Millennium Post

Solved : The rasogolla conundrum

The love for rasogolla and its popularity are beyond any geographical boundary, writes Sayantan Ghosh.

Suresh Sweets of Dhakuria, Kolkata had a long queue of patrons waiting outside; it happens every day at 9 pm as the last lot of fresh hot rasogollas come to the shop. Three out of five workers get busy distributing only rasogollas this time, to tackle the crowd. On November 14 when West Bengal won the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the iconic rasogolla, the picture was no different.

The announcement by the GI registry has finally drawn the curtain over the two-year-long battle between West Bengal and Odisha over the origin of this sweet. Bengal, known for its mishti culture (culture of sweets) was amid a controversy that the origin of rasogolla was in Odissa.
A group of people observed that rasogolla or rasgulla was invented there 600 years ago and was first served at the 12th-century Lord Jagannath temple in Puri. The other side opined that it was invented by famous sweetmeat maker Nabin Chandra Das in 1868. "I don't know who started this battle but my family and the citizens know that my great-grandfather invented rasogolla," said Dhiman Das, the recent owner of Nabin Chandra Das and Sons. Nabin Chandra Das first established a sweet shop in Jorasanko in 1864. But as he went out of business soon and after two years, he opened another establishment in Bagbazar. This is where he invented the rosogolla, said his descendant.
Food historians of India also have different observations on the matter. The most popular story is Bengalis adopted the use of cottage cheese or chhana from the Portuguese and they used it in making sweets. Unlike Bengal, most sweets across India are made from various forms of milk, but not channa. Other historians think that rasgulla has been part of the Rath Yatra rituals ever since the Jagannath temple came into existence in the 12th century. According to mythology, the deity synonymous with Puri's famous Jagannath temple, (from which the English word "juggernaut" originates) – Lord Jagannath – had offered kheer Mohana to an angry Goddess Lakshmi in order to appease her so that she lets him enter his home after the nine-day rath yatra.
Historian Chitra Banerji explained that in history, though the mention of sweets was there both in the time of Lord Krishna and later in Bengal in the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu the use of sweets made by cottage cheese was not there. According to research, after the Portuguese era, Bengal learned about the cottage cheese and Odia cooks were very popular in Bengal who might have adopted the culture which eventually went to Odisha.
However, the sweet has evolved over time. Starting as plain rasogolla now there are several varieties of flavoured rasogollas of different sizes. With time there have been many experiments over the sweets which led to the origin of baked rasogolla which has now become very popular in the recent times.
Every food has its own history and it is a part of the cultural heritage of different states. The war over food may be a new addition but the love and the popularity of rasogolla are beyond any geographical boundary.

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