Rasagola wars: On Odisha’s complaint, Bengal asked to prove that it owns the sweet
The sweet Rasagola is leading to a bitter war of ownership between Odisha and West Bengal. The escalation in conflict follows an official decision--taken four days ago-- to grant Odisha ownership of a variety of the easy-to-swallow, soft-white sweet. Odisha, however, is finding it difficult to stomach.
The Chennai based government regulator--Geographical Indication (GI) Registry-- tasked to settle commercial disputes on geographical origins has now called West Bengal government for a September hearing on an Odisha petitioner’s complaint that Bengal furnished false evidence and data in order to claim Rasogola as its own.
Odisha’s Ramesh Chandra Sahoo, who heads an NGO called Regional Development Trust, had in February 2018 questioned the basis following which the Chennai based GI Registry granted Banglar Rasogola a Bengal Geographical Indication tag in November 2017. The Chennai regulator now wants the Bengal government to appear before it and prove its case, failing which, the registry will decide the matter on the basis of law and documents before it.
Sahoo says, he had demanded cancellation of the GI tag given to Banglar Rasogolla as West Bengal. But as he challenged the decision, “the GI Registry awarded GI tag to Odisha Rasagola (on July 29) to stem the discontentment,” he said.
The Odisha Small Industries Corporation Ltd and Utkala Mishtanna Byabasayee Samiti had filed the applications with the GI Registry in Chennai in February last year for award of the GI tag for Odisha Rasagola.
The GI certification describes Odisha Rasagola, as a sweet dumpling known for its juicy and non-chewy feel that can be “swallowed without teeth pressure” and Banglar Rasagola as pure white, spongy ball of “Chhana” dipped in light sugar syrup that had a fluffy smooth texture with less chewiness character.
However, Odisha rejects the Bengal argument that Bengal Rasagolas were derived from Kolkata resident Nobin Chandra Das’s invention called “Rasgulla” and were completely different from Odisha Rasagolas.
The state claims a historic and legitimate ownership over the popular delicacy. Rasagola, according to Odisha government, was served in the 12th century Lord Jagannath temple, much before Bengal knew about it.
Odisha had cited several references of the sweet in historical documents and mythologies like Dandi Ramayana, a version of the epic adapted by Balaram Das in the 16th century. It said in ‘Ajodhya Kanda’ of Dandi Ramayana, there were descriptions of Bharata and Shatrughna going to the forest to bring Lord Rama back and stopping at the abode of sage Bharadwaj, where the sage served them Rasagola among several other sweets. To buttress its claims, Odisha government showed Record of Rights of the 12th century Jagannath temple which said in age-old ritual of “Niladri Bije”, the sweet was traditionally offered to Goddess Lakshmi on behalf of Lord Jagannath.
While the two states fight over who owns the delicacy, its connoisseurs on both sides debate whose sweet is better.
A separate case is also pending in Orissa High Court challenging the GI tag to Banglar Rasogolla.