Fascinating Stories Of How Rasgulla Originated In West Bengal

Where did rasgulla originate, was it in West Bengal or Odisha? Ask any foodie and they will probably tell you to relish the rasgulla and forget about its history (eat the mangoes instead of counting the pits, as they say in Hindi). They are not entirely wrong because why would you go into history when you can gulp down spongy rasgulla dipped in sugar syrup? However, the tales of its origin in West Bengal are quite fascinating and worthy of a trip to the past.

Video Credit: Kunal Kapur/ YouTube

In November 2017, West Bengal received the Geographical Identification (GI) tag for the sweet delicacy that you can find in almost every sweet shop in India. In metropolitan cities, you can even get it delivered to your doorsteps via online services. According to K.T. Achaya, Bengalis win the argument because they learnt the art of making chenna, a spongy milk-based sweet dish, from Portuguese. He said that it was Bengalis who decided to experiment by separating chenna from milk, a process which was not considered ideal because milk was offered to Gods.

Stories Of Rasgulla’s Origin In West Bengal

People in West Bengal claim and give credit to Nabin Chandra Das for developing rasgulla in 1868. His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren made the dish famous throughout the state. In an old interview, Dhiman Das, great-grandson of Nabin Chandra Das, said that his great-grandfather established a sweet shop in Jorasanko in 1864. He went out of business soon and took an oath to invent a sweet dish that only he would be known by.

He initially dipped boiled chenna balls in sugar syrup which would disintegrate. He added reetha to the batter which added to the spongy texture of chenna. After multiple efforts, he was able to crack the code to keep sponges intact in sugar syrup, and that’s how rasgulla was born in West Bengal. His innovation was loved by his customers.

Later, Nabin Chandra Das taught the craft of making rasgulla to other sweet shop owners because he believed that if his innovation were sold across India, it would make him famous. 

However, Das’s not the only story of the origin of rasgulla in West Bengal. Haradhan Moira, a sweet shop owner in Pal Chowdhurys of Ranaghat dropped chenna balls into a bowl of bubbling sugar syrup. In the late 19th and early 20th century, two confectioneries, Chittarangan Mistana Bhandar and Mullicks of Bhowanipore perfected the recipe of rasgulla. When Bhagwandas Bagla, a non-Bengali rich merchant in Kolkata, travelled with the sweet across India, the foodies got to meet its other cousins, popularly called rasmalai in Varanasi, rajbhog in Uttar Pradesh, and rasbari in Rajasthan. 

Another fascinating story of rasgulla became famous in West Bengal includes popular British chef William Harold. He was sent to India to cook for British officials, and soon, impressed with his skills, Harold became a personal cook for a high-ranking officer. One day, the officer requested rasgulla. Since there was no practice of noting down the recipes, Harold went from house to house to learn about the recipes. From each house, he got a different recipe, which he failed to recreate. Before leaving the country, he described rasgullas as 'a bowl of sweet, syrupy, soft cheese balls’.