Ben­gal scores over Odisha, wins GI tag for roso­golla


Roso­golla, the syrup­soaked spongy ball that has served as a gas­tro­nomic iden­tity marker for the Ben­gali com­mu­nity for al­most 150 years, just got recog­ni­tion for its unique­ness.

The Union min­istry of com­merce and in­dus­try on Tues­day recog­nised Banglar Roso­golla, the iconic sweet, as de­serv­ing of pro­tec­tion un­der ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tion (GI), ig­nor­ing com­pet­ing claims about its ori­gin from neigh­bour­ing Odisha.

Ear­lier this year, two ex­otic va­ri­eties of rice pro­duced in small quan­ti­ties—tu­laipanji and Govin­d­ab­hog—also re­ceived sim­i­lar pro­tec­tion un­der GI as unique prod­ucts of West Ben­gal, but this went largely un­no­ticed. But the suc­cess with the ubiq­ui­tous roso­golla, at least 20 mil­lion pieces of which are pro­duced ev­ery day, was “sweet news”, said chief min­is­ter Ma­mata Banerjee. It trig­gered cel­e­bra­tions in Kolkata.

The recog­ni­tion does not nec­es­sar­ily end the de­bate on the ori­gins of the cov­eted sweet. Whereas a con­fec­tioner from Kolkata, Nabin Chan­dra Das, is known to be the in­ven­tor of roso­golla, peo­ple of Odisha have claimed that a vari­ant of the sweet was of­fered to the de­ity at Puri’s Ja­gan­nath tem­ple from much ear­lier.

The GI recog­ni­tion was widely seen as a vic­tory over Odisha’s claim, but what the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty au­thor­i­ties have recog­nised is the unique­ness of Banglar Roso­golla for its melt-in-the-mouth smooth­ness, spongy tex­ture and the light­ness of the sugar syrup in which it is dipped.

“Smooth and del­i­cate” feel in the mouth are the ba­sic char­ac­ter­is­tics of Banglar Roso­golla, the state had said in its pe­ti­tion seek­ing GI pro­tec­tion. Hard­ness of Banglar Roso­golla is “ex­per­i­men­tally proven” to be much lower than sam­ples col­lected from other states, and the sugar con­cen­tra­tion of the syrup is main­tained at 30-40%, mak­ing it lighter than vari­ants from other states.

Though the state’s ap­pli­ca­tion for GI pro­tec­tion of Banglar Roso­golla was based on var­i­ous phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal pa­ram­e­ters of the sweet, which are claimed to be con­sis­tent, sweet­meat mak­ers ac­tu­ally go by their in­stinct, said Su­mit Sun­dar Ghosh, di­rec­tor, Chit­taran­jan Mis­tanna Bhan­dar Pvt. Ltd, a fa­bled con­fec­tioner es­tab­lished in 1907.

“I am not sure the unique­ness can be main­tained if peo­ple stopped to rely on their in­tu­ition and started to mea­sure the in­gre­di­ents or if pro­duc­tion were to be mech­a­nised,” he added. At the same time, his firm was one of the early birds to start its own dairy farm to main­tain prod­uct con­sis­tency. The qual­ity of milk is paramount, de­ter- mined by the fod­der and the process of col­lec­tion, he said.

Back in 1994, the sweet maker from north Kolkata started to in­vest in its dairy farm. It now sprawls 100 acres, and pro­duces 2,000-2,500 litres of milk a day, said Ni­tai Chan­dra Ghosh, Su­mit Sun­dar Ghosh’s fa­ther and a fifth gen­er­a­tion con­fec­tioner. The farm has its own re­frig­er­ated trucks to carry the milk to Kolkata from Dur­ga­pur, 180km away.

“Our roso­gol­las are made en­tirely out of the milk that we pro­duce,” he said. “We still buy small quan­ti­ties of milk but only to pro­duce other sweets, which, for in­stance, need milk with higher fat con­tent.”

Cur­d­ing of milk to de­rive cot­tage cheese, or chhana— the main in­gre­di­ent of roso­golla—started in east­ern In­dia un­der the in­flu­ence of the Euro­peans, said Mani Shankar Mukherji, an au­thor and his­to­rian. In 1868, con­fec­tioner Das in­vented the roso­golla in its cur­rent form cap­ping sev­eral years of ex­per­i­ment af­ter be­ing thrown out of his an­ces­tral busi­ness of sugar re­fin­ing, said a scion of the fam­ily, Dhi­man Das, also a di­rec­tor of K.C. Das Pvt. Ltd.

Nabin Chan­dra Das built his busi­ness on the strength of the roso­golla, whose pop­u­lar­ity spread be­yond the neigh­bour­hood of his store in north Kolkata from the 1870s. K.C. Das helped spread the sweet out­side Kolkata by cre­at­ing a long-life vari­ant sold in cans from 1930.

Now, there are 16 K.C. Das stores in Bengaluru, com­pared with only five in Kolkata, said Dhi­man Das.


The Union com­merce min­istry recog­nised ‘Banglar roso­golla’ as de­serv­ing of pro­tec­tion un­der ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tion.

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