Geographical Indications debate over the humble Rasagulla/rosogulla..

Amazing things keep happening. Noticed this newsbit in TOI this weekend over the waging wars between state of West Bengal and Orissa with each claiming stakes over the sweetball – rasagulla. The battle question is simple: Who first discovered the sweet meat? WB or Orissa?

Perhaps, ToI was late to report the news as the battlelines were drawn in beginning of July itself:

It all started with a little-noticed government move in Odisha. And within a few weeks, it has snowballed into a major debate that has drawn in foodies, chefs, historians and now threatens to become a bone of contention between two communities that are naturally proud of their culinary and consequently, cultural heritage, Times of India reports.

Quite simply, the question is, who invented the rasgulla? Bengalis would have you believe that the sugary sphere of pure joy was the culmination of many experiments in the state. In Odisha, they claim equally vehemently that the rasgulla was invented there and has been offered to Lord Jagannath for centuries. So how could it possibly belong to Bengal?

Taking this argument forward, the Odisha government has, just over a month back, started the process of seeking Geographical Indication (GI) status for the rasgulla made in Pahala, on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. A GI status identifies a product as originating from a certain location, apart from assuring its quality and distinctiveness. What is means is that if Odisha does get the approval from the Geographical Indication Registry of the Indian government, no confection -this also includes our KC Dases and Balarams -apart from those in Odisha would be able to call their product the rasgulla.

This has set the proverbial cat among the pigeons. In Kolkata, Dhiman Das, the great great-grandson of the legendary Nabin Chandra Das, claims that the rasgulla was invented by his ancestor. “Nabin Chandra Das first established a sweet shop in Jorasanko in 1864. But he went out of business soon and after two years, he opened another establishment in Bagbazar. This is where he invented the rasgulla,” says Dhiman. How did that happen?

Dhiman tells us that Nabin started experimenting by boiling chhana balls in sugar syrup. But, every time, the balls would fall apart. He finally resolved the problem with an enzyme present in the chhana. The balls did not disintegrate and the rasgulla was created. “To pop ularise his innovation, Nabin Chandra taught the art to contemporary sweet shop owners,” added Dhiman, the executive director of KC Das Pvt Ltd.

The other popular tale is that the famous Haradhan Moira, sweet-maker of the Pal Chowdhurys of Ranaghat, inventing the rasgulla by accidentally dropping some chhana balls into bubbling syrup. In the late 19th and early 20th century, two confectioneries -the Mullicks of Bhowanipore and Chittaranjan Mistana Bhandar of Sovabazar further fine tuned the delicious sweet. 

Some research work has happened as well:

The debate gains momentum now at the time of the closing of the festival, Nabakalebara (soul transformation of the holy trinity) Rath Yatra in Puri, with Surya Narayan Rath Sharma — a researcher associated with Jagannath Temple — claiming that the rasgulla originated in Puri and is offered to gods every year.  

Laxmidhar Pujapanda, PRO of the temple, says: “Rasgulla has been part of Rath Yatra rituals ever since the Jagannath temple came into existence in the 12th century.”  According to legend, Lord Jagannath on Niladri Bije offered rasgullas to appease his consort Laxmi, who was upset after went on the nine-day Rath Yatra without her consent and locked the Jai Vijay Dwar, a gates of the temple. This week, more than 15 quintals of rasgulla were offered to Laxmi as part of Niladri Bije, a ceremony that marks the end of the chariot festival.

However, Animikh Roy, great-great-grandson of Nobin Das, says, “As Odisha has taken the step to get GI status for rasgulla, we’re also going forward to protect the identity of rasgulla, which people for 150 years have identified with Bengal.”

Roy, along with historian Haripada Bhowmik, has prepared a report to be sent to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The report says: “Lord Jagannath can never be associated to chhana-based (cottage cheese) offerings… Historically speaking, the origin of the word ‘chhana’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘chinna’ which means a torn, broken and fragmented milk product, clearly an indication of spoilt milk. Hence it was considered a blasphemy to offer sweets or anything made of ‘chhana’ to gods.”  It added that rasgulla is not even mentioned in the Chhappan Bhog of Jagannath temple.

Laxmidhar Pujapanda refused to accept this argument. He said, “No one can deny the offering of rasgulla on Niladri Bije began along with the establishment of the temple about 900 years ago. This is written in Niladri Mahoday, an age-old scripture. It is true that rasgulla is not mentioned in the Chhappan Bhog, but no one can ignore Niladri Bije rituals.” 


Interesting stuff from Indian history. How much is fact or fiction is upto experts to figure.

On pure brand recall terms, there is little doubt that most would associate the sweet with WB. People will be surprised to hear that there is a Orissa connection to the sweet. The variety of chaina sweets have been associated with WB. One always looks forward to visits from friends residing in WB to savor the wonderful sweets. No Bengali likes the rasagulla from anywhere else. Then you are told how the sweet is prepared from cow’s milk in Bengal and buffalo milk in other places.

But then should two states battle a GI? Ideally, the issue can be settled amicably. But then seeing how these things are then eventually taken over by external parties as in Texmati kind of cases, it is better to settle these issues. Though, this might lead to other states looking at such matters as well.

Was wondering who will win the Hyderabadi Biryani battle if it does happen? AP or Telangana> That might be a really tough one..

