When Bardhaman's Sitabhog-Mihidana Impressed Lord Curzon

Bengal was the first region to be colonised by the British, resulting in an association lasting about two hundred years. In these two hundred long years, however, the British did manage to influence the culinary map of Bengal to a great extent. Many dishes were invented to suit the palate of new Sahibs, like the Kathi Roll, for instance, that were solely created so that the British didn’t have to strain their hands touching the Kathi Kebabs. Many sweets were made in special honour of the British nobility, like the Ledikenni, an oblong-shaped Gulab Jamun, which was named after Lady Canning, the wife of Charles Canning, the Governor-General of India during 1856–62. Another set of sweetmeats that rose to stardom in British rule were Sitabhog and Mihidana.

Sitabhog-Mihidana: Same, Same But Different

Bardhawan, formerly Burdwan, is a district in West Bengal along the Damodar river, about 100 kilometres from Kolkata. Burdwan was a bustling district during British rule, and in the Mughal era, it was called the Badh-e-dewan or the district capital. Bardhwan is also the birthplace of two desserts Sitabhog and Mihidana. In appearance, they can be passed off as siblings, so many people like to take servings of both the desserts together.

Sitabhog is a relatively light dessert that looks like pulao or vermicelli with mini gulab jamun or shred of it. The key players that make the dessert irresistible are chenna (cottage cheese), rice flour or cornflour and sugar. These are mixed in a mushy dough, post which thin strands are deep-fried until cooked. After this, the strands are dipped in sugar syrup until soft. The Burdwan dessert got its GI Tag of West Bengal on 29th April 2017.

Mihidana is also prepared like Sitabhog, except it also bears an uncanny resemblance with very fine boondi because of two common ingredients, besan and saffron. This is because Mihidana comprises two words, ‘Mihi’, which means fine and ‘Dana’, which means grain. Coincidentally, both Sitabhog and Mihidana were created by the same man Late Khettranath Nag in Bardhaman during the regime of Maharaja, Late Mahatabchand Bahadur.

How Did The Sweets Reach The Plate Of Lord Curzon

However, the desserts gained stardom much later after it was appreciated by Lord Curzon, who apparently tried the sweets upon his visit to the palace of Maharaja Vijaychand Mahatab in 1904. Vairabh Chandra Nag, a renowned sweetmaker belonging to the Nag family of sweetmakers of Bardhaman, was entrusted with the responsibility to make sweets that would please the Lord. He presented his two sweets Sitabhog and Mihidana, in front of Lord Curzon, who loved the sweet and commended the sweetmaker, saying that he never had something like that before, his son late Nagendranath Nag said in a radio interview.

The desserts are a delightful departure from the intensely sweet desserts of Bengal, making them ideal for the festive season coming ahead. But, let’s admit it, haven’t we had enough of those ‘may-give-you-diabetes' kinds of sweets already? So, while we are all for indulging, but a little mix and match never hurt anyone, right?