Odisha and West Bengal battles over origin of Rasagola

The battle between Odisha and West Bengal over the origin of the Rasagola reverberated in the assembly on Thursday with Ruling BJD MLAs seeking the state government’s intervention to stop the neighbouring state’s attempt to formally stake claim over the sweetmeat as its invention.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour; BJD MLA and former minister Ranendra Pratap Swain said the science and technology department of Bengal had initiated a move to approach the Centre for GI authentication of Rasagola, which must be protested.

Joining his party colleague, MLA Priyadarshi Mishra said Bengal can claim Sandesh to be its own, not our Rasagola.

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The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) department of Odisha started the initiative for GI tag for the seet in May under the Geographical indications of Goods Act 1999. If the Odisha MSME department can establish the authenticity of their product, it will become much easier to market the product globally.

In Kolkata, Dhiman Das of KC Das – custodian of the rosogolla’s cultural heritage in Bengal – had a different take on the issue.

“Some confectioners in Odisha are mobilizing government departments there to fight for a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the Pahala rosogolla. The controversy over the rosogolla’s origin has been there for many years. Why has the Odisha government suddenly become so active on this? They are trying to promote Odisha’s rosogolla as a global commodity over Kolkata’s product,” he said.

According to those at Pahala, the rasagola is an Odia sweet that has been offered at the Jgannath temple in Puri for many centuries. But the Bengalis believe the sweet was invented in their state, possibly by Nabin Chandra Das in the 19th century.

The craftsmen at Pahala on the city outskirts, which houses more than 80 sweet shops, have another take.

Rasagola Dibasa

“Kelu Behera was the first to make the rasagola and no one else in the world knew about the sweet then,” said Pahala Meetha Byabasayee Mahasangha president Nihar Ranjan Das, adding that his family carried the legacy forward after Behera’s death.

He said he has documents proving that Pahala is the place where the rasagola was invented.

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