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History; dispute with Odisha on geographical indication (GI)  tag

Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey & Minati Singha, Victory for Bengal in bittersweet battle, November 15, 2017: The Times of India

It was a bitterly fought battle, but, in the end, West Bengal tasted sweet success. The state won the geographical indication (GI) tag for “Banglar Rasogolla”, a sweet the state is synonymous with, beating Odisha.

Tuesday’s verdict comes after a 26-month battle between the two states in the intellectual property wing of the ministry of commerce, which confers the GI tag. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, who is currently in the UK, tweeted: “Sweet news for us all. We are very happy and proud that #Bengal has been granted GI status for Rosogolla.”

Odisha finance minister Shashi Bhushan Behera said, “This is not a loss for Odisha as we have not yet filed an application with the Geographical Indications Registry. Once we apply, they will look into the matter and Odisha may get a GI tag for its very own rasogola.”

Bengal claimed rasogolla was introduced in 1869

While the Bengali name for the sweet is spelled with two Ls because of the stress on the letter, the Odia name has a lighter ‘L’ sound and is transliterated as “rasogola”.

It was a claim made by the Odisha government in 2015, saying the day of Ulta Ratha should be declared as Odisha’s “rasogola day”, that made Bengal sit up. Soon, Odisha applied for GI tag and Bengal’s science and technology department lodged a counter-claim. In September 2015, the state prepared a dossier claiming the rasogolla belonged to Bengal, and had been invented in two stages in two completely different historical time zones.

Bengal claimed Naveen Chandra Das introduced the sweet in 1869. Odisha, on the other hand, collected evidence pointing to the origin of a very similar sweet offered at Puri’s famed Jagannath Temple since the 12th century.

Bengal has explained that the art of rasogolla-making lies in the use of chhana (Bengal-style cottage cheese). “Bengal is the only state that uses chhana to make sweets. The process of curdling is considered ‘unholy’ by most communities including Odiyas, who never offered any sweet to Lord Jagannath made of chhana. Temple records that contain details of the food served to Jagannath does not mention rasogolla,” said Mohua Hom Chowdhury, a representative of the state science and technology department.

Odisha MSME secretary L N Gupta told, “The GI tag to ‘Banglar rasogolla’ does not settle the debate on its origin. The two sweets are different. Odisha government will file an application for it soon.”

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