From Anand Bazaar of the Shree Jagannath temple to the roadside stalls of Bada Danda (the Grand Road leading to the temple), Khaja is widely available and relished in Odisha’s Puri. No visit to the temple is complete without relishing and bringing back a dozen of Khajas in a bamboo basket. Served as Mahaprasad, Khaja is a symbol of divinity for Odias. Apart from being a divine offering, Khajas are a vital part of Odisha’s culinary heritage. However, the flaky, crispy delight doesn’t have its origin in the state of Odisha. 

Legend has it that Khaja has its roots in Silao, a village between Mithila and Bihar during the reign of the Mauryas. The great Indian philosopher Kautilya has also mentioned Khaja in Arthsashtra, calling it ‘power sustaining food’. A popular street food during Vikramaditya’s era, Silao Khaja is one of the most prized produces of the Mauryan era. The era saw the rise in popularity of wheat-based desserts and savouries and Khaja was a result of the same. The Silao Khaja was brought to Odisha by the monks and scholars who travelled from Nalanda. Gradually, the sweet, crispy delicacy appealed to the tastebuds of the people of Puri and entered the territory of Kalinga. Not only the religious preachers but Khaja also appealed to the taste preferences of the royalties and is mentioned in the 13th-century cookbook- Manasollasa as a perfect royal gift. 

Khaja is a wonderful amalgam of maida, ghee and sugar. The maida gives the sweet the elasticity it needs to get distinct layers. The fatty ghee and chasni give the palate a creamy mouthfeel which forces the person to grab another one. The sweet is deep-fried on medium flame with patience and love before dipping it in the sugar syrup. Traditionally, Khajas are rested in Sal leaves which give the sweets a delightful aroma. 

So, the next time you visit the holy temple of Puri, don’t forget to savour some delicious Khajas and bring some back with you. You ask why? Because your palate won’t be satisfied by a single serving.