Rasagola has at least a 500 years old history in Orissa

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

I thank my dear friend Asit Mohanty for his focus on Rasagola. He has very convincingly shown that if it was innovated anywhere in the world, then it was only in Orissa.

I would like to supplement him only in matter of its age. In trying to do so, I am bound to recall my childhood days.

My Piusi (sister of my father) was married to Radhasyam Pattanayak of Gopalpur, Banki. My uncle (father’s younger brother) was also married in Banki Garh. Come a vacation, either my cousins from these two places in Banki come to my house in Tigiria or I go there. It was great fun.

There was no direct road connection between Tigiria and Banki. We were using road to Cuttack, then a boat to cross the river Mahanadi and from the Ghat at the other side, again a bus to Charchika, the nerve center of Banki between both the above villages. It was a long root.

The other road connection was to Sunthipal fron Tigiria Nizgarh via Bindhanima on bullock cart, from where to Banki in a boat over Mahanadi.

But for my family it was more convenient to go walking from my house on ridges of agricultural plots. The distance this way from my ancestral home to Mahanadi river bed was maximum four kilometers via Sunthipal.

Once my father’s Khamari (regular paid worker in charge of cultivation and storage of crops) Subala Majhi of old Tigiria accompanied me under orders of my father. He was just like a family member and we the children were respecting him as an elder brother. I was calling him ‘Subala nana’. He was an excellent story teller and it was always a pleasure if his company was available.

On the ridges, only one person behind another could move. Naturally, I was following him. But he missed the proper ridge and walked on another ridge that took us to Bandala of Banki on our home side bank of Mahanadi, instead of Sunthipal. Banki is situated on both the sides of Mahanadi; the side adjacent to Tigiria is spread from Bandala to Ansupa spangled with a few villages of Tigiria and Athgarh.

Reaching Bandala on the ridge was a bit longer than the root to Sunthipal. The sand bed of the river was also wider than the bed at Sunthipal. We were feeling hungry. Subal nana found a thatched ‘Gudia Dokan’ (snack stall) on the Mahanadi embankment where we were to enter the sand bed to walk up to the river stream. The stall owner said that all the snacks he had prepared were finished except a few Rasagolas. I found them of pretty big size in a big Glass Jar.

Smaller size Rasagola was priced Rs.2/- per piece in my village. I imagined that such big size Rasagola must be of Rs.5/- per piece. My father had given me only Rs.10/- for “Bhoga” at Charchika. We were not to pay any money to the ferrymen, as they were my family’s ‘Berttan Bhogi’ persons, to whom a plot of our ancestral land near the river had been given for free ferrying of our family members as and when we were to go to and fro Banki.

But, despite being hungry, I could not dare to take even one of the sweet balls, lest the money would be more than that I can afford. I was sure, howsoever big the cost, at least two Rasagolas could be paid for with the money I was possessing. So, I asked the snack shop owner to give Subala nana two pieces of Rasagola. Subala nana querried, should I not take any! I refused, pretending that I do not like the Rasagolas.

The Rasagolas were really of such big size that Subala Nana could not take more than the two pieces given to him.
As I gave the shop owner the ten-rupees note, he said, “Ede notute! Reja Kai’n? (A note of such big amount! Wherefrom shall I get the changes?)

And, thus saying, he went running to his village to procure the changes. He returned me a sum of Rs. 8/- and when in blatant surprise, I wanted to know the price he was charging per piece, he said, it was only Re.1/- per piece.

It would have been embarrassing for me to ask for Rasogola, as I had already said that I do not like them. I repented for my foolishness.

However, I asked him, when Rasagola of very small size was charged Rs.2/- in Tigiria Nizgarh, how was it that he was selling bigger size Rasgolas at Re.1/- only?

He replied, “babu, adhika kahinki nebi? Jhiati ta baha hoi shahughare bhalare achhi. Pua chakiri kari bohu saha bahare. Ame Budha Budhi Dijana; Gaee jeuin kshira deuchhanti, sethiru khai pi balakaku chhena chhidei sata purusara beparati chaleichhun. Mo pare beparati budi jiba” (My daughter has married and is staying happily with her in-laws. Son is in an outside employment and my daughter-in-law and grandchildren are staying with him. My wife is making the cheese from the milk the family cows give and thus I am maintaining the seven generation old family trade. After me, the tradition would end).

I was curious to know how it could be a trade of seven generations old. He said, “Thare Saa’nte e pariki bije hoithilabele Rasagola khai khusi hoi Mo jejebapanka budhajepanku sata mana jami deithile O niskara bhogibaku kahithile. Sei dinathu eha chalichhi”. (Once while inspecting this side of his State – the King of Banki had entertained himself with Rasagola prepared by the great-grandfather of my grandfather and being happy over the treat, had gifted him seven Mana of land free of tax. Since then we are using the land.) It may be mentioned that in our area, a Mana is around one and half acres of land.

