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Orissa, West Bengal squabble over origin of rasgulla

New Delhi: The dispute over the origins of the rasgulla has heated up ever since the Orissa government decided to seek a Geographical Indication (GI) for it earlier this year. The West Bengal government was
India TV News Desk September 23, 2015 11:46 IST
India TV News Desk

New Delhi: The dispute over the origins of the rasgulla has heated up ever since the Orissa government decided to seek a Geographical Indication (GI) for it earlier this year. The West Bengal government was quick to contest the claim and now the Centre has a minor culinary crisis on its hands.

Most Indians outside these two states associate the sweet with West Bengal. It is widely believed that the rasgulla was invented by Nobin Chandra Das in 1868 in Baghbazar in north Kolkata. His son was KC Das, after whom the famous Kolkata confectionery is named.

But Oriyas beg to differ. According to them, the rasgulla dates back a few centuries and was one of the offerings to Lord Jagannath's consort, Laxmi, at the Puri temple. Upset at the Lord going on the rath yatra without her consent, Laxmi would lock the temple gates. But her anger would melt once Lord Jagannath offered the sweet to her on his return.

Bengali historian Haripada Bhowmick has argued that the Bengali version of the sweet is quite different from the one served at the Puri temple. "The spongy white delicacy called rasgulla is made from chhena, which has distinct characteristics. Any sweet made of chhena can never be offered to any god," he pointed out. It's believed to be sacrilegious to offer something made from spoilt milk to divine beings.

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The most famous - and delicious - rasgullas in Orissa are found in a village called Pahala, located between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack on National Highway No.5. They are made from chhena but are brownish, crumbly rather than spongy and have to be consumed on the same day. These qualities distinguish them clearly from the Bengali variant.

The Orissa government has formed not one but three different committees to resolve the dispute. Of course if Orissa sought a GI for the Pahala rasgulla, West Bengal would be free to lay claim to the one from Kolkata. That way both states can save face and raise a toast over the sweet syrupy ras that gives the sweet its unique taste.