Two Tuesdays ago when I was driving home from Lucknow airport with my father, I saw a few pandals on the road serving food. My dad, whose love for pooris and kachauris is not a secret, suddenly had a happy grin on his face, “I am getting the aroma of pooris being fried,” he said. While I had a confused look on my face, dad went on to tell me the story behind these pandals and the story of Bada Mangal.
There was once a queen, a begum to be precise – the second wife of the third nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah of the kingdom of Awadh (during 1753-1175 A.D.). Legend has it that begum Janab-e-Alia once had a divine dream which suggested that she should build a temple for lord Hanuman in order to give birth to a son. The dream also directed her to the site where an idol of Hanuman was buried. The begum decided to excavate the site, dig out the idol and transport it to the site of the temple on an elephant. It’s said that on the way to the site of the temple, the elephant sat down at a spot and refused to move. The begum saw this as a message and decided to build a temple right there, the area that’s now known as Aliganj.
This incident took place during Jyeshtha maas (May-June) of HIndi calendar and so, the first Mangal or Tuesday of the month became auspicious and started being celebrated as Bada Mangal; Tuesday also being the day of lord Hanuman. The devotees would pour in from all over Lucknow and nearby cities to visit the temple and many would even walk barefoot to the temple. May-June being the hottest months, locals started putting up booths to serve water, sherbet etc. to the devotees. Eventually the stalls started getting bigger and turned into bhandaras (stalls where food is served free of cost). Shopkeepers, organizations and even families started serving full fledged meals to anyone who wanted to eat. The menu includes pooris, kachauri, subzis like potato curry, pumpkin, chhole etc., kadhi-chawal, chhole-chawal, halwa, kheer, ice-cream, sherbet and a lot more. At certain stalls the menu changes every hour or two hours which also includes noodles and ice-cream. There are an estimated 5000 stalls serving food every Tuesday of this month.
The next Tuesday my dad and I hopped on to the scooter and went pandal hopping eating crisp puris with kaddoo, aloo ki subzi, chhole and even halwa.
Bada Mangal is celebrated only in Lucknow – a tradition started by a Muslim begum, in devotion of a HIndu God which is now celebrated by the entire city.