When Lonavala’s Chikki Was Served As Energy Bars For Railway Workers
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Barish me fir se aana sir”, said our Taxi driver repeatedly, as he took us to some of Lonavala and Khandala’s famous sight-seeing spots. We took our trip in February, so it was pretty pleasant as such, but he seemed a tad disappointed that we were missing out on the experience of ‘walking through the clouds’, a common phenomenon of Lonavala monsoons. Lonavala, for the uninitiated, is a little hill station, situated about 83kms from Mumbai. From mountains to ancient caves and lakes, there’s much to admire in Lonavala, which is why scores of Mumbaikars and Punekars often drive down to the hill station in search of respite from their city’s cluttered life. Coming back to our little excursion, which ended at a ‘Chikki factory’. That’s right, other than long drives, Lonavala is also synonymous with Chikki. The town, is in fact, dotted with countless shops, all of which are either named ‘Maganlal Chikki’, or claim to sell the ‘original’ Maganlal Chikki. So who is Maganlal? And most importantly, what is a chikki?  

Chikki is a sweet, sticky fudge-like treat, that is made with copious amounts of jaggery, nuts and seeds. While is allowed to harden, it still retains its chewy, fudge-like quality for a long time. The glossy snack can also be stored for a long time and has an impressive shelf-life when stored in air-tight containers. Chikkis are often cut into small squares or rectangles, making them easy to grab and eat. You can also call it a ‘Desi Nougat’. Nowadays, there are many interesting flavours of Chikki too, we brought with us some chocolate and strawberry-flavoured Chikki too, in addition to a few boxes of standard chikkis. We also spotted many ‘healthy chikkis’ on the shelves, made with the addition of superfoods like chia, flax and honey.  

Coming to Chikki’s association with Lonavala. It is said that the fudge was originally called Guddani, and was apparently sold to workers who laid down railway tracks along the Khandala Ghat. The task called for immense energy and Guddani, which was replete with jaggery, helped prove to be an energy-inducing treat for the labourers and workers. The ‘Railway connect’ doesn’t just end here, another popular legend dictates that the snack was one of the hot-selling items in the sweetmeat shop of Maganlal Aggarwal. These ‘chikkis’ were so popular that they were even packaged by railway authorities and sold to train travelers onboard between Lonavala and Mumbai. Soon the snack became renowned as Maganlal Chikki, and now Maganlal Chikki and Lonavala Chikki are terms you use interchangeably.  

Have you ever tried Lonavala’s Chikki? Do let us know.