When I was a student of nine at that time, the shop owner was, I believe, in his 70s. He was in possession of the land gifted by the king of Banki for Rasagola for six generations by then. If one generation is of minimum sixty years, then that history covers at least 360 years and as the man whom the King of Banki had gifted the land, was in inherited trade of the family, Rasagola was surely a 400 years old family trade of the Bandala family.

Keeping this story here, I would like to recall my accidental visit to the family of K.C.Das of Kolkata. My esteemed friend Barendra Krushna Dhal has profound friendship with this family. On reaching Utkal Bhavan, Kolkata on a day, I found Barendra babu was lodged there for two days. A few hours later, journalist Pradyot Bhatt arrived and announced that he had come to invite us to a dinner in the residence of Mr. Das. I was reluctant to accept the invitation, because I did not know that family. But finally I had to agree, as, after Pradyot babu left, I got the request from the son of Mr. Das through my room telephone. Obviously, Barendra babu must have asked the host to invite me and in order not to embarass Barendra babu, I went there with him. The evening was tremendous. I had gathered from there that by then their family trade of Rasagola had reached the third generation.

The Bandala experience continued to strike me. If the Bandala family was producing Rasagola for seven generations, how then the Das family of Kolkata could be the inventor of Rasagola, being in the trade for three generations?

Once while talking about this, I attracted attention of my revered teacher Pt. Narayan Dash. He instantly recited a Sankrit Shloka that depicted how  Rasagola was being offered by Laxmi to SriJagannatha on his final entry to SriMandira after the car festival.

The tradition is in vogue before arrival of Sri Chaitanya at Puri, he had said.

I believe that he was not wrong.

It is Gajapati Purusottama Dev during whose time most aggressive steps were taken to change Jagannatha from Buddha to Vishnu and all sorts of legends were created to bring in the Laxmi concept.

In original Srikshetra tradition Bimala, the Shakti of Bauddha Tantra was the Kshetradhiswari of the citadel of Jagannatha (Bimala Sa MahaDevi, Jagannathastu Bhairabah), Laxmi was never.

In order to replace Bimala with Laxmi, so that people may take Jagannatha as Vishnu – he being Laxmi’s consort – this legend of Laxmi trying to please Jagannatha with Rasagola was contrived. And, Purusottama Dev must have encouraged that.

Chaitanya had come to Orissa after the end of the reign of Purusottama Dev, particularly after Prataparudra Dev was well settled. He had spent the last 18 years of his life from 1515 to 1533 A.D. in Puri. This shows that, Rasagola is in use in Puri before 1515 A.D.  and thus, for at least 500 years.

Thus, Orissa’s claim as the place of origin of Rasagola is certainly justified.

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Durga of Chandinichowk: Fish Curry and Oriya Heritage

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The greatest Oriya poet for all times to come, the immortal bard of love, Sri Jaya Dev, in his Dasavatara Stuti, prefixed to his Sahajia Astapadi songs published under the caption of Geeta Govinda, has given primacy to fish as the epitome of benevolence to human beings.

Tantra, the science of the body, holds fish as one of the five factors of invigoration.

When the Oriyas enter into conjugal age, negotiations succeed and preparations for marriage commence, the first act of reciprocation between both the sides of the bride and the groom commences with gift of curd and fish.

A traditional Oriya male observes fasting on the day of his marriage and after the marriage rituals are over, his life as a married man starts with Pakhala (boiled rice soaked in water) and fried fish taken from the hand of his new mother – the mother-in-law. This unique role of the mother-in-law is reminder of the matriarch heritage of Orissa.

In matriarch heritage, inheritance comes to the youngest daughter and she remains the object of affection of every relation and dependent.

Cuttack – the unique city of simplicity and affluence mixed together; the city of clan culture yet prevalent in Sahi feeling in which collective entity matters, not caste or creed; the city of unity where rural character influences urban activities – brings forth this matriarch tradition of Orissa alive every year on the occasion of Dasahara that manifests at Chandinichowk, the seat of the youngest amongst the three sisters comprising Durga of Balu Bazar (1st sister) and Durga of Chowdhury Bazar (2nd sister). Here Milan (get-together) of all the Devis takes place before immersion.

The youngest sister (Durga of Chandinichowk) distributes her Prasad of Anna (rice) and fish curry to all on this occasion.

This year more than five quintals of fish was cooked for Her Prasad. This unique Oriya tradition was resurrected by Laxman Swain in 1908 when assertion of Oriya uniqueness was essential in the context of British annexation of Orissa. The Chhancha (mould) of the Devi of Chandinichowk has been preserved since then by the Swain family and when the face of Devi images change elsewhere every year, it remains the same and unchanged in Chandinichowk.

The Mother Durga of Chandinichowk is the epitome of Oriya heritage.

