By Srikanta Mohanty: When vehicles speed up on the highway between Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, eyes invariably catch glimpses of sweet stalls at Pahala- the place familiar to one and all as a stop-over for the delicacy in sweetmeats in Odia cuisine. Yet, the famous sweet-maker, Bikalananda Kar, in the small township of Salepur gives fierce competition to every confectioner all over India with its own brand of sweets. The king in the range of sweets- Rasagolla- enjoys the highest attention and demand from people. While making search in the sweet items displayed in a sweet-stall, the buyers habitually ask for this rotund and whitish delicacy in Odia cuisine.
The neighboring Bengal is also a fierce competitor of the same item with its type of ‘Rasgulla’. Every visitor to Kolkata cast inquisitive looks at the packed tins of the delicacy available in the shops of the mega city. “Although, we have our distinct taste and method of preparation of ‘Rasagolla’, yet the savor in the Bengali ‘Rasgulla’ has its own identity. Rich and silky texture in the body of the sweet simply melts on your tongue as you put it there. The ones from the city of joy are perfumed and unique in their makes”-says Sanghamitra Swain of B.J.B. Nagar of Bhubaneswar.
Controversy was the only outcome, when the state government of Odisha made its decision to apply Geographical Identification (GI) to this king among the delicacies, marking the state as the place of birth of this item in sweets. This invited the wrath of Bengali counterparts in confectionary, who have produced this item and almost reinvented the size and taste by adding newness to the method of preparation.
The Odias link this grand item Odia cuisine as part and parcel of daily offering to Lord Jagannath during the world famous Car Festival, while natives of Bengal have their version of origin of ‘Rasgulla’ in their homeland. “The proximity in two cultures, similarity in two languages, and close association in every field between the two states make it almost impossible to say where this sweet item originated. All that is left to debate and guesswork”-Says Avijit Bannerji-a connoisseur of Bengali and Odia cuisines.