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Bhakta: Alice in wonderland of Odia cuisines

Thursday, 18 July 2013 | SUGYAN CHOUDHURY | in Bhubaneswar

Bhakta, whose name connotes a devotee, has paid a glowing tribute to the Odia cuisines and delicacies by religiously undertaking an arduous journey to various destinations to know, learn and capture the intricacies of their preparations.

In the process, he has travelled far and wide to every nook and corner of the State, mingling and merging with various people, motley of crowds ranging from the prince to the pauper, from the aboriginals tribes to the cocktail parties and prestigious clubs who are epitomising typical Odia delicacies in their routines. Producer, director, researcher and host Bhakta Tripathy's 'Tasty -Tasty' is aired from OTV channel on every Monday evening 7.30p.m and on Sunday at 12 noon, which is watched with great deal of interest by thousands of viewers.

It is indeed fascinating to watch Bhakta, who is more articulate and communicative with his viewers, establishing essence of sympathy and empathy through his soul that has already earned a Numero Uno status to his channel. Nonresident Indian Neeta Mohanty Nayak writes from the\ USA praising the show. She writes that she along with her twin kids Milan and Maya and other family members regularly watches the show and in the process all of them have developed a fascination for the most tongue clicking typical Odia items, including dahibara, aloodum and pakhala.  Milan and Maya recall the fragrance of the Odisha soil, while viewing several items as exhibited in the “Tasty Tasty”. To watch Bhakta on the screen with his delicacies on display is tantamount to loving him and the show.

Ever since the programme was launched, Bhakta has become a household name in every Odia family. Bhakta, who is chasing his goal of rediscovering the items of typical Odia delicacies wants to record it with a feminine instinct for preservation for the use of posterity. In an interview to

The Pioneer, he says, "I'm not creating anything new but what I'm trying to do is to preserve the excellent but dying tradition of Odia cuisines, some of which are almost on the verge of extinction."

I want that the Odia youths should turn their back to the pizza-pasta culture and fast food and stage a comeback to their healthy food habits of Pakhal (water-soaked rice) and spinach, Bhakta adds. And again to the utter surprise of most of us, he reveals that Rasgulla as an item of dessert is the first contribution of its kind to the world by the Odias. The origin of Rasgulla dates back to 600-700 years when Rasgulla was offered as an item of bhoga or sacred offering to propitiate the anger of mother Goddess Mahalakshmi in the Puri temple.

Legends have it that the Mother was deeply vexed and annoyed with Lord Jagannath for having the company of his sister Subhadra in the nine days sojourn of the Gundicha Yatra. Rasgulla then underwent many additions and alterations and daily markets in Odisha like the Bikala Kar sweet stall of Salipur, Gobindapur market and the Pahala community market were created to exclusively prepare and sell the item. He has displayed Tulshi Rasgulla item with many other sweet dishes by sharing with the Chhapan Bhoga shop near Jaydevbihar of Bhubaneswar and a shop of national fame for the Odia sweets. Bhakta has visited many temples of Odisha, including many mutts and monasteries, where special delicacies are prepared and offered as bhogas or offerings to the deities.

Bhakta narrates in breathtaking vividness and presenting details as to how he had visited Gauravihar Mutt in Puri on the occasion of Byanjan Dwadashi. In that Mutt after the ceremonial pujas were offered, the invitees and the gatherings were provided sweets as prasad. Bhakta was offered a thali which contained 606 items of dishes which was offered as delicacies by the mother Yashoda to her darling son Krishna. Bhakta in spite of relishing the prasad went on counting it and got confirmed that they were 606 items each varied from the other. He wonders at the ingenuity of the Odia priests for preparing these temple delicacies, excellent of its kind and urges that their preparations should be written down for the use of future in spite of being handed down and confined to temple walls only. Bhakta remembers to this day that he had only tasted 70 items and had no time to touch even the others.

The temple cuisines apart, he mentions about other profane and social items of Odia households like spinach and mushrooms. He mentions that Odisha has varieties of spinach like kosala, hidimichi, poi, khada, sajna, leutia, palang, sunsunia, madaranga, moola, sorisha, bathua, etc, which are beautifully prepared as healthy items of food.

He remembers that the Suan Pakhal or water-soaked rice made from minor millet suan with manja poda or baked manja of a banana plant which he shared with his host Khetrabashi Behera of Keonjhar is simply superb and unparalleled with a taste which belongs to its own and not probably available anywhere. He further remembers that all the items of the Grand Restaurant of Puri are extremely delicious and each item stands on its own merits. Bhakta is all praise for the Gajapati of Odisha as a great connoisseur and patron of Odia delicacies and faithfully sees to their preparation at this big restaurant. The Phoolabadi of Keonjhar and the Raja Poda Pitha of Barua of Kendrapada are strikingly wonderful in their tastes. Coming to the non vegetarian items, Bhakta has a vast and wide range of experiences sharing with his posts. He remembers how the mushroom, spinach and finally the mutton was roasted indirectly through a bamboo under the soil while heat was allowed over it on all sides after garlic, onion, raw chilly, mustard paste and such other tribal spices were already mixed with the mutton.

After some hours, the bamboo is withdrawn and the delicacies were full of fragrance whetting the appetite. This can be called a bamboo barbeque item which is always desirable for a tasty item. His reference to the sharing of the item of fish Jaipuria with King Bibhuti Bhushan Singh Madaraj of Khandapadagada Royal palace and the item of Chicken Vindalloo in the royal palace of Deogarh deserves special mention. Simultaneously, he has relished Chakuli Pitha and mixed curry (Ghanta) in the Bhubaneswar Club with its president Priyabrata Pattnaik. A special mutton curry of Pidha Hotel of eight decades’ old at Brahmapur and Mudhi Mansa at Hotel Garamagaram, Baripada are quite excellent and are second to none.

He hastens up to add that the Hilsa mustard paste curry of Puri's Bidesh Ghara is also tempting for anyone. Matihaandi mansa or the mutton of the earthen vessel of Hariplaza hotel of Baleswar arrests the tongues of any visitor. In his search for the rediscovering the Odia foods, Bhakta has travelled from the wayside hotel to the five stars, from the temple cuisines to the tribal ones and has mingled with the royals and the commoners. He has also tasted the tribal items like Kaichatani and mansa pitha called 'Leta' by the tribals. He mentions that out of his itinerary, he has found unmistakable traces of three ancient methods of cooking like Souri, Gouri and Sabari. The first one was used from ancient times as an ideal substitute of gas. The second one was providing direct heat and the third one was cooking food underneath the soil. The third one presently in vogue in tribal Odisha and in the Lord Jagannath temple of Puri proves that the ancient Odias knew about the use of pressure cooker without the present gadget.

Bhakta proclaims that all the items of Mahaprasad at the Puri temple show they are scientifically prepared with care and concern. Being a part of the temple's diurnal ritual offering, it is the quintessential height of Odia cuisine rich in quality food and hygiene. Regarding his mission, he is committed to carry it all along cheerfully well so long as his admirers keep his passion burning.



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