Hilsa ( Ilish) is
the national fish of Bangladesh, also popular in India's Assamese-, Bengali- Oriya-speaking regions and in Telugu-speaking regions ( Pulasa or
Polasa) and in Pakistan Sindh (Sindhī: پلو مڇي Pallu
In Gujarat it is known as either Modenn or
Palva. It is an economically important tropical fish. This fish
exists and is caught in Narmada and Padma river deltas. The fish in
coastal area of Gujarat is known as Modenn if it is female and
palva if it is young male. Like Bengal or Sindh this fish is not
well known in Gujarat because fish eaters in Gujarat are Mostly
Muslims and Hindu fisherman of the coastal areas. The Hilsa fish is
full of tiny bones which require trained eaters/hands to
As it is anadromous
in nature (an
uncommon phenomenon in tropical
the hilsa lives in the sea for most of its life, but migrates up to
1,200 km inland through rivers in the Indian sub-continent
Distances of 50-100 km are usually normal in the Bangladesh rivers.
mainly available in the major Bangladesh rivers of the Padma (lower Ganges), Meghna, Jamuna (lower Brahmaputra), and Godavari.
Those from the Padma are considered to be the best in taste.
the rivers Rupnarayan (known as Kolaghater Ilish), Ganga (Ganges) and
Godavari are famous for their tasty
However, Hilsa is also caught from the sea. But those
caught from the sea are not considered to be so tasty as those
caught from the river. Hilsa is an oily
rich in essential fatty acids(omega 3 fatty acids
). Recent experiments
have shown its beneficial effects in decreasing cholesterol level
in rats and insulin level.
Bengal, hilsa can be smoked, fried, steamed, baked in
young plantain leaves, prepared with
mustard seed paste, curd, brinjal (eggplant), different condiments like
jeera and so on.
It is said that people
can cook hilsa in more than 50 ways. Hilsa roe
is also popular as a side dish. Hilsa can be cooked in very little
oil since the fish itself is very oily.
In many Hindu Bengali families two Hilsa fishes (Joda
) are bought on special auspicious days, like some
. It is considered auspicious to
buy two Hilsa fishes on the day of Saraswati Puja (The Goddess of
Learning and Beauty), which takes place in the beginning of Spring
and also on the day of Lakshmi Puja (The Goddess of Wealth and
Prosperity) which takes place in autumn. But this custom is
prevalent mainly among the Hindu Bengalis of former East Bengal
(now Bangladesh) many of whom now live in West Bengal in India
after the Partition of India
Some of them give Hilsa fish as an offering to the goddess Lakshmi,
without which the Puja is thought to be incomplete.Hilsa is an
important source of foreign exchange for Bangladesh. They export it
to the European countries and USA. In Europe, Hilsa is available at
the Bangladeshi grocery stores.
also found in the deltaic region of
southern Pakistan, in the
province of Sindh.
it is commonly referred to as the Palla
fish. The fish was
usually found in abundant quantities in the district of Thatta.
however, the lower reaches of the Indus have dried
up as water is stored upstream, and the Palla cannot make
its journey into the river anymore.
In North America (where Hilsa is not always readily available) the
fish is sometimes used as a Hilsa
substitute, especially in Bengali cuisine. This typically occurs
near the East coast of North America, where fresh shad can be
fished. The substitution is possible because of the fairly similar
flavour and consistency of these two fish.
- Banerjee I, Saha S, Dutta J. 1992 Comparison of the effects of
dietary fish oils with different n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
compositions on plasma and liver lipids in rats. Lipids.
- Mahmud I, Hossain A, Hossain S, Hannan A, Ali L, Hashimoto M.
(2004) Effects of Hilsa ilisa fish oil on the atherogenic lipid
profile and glycaemic status of streptozotocin-treated type 1
diabetic rats. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 31(1-2):76-81 Abstract