This Chutney Was Originally Made For The Mangalorean Catholic Captives Held By Tipu Sultan

Nothing pleases me more than a jar of fresh chutney. You can serve me the most banal meal, but if I happen to spot a chutney of my choice, I am satisfied. Chutney, for the unversed is a popular Indian accompaniment that comes in different colours, flavours and consistency. For instance, the pudina chutney is more watery as opposed to the chilly garlic chutney of Maharashtra that comes in a powdered form, which is in stark contrast to the papaya chutney of Bengal that appears a lot like a jam to many. In other words, there are countless variations of this side dish that has captivated many since time immemorial, even if they happened to be in prison, captive to one of India’s most powerful rulers of all times.  

History of Balthazar chutney

Often regarded as one of the darkest episodes of the Mangalorean Catholic community’s history. Even though the community flourished during Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan’s father, but after Tipu gained power in 1784, he apparently issued orders to seize estates and properties that belonged to the catholic community in Canara and deport all of them to Seringapatanam. He thought that the community was loyal to the British and were aiding them in their expansion plans and thus becoming a threat to the sovereignty of the Sultans. After the orders were rolled out, what ensued was a gory journey of these Christians to Seringapatanam, as many as 20,000 Christians reportedly died in the journey. The captivity lasted for 15 years and was marked with persecutions, torture and death. The living conditions in the camp were miserable, and it almost brought the Mangalorean Catholic community to the brink of extermination. The captivity ended with the death of Tipu Sultan who succumbed to his injuries in the Battle of Seringapatanam against the British in 1799, in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.

It was during these years, that the ‘Balthazar Chutney’ apparently rose to popularity among the camp inmates. The food in the camps was very substandard. To make the plain, flavourless food a tad more edible. Balthazar of Belthangadi, a Mangalorean Catholic nobleman offered his chutney that was sharp and flavourful, and added an extra punch of flavour to the meals.

Balthazar, who happened to be a native Christain of Buntwal joined the house of a Jesuit Missionary as a general servant before he caught the attention of both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. As per legends, when Balthazar was taken away by Hyder’s men he thought he would be punished, but instead he was one of the few Catholics appointed to inform the kingdom officials about the British and their moves.  

Soon he gained popularity as a good cook, and the creator of lip-smacking chutneys that also had many medicinal properties due to the use of local and seasonal ingredients and spices. Balthazar was also among the very few Catholics that Tipu Sultan confided in.

What went into the supposed historic chutney? There are many legends behind it. Some popular versions suspect the inclusion of mint, dates, plums, green chillies and ginger. Mixed in a ratio that it was hot, sweet and spicy at the same time. The Balthazar chutney is also sometimes referred to as the Balthu chutney. Have you every heard of this chutney? Do let us know.