Intriguing battle for the Ownership of delicious White Balls.
Intriguing battle for the Ownership of delicious White Balls. | Photography: Theweek

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Intriguing battle for the Ownership of delicious White Balls.

May 15, 2019

Rosogolla! It is the soft, white, sugar syrupy ball of heaven that just melts in your mouth. It is so delicious, one can never get enough of it, yet so delirious that two states of our nation got in a scrimmage with each other.

Rosogolla or Rasgulla is a popular, syrupy dessert made from round-shaped dumplings of chhena (an Indian cottage cheese) and semolina dough, cooked in sugar syrup. 

Be the lanes of Kolkata or the temples of Puri, the entire subcontinent is in love with these sweet, syrupy, soft cheese balls. The luscious Rasgulla is one of India's best-loved culinary inventions and both the Bengalis and Oriyas stake their claim on it.

History and the Origin of Rasgulla

Many Odias claim that, in their culture, this sweet was part of a ritual some 700 years ago. According to a legend, these sweets were offered to his consort Lakshmi by Lord Jagannath. This sweet was known as the "Khira Mohana" due to its white appearance back in the 11 th century. It then became customary to offer this chenna sweet dish to Goddess Mahalakshmi as prasad. 

The variation of khira mohana is one from Salepur which are bigger, softer, creamier was developed by a local confectioner, Bikalananda Kar.
The variation of khira mohana is one from Salepur which are bigger, softer, creamier was developed by a local confectioner, Bikalananda Kar.

For the villagers of Pahala where milk was always in excess, they quickly learnt the method of making chenna, Pahala emerged soon to be Odisha's rasgulla hub. However, the rasgulla produced here is brownish in color due to hard baking in contrast to the soft white ones of Kolkata.

The variation of khira mohana is one from Salepur which are bigger, softer, creamier was developed by a local confectioner, Bikalananda Kar. The Odias believe that the technique of steaming cheese balls and them letting them sit in sugar syrup was mastered by him, which is how the Odias believe the origin of modern-day rasgulla.

However, the state synonymous with rasgulla, West Bengal has not taken the claims of Odiyas calmly. The Bengalis have come up with a GI claim that roshogolla (as they call it) was developed by Nabin Chandra Das in 1868 and popularized by the following generations of his family.

Another popular tale in West Bengal is that the famous sweet-maker Haradhan Moira accidentally dropped some chenna balls into bubbling syrup giving birth to the famous rasgulla as we know it today. This crude version was then fine-tuned by two confectioneries - the Mullicks of Bhowanipore and Chittaranjan Mistana Bhandar of Sobhabazar in the late 19th and early 20th century. 

disha too applied for a GI tag and the minister of science and technology also set up a committee to trace the actual origin of the sweet.
disha too applied for a GI tag and the minister of science and technology also set up a committee to trace the actual origin of the sweet.

West Bengal's submission was based on Haripada Bhowmik's book on Rasogolla which stated that the item was first seen in the form of "Della Rasogolla" in the year 1860 in the town of Fulia in Nadia District. They also submitted that the main ingredient for this sweet is "channa", which as a word that does not exist in any other language other than Bengali, and it is derived from the Sanskrit work "chinna" which means torn, broken, fragments of Milk.

A few years ago, the tiff between West Bengal and Odisha claiming the origin of rasgulla became serious and the government of West Bengal filed a court petition along with an application for a Geographical Indication (GI) recognition for the rasgulla. Odisha too applied for a GI tag and the minister of science and technology also set up a committee to trace the actual origin of the sweet. The committee also produced a 100-page document to support the claim. In 2015, the state of Odisha declared "Rosogola Diwas" to celebrate the Odia origin of the sweet.

Over the years, the battle became even murkier and the bitter feud ended with a sweet victory for West Bengal as the Geographical Indications (GI) registry announced that the rasgulla originated in West Bengal not in Odisha.

What is a GI tag?

The Geographical Indication tag or GI tag is an intellectual property identifier for a product. India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods in 2003. The GI is provided as a certification as the origin of food product guaranteeing a certain standard or authenticity. Apart from rasgulla, Darjeeling tea and the Hyderabadi Haleem are some foods that have been awarded the GI tag.