Jagannatha Svami Nayanapathagami Bhavatu Me
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  Jagannatha, Lord of the universe, in His Form in the great 10th century temple at Puri, Orissa, India

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--- compiled by Dr. Chintamani Rath

There seems to be an intimate connection between food and music. The one is sustenance for the body, the other sustenance for the soul. Both manifest themselves in a myriad flavours, textures and genres. Again, most musicians are naturally good cooks though the converse cannot possibly be said with equal emphasis. Both cooking and music making are arts, with attendant sciences, philosophies and skills. To top it all, ancient Indian musicological texts have often resorted to examples from the culinary arts to illustrate a point in music or dramaturgy...

The two eastern Indian provinces of Bengal and Orissa share a common culture but yet grew in different cultural and political directions in history. Bengal, especially the northern and central parts of Bengal (the southern part of Bengal being too flood-prone with mighty rivers frequently breaking banks, no classical culture could develop there), was more easily accessible over land in the medieval ages. As a result, the first Muslims came as conquerers in the 12th century AC (Bakhtiyar Khilji) and thereafter, Bengal became more and more a Muslim stronghold and the people of the province became more and more Islamised. From the 18th century AC, European settlers began appearing on the scene in Bengal and finally the British captured it and made Calcutta in the southern part of Bengal their capital. Indeed, Calcutta remained the capital of India until 1911, when the capital was shifted to Delhi.

The Bengal province in India is more accurately called West Bengal: what used to be East Bengal became East Pakistan in 1947 and Bangladesh in 1971, being a Muslim majority area gouged out of India on the strength of that fact alone, in spite of the Bangladesh district of Khulna, which was and still is a Hindu majority area -- one among many insensitive, monumental and tragic blunders made by Cyril (later Sir Cyril) Radcliff, the British civil servant who hastily and uncaringly drew, within a span of forty eight hours, the fateful red line across an outdated map of India that created Pakistan out of India and resulted in the worst holocaust in history resulting in the death of about 15 million people -- two and a half times the number killed during the fearsome Nazi regime of the Third Reich).

On account of the Islamisation of Bengal during medieval times, many traditional Hindu centres disappeared. The people of Bengal were (and are) very openminded and receptive to all cultural influences from everywhere: they adopted and assimilated Muslim and European ways without much difficulty. As a result, Bengal had a close and advantageous relationship with the ruling class, be they Muslims of English. This openminded attitude was (and even today continues to be) almost entirely absent amongst the people of the neighbouring province of Orissa.

The province of Orissa is situated along the northern end of the eastern seaboard of India. This province (or “state” as provinces in India are called) is unique in many ways on account of its location and its history. The name “Orissa” derives from its ancient name of “Odra” or, more accurately, “Audra”. Another ancient name for this province was “Kalinga”. During its heydays, the province extended from the banks of the river Ganges in the north (now in the province of West Bengal) to beyond the river Godavari in the south, to the present day town of Vijaywada (now in the province of Andhra Pradesh). The name “Vijaywada” itself is an Oriya (a word denoting the language, culture and people of Orissa) name: “Vijaya Bahuda”, meaning “return after victory”. The town marks the southern fringe of the territories annexed to Kalinga by conquest. The people of the Orissa of yesteryear were industrious, seafaring and adventurous. They travelled far across the ocean, trading, colonising and disseminating Indian culture. The Oriya influence is found all over southeast Asia, all the way to the many Indonesian islands and beyond.

The people of Orissa were also respecters of tradition and culture. This is the reason why Orissa boldly and largely successfully resisted the Muslim and later the Christian onslaughts. Scholars from north India, fleeing the terrible Muslim persecutions of the ancient and medieval ages, found welcome and a safe haven in Orissa. As a result, Orissa was alive with a plethora of literary, philosophic, artistic and other cultural activity. When the province of Bengal became more and more Islamised, the kings and noblemen looked towards Orissa to invite Hindu scholars, priests and cultural exponents for their functions, festivals and scholarly projects. Consequently, many Bengali cultural manifestations may be traced to Orissa. For example, the well-known "Bengali icon" -- the Rassagula (a soft round sweet made of cheese and dipped in sugar syrup) -- originated in the Pahal village of Orissa, near Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa. The major art dance of Orissa -- called Odissi -- practised mainly in the great temples of Orissa also found following in Bengal. The newly propagated "Gaudiya Nrittya" of Bengal, stated by some Bengali scholars to be the long-lost "classical" dance of Bengal, can easily be seen to be too similar to Odissi not to be believed but that it originated in Orissa.

Not surprisingly, a culture as rich as to be found in the eastern provinces of Bengal and Orissa has its own very rich panorama of food suited for every occasion. Given below are a very few dishes that are commonly prepared in Oriya and Bengali households. It is interesting to note that these dishes are at once household dishes and gourmet dishes, fit for daily home consumption and grand feasts alike. The spices are indicative only and no quantities are mentioned because any quantity within a reasonable range works, as does any combination of spices, each combination of spices and their quantities maiing its own unique flavour. The golden rule in this context is: "less is better than more". As a general rule of thumb, no spice should exceed in quantity the amount of salt to be used.

For the time being, finger food (snacks), desserts, savouries like "Pampada" (quaintly called "pappadom" or "poppadom" outside India) and "Badi" and sweets (of each of which genres there are scores of preparations) are being left out here.

The dishes following are divided into:--

A. Vegetarian dishes and B. Non-vegetarian dishes

“Vegetarian” includes all ingredients except fish, seafood, meats, chicken and other birds and eggs. The term includes dairy products like milk, curd (‘yoghurt’), cheese, butter, etc.
“Non-vegetarian” food is all food that is not vegetarian.

