The bitter war over the rasagola appears to have ended in a draw—the geographical indicator (GI) was granted to Odisha on Monday for the ‘Odisha rasagola’, less than two years after West Bengal won its own GI tag for the delectable eastern sweet.
The Chennai-based GI Registry on Monday issued a formal certification for the ‘Odisha rasagola’ on its website.
“This mouthwatering culinary delight made of cottage cheese, loved by Odias across the world, is offered to Lord Jagannath as part of bhog since centuries," Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik tweeted.
A GI is a distinctive sign/name used on a product generally collectively owned, which can be used to differentiate goods on the basis of its unique characteristics and geographical origin. A GI tag helps in the branding and marketing of a local product and can attract penalties if copied by anybody outside that geographical region.
When West Bengal received its GI tag for its variety of rasagola in November 2017, many people wrongly believed that the GI Registry has recognized that the sweet originated in West Bengal. A bitter fight ensued between the two states over the sweet delicacy, both on social media and off it. The GI tag for the same product to both the neighbouring states now recognizes two distinct varieties in taste and texture.
In its submission before the GI registrar, the Odisha Small Industries Corp. Ltd, which has been awarded the GI tag, said: “Odisha rasagola is very soft to feel, juicy and non-chewy in consistency, and can be swallowed without teeth pressure. The rasagola prepared in other places is circular in shape, milk white in colour and basically spongy and chewy in consistency."
While Bengalis claim the sweet was invented by Nobin Chandra Das (Birth: 1845) at his Bagbazar residence in Kolkata, Odias cite the tradition dating back to the 12th century of the cottage cheese dumpling being offered at the Puri Jagannath Temple.
During the festival of “Niladri Bije", Lord Jagannath offers rasgulla to his disgruntled consort Goddess Laxmi on his return from a nine-day-long Rath Yatra. That day is now marked by Odias as Rasagola Dibasa (Day) every year.
However, there was little written evidence available to support the claim by Odias, and the Odisha government admitted that a committee set up for the purpose had failed to collect any evidence. However, an Odia cultural scholar, Asit Mohanty, then brought out unknown facts about the sweet. Mohanty found mention of the word rasagola in the 15th Century Odia Dandi Ramayan written by the medieval poet Balaram Das. He also quoted many other Odiya and Sanskrit texts to prove that chhena, or cottage cheese, was known to Indians much before the Portuguese arrived in India. The battle over the GI tag may have ended in a draw between Odisha and West Bengal. The war over its origin will continue.