GOOD MUSIC VRS. POPULAR MUSIC: RANGABATI SINGER HOLDS FORT

This posting including the caption originating from BISWAJEET PADHI is borrowed from a group mail addressed to CanOSAnet, which was to our hand from Prof. Gopal Mohanty, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, by way of redirection. Prof. Mohanty deserves all thanks for having circulated it in the yahoogroup.

We agree with every word used in this article. The government has failed to ensure that exploitation of artists by business community stops and a genius like Jitendra Harpal is given his appropriate royalty.

We are publishing this excellent write up for perusal of our esteemed visitors with an appeal that each one of them, in their respective sphere should pay attention to the issues so ably highlighted in it and to please do their best to make at least the Government of Orissa understand how to fix up priority in extending support to culture of the State.

It is a shame that when creative geniuses like Harpal are abandoned by the State, several lakhs of rupees are being squandered away year after year in celebrating Jaya Dev’s birthday in a communal fashion, simply because a senior IAS officer wants it.

All thinking minds, who love Orissa, must rise up and ask the State government to divert the money they are spending in communalizing Sri Jaya Dev to welfare of creative geniuses like Harpal.
-Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Rangabati O Rangabati , kanaka lata , hasi pade kahana kath – , Hai go laze laze o laze, laze, laze laze nai zauche matha go, nai kara nai kara aatha( O my beloved Rangabati, speak to me with a smile; I am not able to raise my face with shame – don’t trouble me much) has set the hearts bubbling of millions all over the world. It has been lapped up by listeners from Los Angeles to London when broadcasted through Radio. Though a sambalpuri folk song, it is as popular in Ranchi as in Delhi . It is still a national anthem for every band party ushering the bridegroom to the house of the bride. This sambalpuri folk song has been the ‘Sholay’ of folk music and has reigned the hearts of young and old alike since it was composed in 1972. But its lead singer , 61 year Jitendra Harpal still lives in obscurity in his house in Sambalpur in western Orissa. The Company that recorded and sold millions of copies of the record way back in 1979, INERCO ( Indian Record manufacturing Company) has allegedly not paid a single rupee as royalty to the singer. Poverty and lack of support are the reasons why he has not been able to wage a legal battle to get his dues. Yet he is determined to work for preserving the folk media of the region.

He supports a large family of 3 sons, 3 daughters, widow sister, her daughter, father in law, 2 grand daughter aptly named Payal and Ghungroo and a grandson named Preet. Harpal has been ailing for quite some years. Yet help has not come from the desired quarters. An all time great of folk music, who still refuses to compromise on his ethics languishes in utter poverty. Following a 27 minute discussion with the Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during his sambalpur visit in May 2005, Harpal was hopeful and has not lost hope till today. The Chief Minister has assured me help for my medical treatment and also financial support of Rs. 2 lakhs for a patriotic album. Western Orissa has a rich treasure of folk dance forms, songs, festivals which over the years may get extinct and needs preservation, lamented Harpal. They need to be preserved, yet finance is a big problem to take up such a gigantic project, he said.

When he came into the scene in 1970s, music was never paying and never ensured a livelihood. It was sheer grit and love for music that he stayed on the scene. With a humble background of even working as a daily labourer, he came into the music scene when he was around 8 / 10 years of age. Such was the love for music, he used to stand outside music schools as he had no money to pay fees. When his mentor Ghulam Abbas started an orchestra named ROCKY in 1965- 66, he got an opportunity to sing. I used to get Rs. 50 per programme in those days and there used to be around 10 programmes per annum, reminiscences Harpal. But the real break came in 1968 -69 when he auditioned for All India Radio, Sambalpur. Though I used to get Rs. 15 per programme, I got recognition after singing in radio confesses Harpal. Infact Rangabti was first aired by AIR in its Surmalia programme in the year 1974.

Now that technology has become affordable, many people are joining the music industry. Mushrooming of recording studios though have been encouraging for the fledging industry, it has it pitfalls too. Earlier music industry was being controlled by big players and many a talent used to go waste. With the advent of Remix and western music, the threat to folk media has multiplied. Double meaning lyrics and some even bordering on obscene are further eroding the track record of the music industry. He is on a mission to preserve sambalpuri folk songs. Lokgeets ( folk songs) are inner voices of People and times and are reflections of the society , asserts Harpal. But with the advent of western culture, we are fast losing it, he lamented.

Arranging finance for cause has been an insurmountable problem. Harpal still refuses to sing cheap and vulgar lyrics where he is offered handsome rewards. There is no short cut to success, he admits and keeps on producing songs which the entire family can listen together. Thankfully his children have also taken to music. His eledest son Prabhat is a rhythm player whereas the eldest of the daughter, Chandrika is a singer. Working against all odds to preserve the culture of the area, has great hopes on the younger generations. Today singing can become a source of livelihood for an upcoming talent, which was not, just a couple of years back. Avoid vulgar lyrics, respect the folk form are the message he wants to give to the younger generations. Meanwhile the dream of preserving the folk media of the region remains a distant dream.