. Apart from payoxh (payesh/kheer), which is an integral part of the bhog, we offer savoury dishes made with seasonal vegetables. Desserts, pitha and rice daal are also part of the maha prasad,” says home chef Monjeeta Baroowa from Assam.
Here are a few dishes from the iconic platter:
The gooey, ‘melt-in-your mouth,’ chashni-dipped malpua from Bihar is made with all-purpose flour, milk, grated coconut, mashed bananas, fennel seeds, and chopped dry fruits. Malpua is one of the most popular offerings to Lord Krishna because the pancake-like dessert requires different elements like grains, dairy, fruits, oil etc in it, which make for a wholesome dish.
Laddoo Gopal or Bal Khrisna loved eating laddoos and therefore, every year on his birthday, devotees offer him boondi laddoos in states in Rajashtan and MP. Made with besan (gram flour), sugar, dry fruits and ghee, the sinful desserts are considered one of Krishna’s favourite sweet dish.
Dhaniya ki panjiri
Dhaniya ki panjiri is a must-have element on the platter. A popular Janmashtami prashad in UP and Punjab, panjiri is made with roasted and ground coriander seed powder, ghee, dry fruits, herbal gums, powdered sugar and mishri.
The signature Maharashtrian creamy sweetened yoghurt, flavoured with kesar, cardamom and other ingredients, is offered to Lord Krishna as bhog because of his love for milk-based food items. Made with beaten hung dessert, sugar and flavouring ingredients, shrikhand is part of every celebration in every Maharashtrian household and is savoured with pooris.
makhane ki kheer
The low-fat Makhane ki kheer made with fox nuts, milk and sugar is loaded with health benefits. In states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, makhaane ki kheer is an ideal upwas dish.
Also called chire maakha in Bengali, gur poha, a porridge made with soaked flattened rice (poha) and jaggery syrup, is eaten in South states and UP, often garnished with grated coconut and dry fruits. Gur poha, one of the elements in Chappan Bhog, is considered poor man’s food and therefore, it signifies equality and inclusivity of all classes.
It is believed that Lord Krishna had a profound fondness for makkhan (white butter) and therefore, the Chappan Bhog is incomplete without the dish. When offered as a bhog, makkhan is mixed with mishri (crystallised sugar lumps/rock sugar). The dish is offered as prashad in temples in Mathura (UP) and is also savoured as a signature dessert in the city.
Taler boda or phuluri, a traditional Bengali dessert made with the juice of ripened sugar palm, wheat flour, jaggery, and grated coconut, is also a part of the bhog. An important element of the bhog platter, Bengalis believe that these sweetened fritters made Krishna happy.