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By Mrs. J. Haldar
Published by Industry Publishers Ltd, Calcutta - 1948
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The romance of Bengali sweets
In the wide realm of confectionery Bengal has attained the same unique position with regard to the whole of India as Italy appears to hold on the Continent of Europe. In no other part of this vast Peninsula will he found such a wide range of confectionery as is to be met with in this sweet Province flowing with “milk and honey.” And the reason is not far to seek. For even in the National Anthem of Bengal poignant allusion is made to the “sweet air, sweet water, sweet corns and sweet fruits” of the Motherland.
The sweet tooth of Bengal is proverbial.
Indeed the gneat role that Bengal Sweets play in the social life of the Bengali people will be realised when it is said that no dish is complete without them even in daily courses ; that the lunch is entirely composed of them, that every menu is enjoined to be “finished with sweets,” that the importance and gravity of every festivity is to be measured by the quantity of sweets consumed, and that the wealth of the aristcracy is gauged by the length of days for which bhiyan (having the sweets prepared at home by paid confectioners on ceremonial occasions) is continued without break’.
In Bengal, sweets have been identified
with cordiality and amity to an amazing extent. Whenever there is a friend of the family in the house, he or she may take leave only after “sweetening the mouth.” The index of honour shown to invited guests is furnished by the variety and superiority of the sweets offered in their lentertainment. Sweets have also been accepted as an emblem of hospitality by every stratum of society in every part of Bengal. Go to the remotest village and ask for a glass of water simply. You will have it sure, but not without sweets — be they a few pieces of sugarcandy or fondants ( batasa ). Even the humblest cottager) will bring out a spoonful of jaggery and insist on justice being done to it in quenching the thirst.
A sweet seller weighing and selling sweets
Patna, circa 1830