3 Responses to “Geographical Indications debate over the humble Rasagulla/rosogulla..”

  1. KAM Says:

    “This is the saddest piece of writing ever seen on the Indian gastronomic and cultural front.

    just changing the name from roshogolla to rasagulla won’t make it Intellectual property of Oriyas.

    is this the only piece of heritage that you can show off to the world? Seriously there are better things to latch onto 🙂

    chaitanna mahaprabhu did come from GEOGRAPHICAL ORISSA but back then there was no orissa, are we forgetting this?

    and your dear lord ASHOKA the great wasn’t your hero too until he defeated your so called “kalinga empire”. he was a scavenger of kalinga and not a king 🙂

    your bali, sumatra etc “J(y)ATRAS” came form LORD ASHOKA’S INVASION of your pillage state.

    the regular oriya isn’t sweet at all, its rather very harsh, its rather the languages like sambalpuri and languages near the west bengal border where the oriya dialects turn sweeter. would you not agree?

    sambalpuri is such a cute language! why are you guys stomping it down to non-exitence and these guys want their language to prosper just like yours. give them their due!

    oh, btw, i forgot to mention YOUR BEST CM (infact my best CM too, one of the best CMs our country ever had) doesn’t even speak Oriya!

    Rashogolla, like the most sweets in India will always and forever be a Bengali thing. Remember that Bengali households still are known for their amazing food culture and this fact is known world-wide 🙂

    tanSEN was bengali my dear friend, so were a lot of other people! want to see the entire list as it stands today? so was subash chandra bose and sri aurobindo :)

    and i can name a million others and i am proud to say our greateness can be exerted beyond our national borders.
we are the fifth largest speakers!

    here are two lists to shut your mouth

    these guys are not just making India proud but half the world knows about these guys dude 🙂

    we bengalis have won pretty much every award in the world stage
you name it we have it and we are damn proud of what we have :)
its the only country in the world which took rebellion because it couldn’t speak its mother tongue and it won! and won so hard that the UN had to adopt that day as the international language day, which celebrates languages from all over the world.

    did you know that the FAMOUS SEARS TOWER is architectured by another bengali?”

    (MBA, IMT Ghaziabad)
    Vertical Head – Mobile Internet Products & Data Services at Airtel
    Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

  2. Shankar Shridhara Dash Says:

    Dear Kam

    I think bengalis are the most treacherous species of the world. You questioning our heritage is baffling me. Bengali originated from Odiya. After independence of our country you peolpe claimed that Odiya isn’t a language and wanted Odisha to be a part of bengal. But I have to say that Odiya language dates back to 12th century and yes we showed the evidence of its existence and now Odiya is a CLASSICAL Language along with Tamil and Sanskrit. But you people claimed it to have originated from Bengali. So it proves that bengalis are big LIARS. And yes Bengali girls are world famous eg INDRANI MUKHERJEA type. All are the same. No doubt porn sites are filled with bengali girls’ mms. So it again proves how you people use yourselves to get a thing done by hook or crook.

    British’s first established their trade facilitites in Odisha:

    read the early history part of the provided link. But due to the frquent cyclones and also the resitances from mighty Odiyas they couldn’t run their trade in Odisha so they ventured and experimented bengal which they easily conquered and establishe. This proved to be a bliss for bengalis as it gained importance and people came to know about bengal and that your so called NOBIN cheater made the rasgulla that he learnt in Odisha and started selling there and it gained the name and fame. The cheater claimed to have invented. had the media been strong that time he would have been in jail for fraud.
    Speaking of our CM he is a an Odiya born and brought up by his punjabi mother. So his not speaking odiya is understandable. His father was Odiya and a war hero if you don’t know. Seeing your post I can conclude one thing that you have little to less knowledge about anything and everything and you think bengal is the centre of world which is not actually.
    Speaking of your CM. Jadavpur University students got severe beating from trinamool goondas. A guy in some rally protested against mamata’s nephew and he was beaten to the state of death. I know exactly what your CM is. And how you remain in fear of her. Yes I forgot to mention our Petroleum Minister and tribal MInister in Union are both Odiya. How many bengalis are there ?

    Subhash Bose was born and brought up in Odisha and you claim him because he is just a bengali by mother tongue.
    Ya you people are 5 th largest speakers because your girls are like Indrani Mukherjea.

    If ashoka had lived he would have given credit to Odiyas for changing him but people like you interpret in different way.

    for you information Odisha is trying to change it’s name to Kalinga. Soon it will be true too.
    Due to british the sea which was once known as Kalinga Sagar turned to bay of bengal.
    In odiya point of view you peole have no origin just a group moved from Odisha and settled in a different place.
    So be calm and wait till Odisha Patents the RASGULLA.

    FUCK OFF!!!!!!!
    (MBA, IMT Ghaziabad)
    Vertical Head – Mobile Internet Products & Data Services at Airtel
    Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

  3. SD Says:

    West Bengal has decided to back down from its original claim that Nobin Das invented the rasgulla. It now states that it wants a GI tag for only the Banglar rasogolla and has clarified that it has no conflict with Odisha. This comes after the Odisha government compiled 130 pages of historical evidence that the sweet was being prepared in the kitchens of the Puri temple for at least 500 years. As it stands now: RASAGOLLA ORIGINATED IN ODISHA!

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