This blogpost on Sandesh is written by Dr Kaushik Majumdar as a contributor for Mohamushkil and we are honored to have him on board as a guest writer …
Which came first? Chhena or Sandesh?
When the Portuguese landed in India in the sixteenth century, we get the first mention of something named as cottage cheese. But the question is, didn’t we eat sweets before that? We still get a mention of various sweets before that era- namely, “Dudh Lau/ Monda and Dudh-chire. The natural sweetener of milk was being used as the sweetener. Because, please remember, granulated sugar was introduced to Kolkata by that chinaman, Mr. Tong Achew. The Portuguese enriched us with their various types of cheese, and we got them in primarily, 3 varieties- Chhana/ the pungent Bandel Cheese and Bangladeshi Ponir. Murshidabad/ Burdwan/ Bishnupur from India and Dhaka/ Nator became the pioneer of sweets of Bengal- undivided Bengal.
A brief history on Sandesh
The name Sandesh is mentioned in medieval Bengali literature, including Krittibas’ Ramayana and lyrics of Chaitanya. But the ingredient is not known. Probably it was NOT made from cottage cheese as the Vaisnobs and Brahmins considered it an impure form of milk. In Bengal, the present form of Sandesh from cottage cheese was made famous by three confectioners, BholaMaira (1775-1851), Bhim Nag (1809-1885) and Girish Chandra Dey . Jatindramohan Dutta once listed various types of Sandesh, that were prevalent in various places Bengal at the early twentieth century. The list was like this
- Gnufo Sandesh of Panihati
- Ramchaki Sandesh of Sodpur
- Kanchagolla of Santipore
- Sorer Naru of Poradaha
- Manohara of Janai( has got a fine history). For preservation the Sandesh was dipped into sugar juice)
- Aam Sandesh of BhutoMaira from Ariadaha
- Talsans of Chandannagar
- JolbhoraTalsans of Simulia and Bhdreswar
- KopatBhangaKorapak of Madan Maira
- Korapak of Simle
- BatabiSondesh of Jorasanko
- Green Mango Sandesh
- Egg Sandesh
- Half egg Sandesh
- Biscuit Sandesh
- Chop Sandesh
- Ata Sandesh
- Chocolate Sandesh
- Ice cream Sandesh.
Amongst them, JolbhoraTalsans has got a nice legend as its origin.
A brief time-travel for Jolbhora Sandesh
It was 1818 and Bengal was infested by various zamindar, boroghars, chotoghars and paltighars. In Telenipara, Bhadreswar, the famous Banerjees were reigning as ‘boro’ zamindar. Once his daughter was married to another zamindar-lad of Baidyabati. When the marriage was over, it was time for the son-in-law to come again to his in-laws’ house after a month. Legends say that the zaminder’s wife and other daughters wanted to make fool of the groom. So the famous confectioner SURYA KUMAR MODAK was called upon to make such a sweetmeat by which they can befool the groom completely. Modak thought and at last, came up with an idea. He made a gigantic talsaNsh (common dry sweet in Bengal) but inside it poured pure rosewater.
When the groom made a bite, thinking it as dry as it seems, all the rose water leaked out and made his new Punjabi (Bengali style of kurta) wet. The zamindar was happy and named this new sweet as Jolbhora. Again legends say, he said to Modak, anyone may copy it, but as you are the inventor, your jalbhora will stand upright in the shelf but those of the others would lay down.
From then onwards, if you go to any outlet of Surja Modak (one is just near the strand of Chandan Nagar) you may see the mouthwatering jolbhora s…standing upright with a shining sun on their heart.
If you anyhow want to have a short experience of how the Jolbhora is actually made, you can check this video from our video blog Foodka
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome …
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About Dr. Kaushik Majumdar :-
Dr Kaushik Majumdar is a scientist, quizzard, cinemaniac, avid reader, researcher and authored three books including Holmesnama and Comics Itibrityo. His articles have been published in the famous hollywood magazine SILENT FILM QUARTERLY. He also edited two books and writes regularly in esteemed newspapers and journals. He has got great interest on food and cuisines of different origin and taste.