In India, our cultural heritage has been more significant for a long time. Sweets of Bihars have been famous not only in India but also in the world for the period of 12-13th century . Many rituals of Bihar are still recognised with its sweets . But nowadays this old tradition and culture is losing its significance with the globalisation and westernisation. It should be protected .
Up to the decade of 1990s, there was a tradition popular in Bihar when a bride left for her husband’s home with her dowry, she had to carry a very special bridal box. Traditionally called kaleva, meaning gift, it included sweets with her personal items.
These sweets were nutritious and could last for a long time without going bad,” The bride was confined to her room for months till she became familiar with her new surroundings and could roam about the house freely.
Bride could not demand for food when she felt hungry, which was deemed unfit behaviour. A bride was supposed to be coy. Hence when she left for her new home, the women of her household — mother, aunts, grandmother, would prepare items such as khaja, kasak, neura and bookini that were both nutritious and long-lasting and pack them in her bridal box,”This custom probably stems from mythology, “from the time of Princess Sita’s wedding.”
Bihar’s tradition of sweets is closely connected with customs and rituals and, therefore, there are specific sweets for every occasion. Those native to the state primarily use roasted rice flour. Those made with cottage cheese, refined flour and sugar syrup have outside influences, especially Islamic cuisine. Another interesting feature that Nirala points out is that sweets with the same ingredients when shaped differently get a new name.
Historical Background of sweet Khaza-
In the drama of Bhartendu Harishchanda (first decade of 20th century )“Andher Nagri” a slogan is used – “andher nagri Chaupat Raja , Taka ser Bhaji and Taka ser Khaja ” . Khaja had been most important and costly sweet during that time The khaja is similar to the Turkish baklava and is made with self-raising flour, oil, ghee and sugar syrup. The palm-sized rectangular puff pastry lookalike is made with 12 to 15 layers of thin dough sheets. The most famous version comes from Silao, a small village near Nalanda, which received GI status in 2018.
Stories of its origin date back to King Vikramaditya’s time. Some even say that the Buddha relished the sweet when he passed the village on his way to Nalanda. Today the sweet has evolved and comes in a smaller size and is made across the State.
A denser version called gaja is also made with the same ingredients, except oil. “Also called piaw, it is different from the khaja, as the dough is not folded multiple times. Flour is kneaded with ghee, cut into rectangles or squares, dunked in one-string sugar syrup and removed. This lasts up to two to three months,”
The personal box of the bride no longer contains sweets, because the entire social scene has changed. There are no joint families and no separation of men and women in households. The tradition of sending sweets with the bride to share among relatives and friends and distributed in the village continues. That is why the sweet shops have increased and evolved.”
Of the sweets from the box, the bookini is another sweet. A coarse mixture of wheat flour, crushed sugar, dry fruits and ghee, it lasted for months. It is also called Kokadour bookini, the powder is made with fine rice flour that is washed, dried and roasted. Crushed sugar and ghee is added to the flour. The trick is to constantly rub the flour with small portions of ghee and sugar, taking utmost care that it remains dry.
Kasak is made during festivals and weddings even in Nepal,” In Bihar it is popular during the Chaath festival made by soaking rice overnight and drying and grinding it into flour the next day and by adding jaggery syrup and stir till the mix is pliable. Then we roll it out into balls,”. Chopped dry fruits too can be added to enhance it.
Laddo was another sweet. It is still popular throughout India . This sweet is taking its significance in African and European countries as well.