Talk of ‘mitha’ (sweet) and the image of a delectable rasagola is probably the first thing to strike an Odia’s imagination. True not only for an Odia, savouring the delectable rasagola is a divine experience for any sweet-toothed gastronome.
The relishing of this favourite sweet, however, got sweeter for Odias when a committee that had been formed by the state government to get the geographical indication (GI) tag for the sweet after Bengal staked its claim over the origin of the delicacy submitted its report to the State Science and Technology Department stating that there are several references that make it clear that rasagola has originated from Odisha. The committee headed by eminent Jagannath cult scholar Asit Mohanty, in its report confirmed rasagola’s origin to Odisha where it was being offered to gods in mutts and temples for over 600 years.
It all started when an angry dispute started raging between Odisha and West Bengal governments on the rightful parentage of the sweet. Though a standard traditional item in Odia cuisine invented centuries ago, the rasagola has travelled vastly across the porous borders of our state to have become a Pan-Indian favourite for sweet lovers. As it traversed through different parts of the country, the versions of the sweet also varied, one of which is the crumbly, chewy and hard sponge balls of Bengal’s Nabin Chandra Das’ form of ‘roshogolla’. But there have been so much of give and take – whether in art, culture, textile or cuisine – between the two regions of Odisha and Bengal that it became hard to pin point the specific origin of the sweet.
That’s the reason this succulent, cream coloured dumpling of ‘chenna’ (cottage cheese) has been for sometime immersed in controversy over history of its origin. While the Bengalis largely adhere to the KC Das story that roshogolla was invented by Bengals’ famous confectioner Nobin Chandra Das in 1868; Odisha claims to be the birthplace of this sweet tracing its origin to Puri Jagannath Temple.
Last year, the Department of Science and Technology of West Bengal had claimed the sweet belongs to their state and had taken steps to obtain GI authentication for it too. However, responding to Bengal’s move, the Odisha government had set up three committees to prove that the sweet originated in Odisha. While no concrete evidence could be given by the committees, Mohanty claimed that there were enough references to prove that rasagola existed in the state prior to 1500 A.D.
The government accordingly asked Mohanty and his team to collect evidence in favour of Odisha’s demand for geographical indication (GI) tag for the sweet.
Although the Bengalis do deserve a certain acknowledgement for their contribution in popularising the sweet and KC Das chain of sweetmeat shops has a different story to tell; the Mohanty committee in its report has pointed to the sweet’s reference in Dandi Ramayana, a version of the Valmiki’s Ramayana adapted by Balaram Das in the 16th century.The committee has refuted Bengal’s claim that rasagola had reached Odisha under the influence of Shri Chaitanya.
With the expert panel sealing rasagola’s origin to Odisha, food lovers across the state enthusiastically celebrated ‘Rasagola Dibasa’ on July 17 this year on the auspicious occasion of Niladri Bije of the Holy Trinity, marking its significance as an important part of the rituals of the nine-day long Rath Yatra Festival.