in search of the origin of a sweet dish

‘Rasagola Dibasa – Odisha Celebrates a Day For Rasagola (Rasgulla)’ is Dr. Anita Sabat’s second book. Here is what the blurb says:

This publication ‘Rasagola Dibasa – Odisha Celebrates a Day For Rasagola (Rasgulla)’ is a sincere attempt to share about Odisha’s centuries-old sweet-dish Rasagola; continuing tradition, Niladri Bije; and the online celebration of #RasagolaDibasa. This eBook endeavours to provide correct information and to create awareness.

Dr. Anita Sabat cares a lot about indigenous arts and crafts. She is very vocal about community issues and has been fighting against cultural misappropriations of various kinds. She is also aware that due to ignorance, many do not share her enthusiasm to set right historical wrongs where in the credit for a product or craft continues to be attributed to a wrong person, place or ethnic group. To set this right, last year she wrote a book ‘Geographical Indications (GI) of Odisha’. You can read my review of the book here.

I myself did not know what are GI Tags until I read her book. In fact if you read that book you will be in a position to better appreciate the book under review even though this book is not a sequel to her first book. Well for the uninitiated, a GI Tag is a kind of official recognition of a product’s origin and development in a particular geographical region and the authentication of the special features of the product thus associated with a particular region. It safeguards a product from being duplicated elsewhere and prevents unscrupulous use of the geographical identity.

In a way this book probes in depth into one such product for which both West Bengal and Odisha have been claiming credit for its origin. Finally both the sates have been awarded with the GI tags for their respective state variants. But, does this bring finality to the debates surrounding its origin ?

Some may feel these are trifling issues. Dr. Sabat has in fact faced flak sometimes for her persistence to find out facts and create awareness so as to undo historical misrepresentations about indigenous products.

It is in the nature of each ethnic group to preserve its identity. But, what are the factors that contribute to such identity? Language or dialect is one such thing. Dress could be another. Then there are age old customs. And of course food. Imagine the indignation of people from Bihar and Jharkhand when they learn that Odias are claiming Litti Chokha as their own ethnic food.

So ‘Rasagola Dibasa – Odisha celebrates a Day For Rasagola (Rasgulla)’ first of all, aims to set at rest all speculations, controversies and misinformation associated with the origin of the sweet. Her book deserves to be taken seriously. She has made extensive research to bring to limelight the facts associated with the origin of Rasagola backed with evidences.

Rasagola is very closely associated with a significant ritual of Lord Jagannath. It is offered to the Lord on the day called Niladri Bije which happens towards the end of the famous annual Ratha Jatra ritual. The day of the Niladri Bije is also the day when Rasagola Dibasa is celebrated every year starting from 2015. Dr. Anita Sabat played a significant role in not only getting the GI Tag for the sweet, but also initiating and trending Rasagola Dibasa.

It may be noted that there are thousands of seasonal and daily rituals associated with the deities of Shri Jagannath Temple at Puri. The rituals have remained unaltered for hundreds of years. For example the ingredients of the daily food offering known as Mahaprasada have remained unchanged since its inception. No new item like potato etc. has been introduced. There has never been any food offering, as part of any mandatory ritual, that has not been native to Odisha.

If this is not evidence enough for Rasagola to be regarded a native Odia sweet, the author submits extracts from ‘The Penguin Food Guide to India’:

The book is full of such citations from authentic sources to establish the sweet’s origin in Odisha. In addition to making in depth analysis of various historical records and other sources associated with the origin of Rasagola, the book provides fascinating lesser known facts about Odisha and Odia Culture.

Once I started reading the book I could not resist the temptation to finish the book, as I would perhaps when I start tastings a plate of well made Rasagolas. You can download the book from here.

Dr. Sabat’s book is part of Blogchatter’s ongoing Ebook carnival where in a lot of books are available for free download from its library. My latest book- ‘The Beauty of Sanskrit Language and Text‘ is also part of the carnival and you can download it from here.

Happy reading.

5 thoughts on “in search of the origin of a sweet dish

  1. Thank you for your explanatory review and for your kind words. 🙂
    Though Rasagolas are associated with Shree Jagannatha and Puri, Odisha, for long, yet many still do not know about this. Hope the truth is known, shared and accepted worldwide soon.
    You have explained the issues so well for everyone’s understanding, and seamlessly connected my previous book about the “GIs of Odisha” with this “Rasagola Dibasa” book.
    Who can “resist the temptation to finish” a “plate full of well made Rasagolas”?
    Always ready to finish off such plates. 🙂
    Thanks for reading & sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A very interesting review! I have been following the writing of Dr Anita Sabat for some time now including some of the posts during the challenge. I have known her to be very passionate about what she is doing. In the absence of such passion both her books requiring lot of research could not have been written. In fact one could say the author is a brand ambassador for the state of Odisha, passionately and fiercely safeguarding its interests!

    Liked by 1 person

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