How Bengal won the prestige issue of Rosogolla from Odisha?

The battle regarding which state could properly lay claim to Rosogolla had been going on for around two and a half years between two neighboring states in eastern India – Bengal and Odisha. In the end, Bengal came out victorious on 14 November 2017 in the battle after getting the GI (Geographical Indication) tag from the union ministry of commerce. Right from the time this legal wrangle started in 2015 the sweet merchants of Bengal as well as the state government had been making concerted efforts to prove that Rosogolla had actually originated in the state. Now, with this recognition rest of the country – with the obvious exception of Odisha – has accepted the fact as well.

Nabin Chandra Das

This recognition has also established Nabin Chandra Das as the official discoverer of this sweet. In fact, this was one reason why the Bengal government had applied for the GI tag in the first place. Previously it had tasted success with similar applications for Darjeeling Tea and Jaynagarer Mowa, yet another sweet unique to Bengal. This time however it was the neighbor Odisha that decided to step in and create a hurdle in its way by laying claim to be its originator. It had stated in its claim that from at least 500 years prior to 1868 when Rosogolla was invented by Das the sweet was offered to the gods, as well as the devotees, at the Jagannath Mandir in Puri.

What did Odisha claim?

In its claim Odisha stated cited folk tales from Purana, which are much known in that part of the world. The sweet was at that time known as Pohala Rasgulla. It stated that in the mythical age the wife of Lord Jagannath – Devi Lakshmi – had become disenchanted for some reason or the other. At that time, Jagannath had treated her to a sweet named Kheermohan in order to make her happy. They claimed that this sweet was the predecessor of Rosogolla.

Controversy of Origin of Rasgulla
Controversy about Origin of Rasgulla

Citing present practice

It also stated that this is specifically the reason why this sweet has been offered right from the time said temple was built during the 12th century. Still now, this sweet is offered to Goddess Lakshmi on the ninth day of the Rathyatra festival. The interesting thing that needs to be noted over here that there is no place for this sweet in the Chappan Bhog – an elaborate course – offered to Lord Jagannath on this day. In spite of that, in 2015 the then Science and Technology Minister of Odisha, Pradip Kumar Panigrahi, called a news conference and announced that a high level government committee had unearthed definitive proof that Rosogolla was there in Odisha even 600 years back.

How did Bengal wrest back the initiative?

Bengal countered these claims with proper documentation and historic evidence. It stated that Rosogolla is chiefly made from an ingredient named Chhana, which is done by souring the milk with the help of lemons. In the Hindu pantheon this is akin to defiling the sacred liquid and as such sweetmeat made from such an ingredient cannot be offered in such rituals. This practice has continued for many years.

Historical logic

It is people like sweet researcher Haripada Bhowmik who have played a major role in this victory of sorts. They pointed out that the practice of making ingredients such as Chhana and cheese came to India first from the Portuguese and then the Dutch and the French. It is thanks to these colonial influences that Bengalis first tasted such products. This is what they stated in order to support that it was the sweet makers of Bengal who started making Rosogolla. Odisha had however countered this by saying that it was the Odiya cooks who worked across homes in erstwhile Bengal who gave rise to this practice. However, in the end they were unable to furnish much proof in this regard and this led to Bengal getting the GI tag for Rosogolla.