The Sweet Road To India’s Independence
Image Credit: Sweets were used to convey messages to revolutionaries | Freepik

There is an Indian dessert available for every occasion. Ghevar for Rakhi, Roshogolla during Vijaya Dashami, Payasam for Onam and the fan favourite Gulab Jamun for every single occassion. From the royal kitchen of the Mughals to the little chulhas of halwais all over the country, sweets have played a part in every big and small celebration of our lives. But what if we tell you that sweets had a huge role to play in India’s struggle for independence? That these little treats of sweet joy were fundamental in important information being passed on to the freedom fighters? 

India's struggle for independence was a very disproportionate balance of power between well-equipped Britishers and disorganized but passionate revolutionaries of India. The later had to look for loopholes, opportunities and tricks to plan the entire freedom struggle right under the nose of the British government. So, how did sweets help them in doing that? Well, like we said, sweets have been a part of Indian traditions for so long that even the Britishers were aware of the cultural significance of them. So, the revolutionaries started sending messages inside boxes of mithai to eliminate the risk of suspicion. There would be boxes of laddus or rasgulla being sent to someone who would decipher the messages and pass them on to the freedom fighters. Often, the signals sent to them were in code words. A message that said Bengali Rasgulla packed could mean that a group of freedom fighters from Bengal were about to arrive, or the code send Bombay Halwa meant that the revolutionaries needed some backup from Bombay province. Sometimes, these messages were also code words for Indian bombs, cartels and rifles. A message as inconspicuous as deliver Laddoos would mean ordering desi bombs.

Rasgulla would often refer to revolutionaries from Bengal | Picture credit - Freepik

The most common place for revolutionaries to meet up and plan their moves without getting noticed were rugged little sweet shops. They would sit for hours at these halwai shops and sketch their moves over several plates of jalebi. Some shop owners got so involved that they started naming their popular dishes after the name of the leaders like Subhash halwa and Nehru laddoo. The Tiranga Barfi, that was based on the imagery of Gandhiji for our National flag, became a very popular dessert. Even today, the shops start selling Tiranga Barfi during national festivals like Independence Day and Republic Day. 

The importance of sweets and how much they meant to the freedom struggle was apparent when the first thing that was distributed post Nehru ji’s iconic speech on 15th August 1947 was Motichoor ke Laddoo. The entire crowd ate the laddoos and rejoiced at gaining independence. While Gandiji might have started the struggle for independence from the Salt Satyagraha, we achieved freedom travelling through the lanes, by lanes and narrow streets bustling with small sweet shops and big revolutionary ideas developing from there.