Rasagola: Symbolic of Orissa’s ancient matriarchal splendor

Subhas Chandra pattanayak

Orissa is the birthplace of Rasagola. According to Dr. Asit Mohanty (Sri Jagannathanka Rasagola, 2017), earliest unambiguous reference to Rasagola is found in the Ramayan of Balaram Das . But its origin, taking into consideration the spiritual importance given to this sweetmeat in SriMandira system, perhaps Balaram Das, having umbilical link with the matriarchal concept that had emanated from Orissa and given a great challenge to Vedic perception of male-centric cause of creation. I shall dwell on this speculation.

Against Veda’s Brahmavad (philosophy of patriarchy), Orissa had created Tanuvad (philosophy of matriarchy) and had maintained her uniqueness, which developed into the Cult of Jagannath (Nabakalebar: Legends and Reality, Subhas Chandra Pattanayak, 2015)

According to the Vedic school, the supreme male ‘Brahma’ creates everything. Orissa had rejected this idea and projected female as the cause of creation.

Its political economy has been discussed in depth in my book ‘Sri Jaya Devanka Baishi Pahacha’ (Bharat bharati, Cuttack, 2005).

This matriarchal philosophy called ‘Tantra’ (tanutattva) has its briefest possible manifestation in the root rhythm (‘Vija Nada’) OM ( ଓଁ ) of Padmabati, the supreme power source in Tantra, out of which the eight Vija Mantras representing the eight female-powers have evolved.

OM comprises the alphabet O with a ‘Bindu’ (round mass) kept inside a semi-circular container at the top thereof. This Bindu is symbolic of ovum in the womb that metamorphoses into creation.

Giving a brief description of how creation takes place, Premabhakti Brahma Gita says, ‘Omkar nama taku dei / Debi basile tahin jai // Tebe se nishchala nohila / Puni hin talamala hela // Debi boile taha jani / Tu Vajrakila hua puni // Tote mun deuachhi bara / Vajra je heu to sharira // Se Vajrakila bole shuni / Bara tu jebe delu puni // Tu Adimata shakti hebu / Mote tu linga je karibu // To ange bhedi muhin thibi/ Sakala srusti mun karibi //”

This symbolic ovum in the semi-circular container of fluid resembling the womb has remained the mark of Orissa’s mother-right that SriJagannath (Buddha) stands for. Therefore, Oriya ancestors, when male-factor was superimposed on SriJagannatha, basically the Sabari Bali of Buddhist Siddhas, created a situation for the Lord to honor Laxmi with Rasagola symbolising the ovum in the womb, on the occasion of reunion after the Ratha Yatra (Car Festival).

Rasagola, a cheese-ball in sweetened water (‘Rasa’), prepared in such a method that it would absorb the Rasa while poised therein, represents Orissa’s indigenous philosophy of mother-centric creation, where the ovum in the womb with a round shape becomes a foetus developing healthily in the amniotic sac containing amniotic fluid.

Thus the philosophy of coitus (Maithunavad), with which Orissa had challenged the Vedic system, is entirely represented in offering only of the Rasagola to Gaddess Laxmi on the reunion night with the Lord. Brahminism in attempts to engulf the Tantric predominance in SriMandira has created legends to suppress this philosophic property in course of time, but Rasagola being the only offering of the Lord to Laxmi on return to His abode at the end of the Rath Yatra, despite the legend, remains the most speaking manifestation of matriarchal symbolism that ancient Oriyas had conceived and carried through even in their culinary experimentations. Thus Rasagola predates even Balaram Das.

Sans any knowledge on why only Rasagola is used in this particular night of Niladri Bije, people from Bengal and other places that were frequenting Puri as pilgrims had tested Rasagola as a sweetmeat and learned the technique of its preparation, subsequently exploiting it commercially. Cultural dishonesty sic passim their claim for GI tag has soured the situation.

Yet, there are seekers of truth, who, aware of how Bengal’s claim over this sweetmeet through use of different spelling of the cuisine has become controversial, have no reluctance to locate its origin in Orissa. As for example, author of ‘The Penguin Food Guide to India’ Charmaine O’Brien, cited by Mohanty, has, in the Chapter “Orissa – Feeding the Divine’, noted,

“One food item that is the subject of particular dispute between the two States is the Chenna based Rasagulla. The most likely story is that the Rasagulla came into Bengal from Orissa, but was commercially produced and popularised in Calcutta.”

Now, therefore, when Government of India in the Department of Posts under Ministry of Communication released a Palanquin Carried Cover, featuring this unique cuisine on March 01, 2018, it did a great service to the country by putting on records the ancient most practice in vogue only in Orissa, every atom whereof is culturally philosophic.

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