Row over rasgulla’s place of birth continues
Written by: Avasi Mohanty
The squeezy cheesy balls continues to be a mysterious problem to solve. There has been much talk over the past few months about the origin of rasgulla between the states of Odisha and West Bengal. Rasgulla is a brown or white Indian cottage cheese ball dipped in sugar syrup, which tempts every other person who has a sweet tooth. For the people of Eastern India, it is not just classified as a sweet but has a class of its own. The debate roots to the fact that both states claim to have invented the famous sweet first. It all began when the Odisha government over a month back proceeded to apply for the Geographical Indication (GI) status for rasgulla made in pahala, popularly called as the rasgulla district of Odisha. It has been difficult to recognise the traces of its geographical birth as both the states who claim it to be theirs, come from a very similar culture & tradition and are in fact neighboring states.
A Geographical Indication (GI) registration acts as a certification that the product possess certain qualities, enjoys certain reputation due to its geographical origin. Once the GI is registered, any unauthorized user, who uses such GI by any means in the designation or presentation that indicates or suggests that such goods originates in a geographical area other than the true place of origin in a misleading manner amounts to an infringement and faces legal consequences. The GI mechanism also works internationally under the TRIPS agreement where the member nations are obliged to protect the geographical indication of other member nations and makes it obligatory for them to take all necessary measures to prevent its violation. As a party to the TRIPS Agreement, the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 was enacted in India. Food products are a recent addition to Indian GI box, which was first granted to dharwad pedha from Karnataka in the year 2009.
Coming back to the present context, concerning who owns the rasgulla invention, history states that rasgulla originated in Odisha as khir mohana which was traditionally offered to deities after Rath yatra festival for at least 600 years as evidence suggests. Some scholars believe that this dish traces its origin to the Puri temple. Later this may have developed into what is called as pahala rasgulla at Odisha today. Also a few researchers assert that Bengali visitors might have carried the recipe for rasgulla to Bengal. At the same time, Dhiman Das, the great great – grandson of the well-known Kolkata based confectioner Nabin Chandra Das, claims that the rasgulla was invented by his ancestors. The spongy white variety rasgulla of Bengal has a folk tale of its own which says, N.C Das’s novel recipe of the dish has produced this less perishable form of sweet. Going with the findings of Pritha sen, who has researched the culinary traditions of Bengal, says “In the mid-18th century, many cooks employed in large Bengali homes were Odia. It’s possible they brought the rasgulla with them.”
Looks as if the veracity of this matter somewhere lies amidst the two frontier. In case Odisha is granted GI status from government, no confectioner other than from Odisha would be able to call their product as rasgulla. But Dhiman das says, they are equipped with enough documents to support their invention. In the light of this controversy, it would be really interesting to see how things turn out to be. I suggest a faster conclusion to this long run battle as it often happens that in fight between two parties, a third party takes all the advantage which can be best stated by the basmati case where USA claimed basmati rice to be their originated product. But since we don’t have a third party here and the verdict of the grant of GI remains pending, it would be worth the wait to see who finally takes the GI trophy for the rasgulla.
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