Thursday, 22 September 2016

Rasgulla... From the village of Pahala

A sweet controversy....
Uptill now I grew up knowing that Rasgulla's were invented in Bengal by Nobin Chandra Das in 19 th century. The other day when I had posted Rasgullar payesh, a friend pointed out that this is not the truth... According to historians of Odisha, the rasgullas were originated in Puri, as Khira Mohana which later was know as Pahala Rasgulla. It has been traditionally offered as offering  to goddess Laxmi at JagannathTemple in Puri. The Jagannath Temple scholars Laxmidhar Pujapanda and researchers like Jagabandhu Padhi state that the tradition has existed since 12th century.  According to people of Pahala, a village which is on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, had large number of cows and the milk was produced in excess.  The villagers would throw away the milk when it got spoilt. When a priest from the Jagannath Temple saw this, he taught them the art of curdling the milk and including the recipe of rasagulla. Hence Pahala become the biggest market for chhena-based sweets.
This claim is contested by Bengali historians. According to food historians K.T Acharya and Chitra Banerji, that there are no references to cheese (including chhena) in India before the 17th century. The milk-based sweets were mainly made up of khoa before the Portuguese ruled our country. Their influences led to the introduction of cheese-based sweets. Therefore, the possibility of a cheese-based dish being offered at Jagannath Temple in 12th century is highly unlikely. According to Nobin Chandra Das' descendant Animikh Roy and historian Haripada Bhowmik, rasgulla is not even mentioned as one of the chhappan bhog ("56 offerings") in the early records of the Temple. They also state that it would have been a blasphemy to offer something made from spoiled milk to a deity. However,  Michael Krondl argues that Hindu dietary rules vary from region to region, and it is possible that this restriction did not exist in Odisha.
Recently it is declared by an Odia researcher Asit Mohanty (research scholar on Jagannath culture and traditions) that there is mention of Rasagola in the Jagamohana Ramayana of Balaram Das a text of 15th Century.The text mentions that Rasagola, along with other sweets were found in Odisha. There is also mention of many other cheese made sweets like Chhenapuri, Chhenaladuand Rasabali.
However Bengal claims that the spongy white rasgulla is believed to have been introduced in 1868 by a Kolkata based confectioner Shri Nobin Chandra Das. His descendants claim that his recipe was an original, but according to another theory, he modified the traditional Odisha rasgulla recipe to produce this less perishable variant. Yet another theory is that rasgulla was first prepared by someone else in Bengal, and Das only popularized it. In Banglar Khabar (1987), food historian Pranab Ray states that a man named Braja Moira had introduced rasgulla in his shop near Calcutta High Court in 1866, two years before Das started selling the dish.  In 1906, Panchana Bandopadhyay wrote that rasgullla was invented in 19th century by Haradhan Moira, a Phulia-based sweetmaker who worked for the Pal Chowdhurys of Ranaghat. According to Mistikatha, a newspaper published by West Bengal Sweetmeat Traders Association, many other people prepared similar sweets under different names such as gopalgolla (prepared by Gopal Moira of Burdwandistrict), jatingolla, bhabanigolaand rasugolla.Food historian Michael Krondl states that irrespective of its origin, the rasgulla likely predates Nobin Chandra Das.Bhagwandas Bagla, a Marwari businessman and a customer of Nobin Chandra Das, popularized the Bengali rasgulla beyond the shop's locality by ordering huge amounts.
In 2015, the Odisha government initiated a move to get Geographical indication (GI) status for the rasagulla made in Pahala. On 30 July, the people of Odisha celebrated "Rasagola Dibasa" ("Rasgulla Day") to reaffirm Odisha as the place of the dish's origin.In August, West Bengal decided to legally contest Odisha's move to obtain GI Status.
In 2015 The odisha state government constituted three committees to claim over the Rasgulla .The committees submitted their interim report to the government. Noted journalist and food researcher Bhakta Tripathy and a member of the committee had submitted dossier containing historical evidence of Rasgulla origin in Odisha.The Science and Technology department of the West Bengal government also started the process to get its own GI status for the dessert.
In 2016 an official of the West Bengal government stated that they only wished for a Geographical Indications (GI) tag only for the local varity of Rasgulla known as'Rasogolla', stating that "There is no conflict with Odisha. What we want is to protect the identity of our Rasogolla. Their product is different from ours both in colour, texture, taste, juice content and method of preparation."
Based on Net Sources.....
For me a sweet is to indulge, irrespective of the state it belongs.
Here is my adaptation of the dish....

Pahala Rasgulla

Home made Chenna / Cottage Cheese made from 11/2 liters Cow Milk
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Semolina
2 pinches of Cardamom powder
1/2 liter Hot Water

For the Sugar Syrup
21/2 cups Sugar
5 1/2  cups Water
Take the a plate, add the chenna, semolina and sugar. Mix and knead it into a smooth dough for 5 to 7 minutes. Take sugar and water in a pot for making the sugar syrup. First let it boil and and let it simmer on low flame. Meanwhile make equal size balls ftom the dough. Roll it into a balls and drop it in the sugar syrup. Let it cook on medium flame covered for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and let it boil for 5 minutes on high flame. Remove the rasgulla from the sugar syrup and put it in the hot water for 10 minutes. Remove the rasgullas from the hot water. Put it in a bowl and pour the sugar syrup on top of the rasgullas. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes before serving.

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