A. Vegetarian:

1. ALU CHOKKHA MUGGA JAI (Mashed Potato and fried yellow lentil)

This particular way of making mashed potato is peculiar to Orissa.

- Peel, boil and mash potatoes; set aside.
- Sauté shredded onions till golden brown; set aside.
- Wash split yellow lentil (Mugga or Moong Dal in Indian languages), fry till golden brown; set aside.
- Mix all of the above thoroughly, adding salt to taste.

2. MASURA DALLI (Red Lentil)

- Shred onion and/or garlic; set aside.
- Wash red lentil (Masur Dal in Indian languages) thoroughly; set aside.
- Heat oil, add whole clove, cinnamon, bay leaf, chilli (optional).
- Add shredded onion and/or garlic, sauté till golden brown.
- Add whole cummin and/or coriander.
- Add washed lentil, powdered turmeric and salt, cook until ready.


This is an ancient and traditional Oriya preparation, offered to the main Deities in the great temple at Puri

(Dalli in Oriya means lentil: Harar is also known as Arahar or Toor Dal in other Indian languages: these look like split peas but are not split peas. Split peas are known as Chana Dal in Indian languages)

- Wash lentil, soften in microwave (10 minutes or so)
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, red chilli cinnamon (very little)
- Add whole mustard seeds, cummin, coriander
- Add lentil, turmeric powder, salt to taste, water, cook until ready

4. CHANA DALLI (Split pea lentil)

- Heat oil, add bay leaf, red chilli, cinnamon, cloves
- Add washed lentil, salt and turmeric, water; cook until half ready
- Add sugar and shredded/grated/finely diced coconut (both very little)
- Complete cooking and remove from heat

5. DALMA (Vegetables in lentil)

Another Oriya favourite

- Cut potato, pumpkin, brinjal; fine chop onion, garlic (optional)
- Dry roast Mung or Harar Dalli without washing
- Add all vegetables, water, salt, powdered turmeric, boil until cooked, remove from heat, set aside
- Heat oil, sauté onion and garlic (optional), add whole mustard, cummin
- Add boiled veges and lentil

6. CHARU (Soup from the province of Orissa -- one of several varieties)

- Soak tamarind for a day, mash and make a paste, add water, salt, turmeric, hingu
- Boil, set aside
- Shred onion, garlic
- Heat oil, add chilli, peppercorn, mustard, pannamahuri
- Add onion, sauté, garlic, sauté
- Add stock prepared as above

7. BAIGANA BHAJJA (Fried Brinjal/Egg Plant)

- Slice Brinjal, mix salt and turmeric
- Heat oil, shallow fry slices

8. ALU PHULLAKOBI (Potato and Cauliflower)

- Chop Cauliflower into suitable sizes, cube potatoes, wash, set aside
- Heat oil, lightly shallow fry cauliflower, set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, cinnamon, clove, cummin, mustard seeds
- Add cauliflower and potato, powdered turmeric and salt; add water as needed and cook until ready
- Add peas (optional)
- Add Garam Masala and lime juice, remove from heat.

9. ALU DUM (Curried Potato)

- Peel potatoes, shred onion and garlic, set aside, chop tomato
- Heat oil, add cardamoms, big and small, clove, cinnamon, chilli
- Add onion, sauté, add garlic, sauté, add ground turmeric, salt, ground cumin, ground coriander
- Add tomato, stir occasionally until tomato is semicooked and the whole is a thick paste (add a little water if needed, only enough to ensure no burning)
- Add potato, stir to mix paste all over, add just enough water to ensure no burning, cook on low heat until ready, stirring occasionally and maintaining water (very little) so it doesn’t burn
- Remove from flame and ground Garam Masala. Squeeze lime/lemon and mix (optional)

10. PATRAKOBI (Cabbage)

- Fine-shred cabbage, dice potato, chop tomato, set aside
- Heat oil, add whole cumin and mustard seeds
- Add potato, stir and wait for oil to soak in (about 30 seconds)
- Add tomato, cabbage, ground turmeric, cumin and coriander (both ground), salt
- Cook on slow heat; add peas when two-thirds cooked
- Remove from flame and add ground Garam Masala and squeeze lime/lemon (both optional)

11. ALU MATAR (=Potato and Peas)

- Peel and chop potatoes, shred onion, garlic
- Heat oil, add whole chilli, cinnamon, cloves
- Add potato, stir occasionally for about 3 minutes

- Add onion, garlic, powdered cumin, powdered coriander, Garam Masala, turmeric, salt. Mix thoroughly. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, taking care spices do not stick to bottom of utensil. If they stick, add a little (very little!) water and lower heat.
- Add just enough water to ensure a thick consistency, cover and cook on low heat.
- When almost cooked, add peas. Cook until complete.
- Add Garam Masala and remove from heat.

12. GAJJA MÜGGA (Sprouted Müng beans)

- Soak whole Mügga lentil (also known as Müng beans) for 18 hours, changing water after 12 hours
- Drain and keep covered while still moist until small shoots sprout. Allow the shoots to be of about 1cm in length. Wash once and set aside
- Chop onion, ginger and tomato, set aside
- Dice potatoes into little cubes, wash and set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, cinnamon and red chilli
- Add onion, sauté, add ginger, sauté, add tomato, cook for one minute
- Add sprouts and potato, salt, turmeric, ground cumin, a little water, stir
- Stir occasionally, adding water if needed
- (This is optional!): when almost cooked, add a small quantity of coconut flakes and remove from heat when completely cooked
- If no coconut is used, add Garam Masala after completely cooked and remove from heat


- Cut peeled potatoes, cauliflower, spring onion, camsicum, brinjal, carrot, and/or other vegetables, set aside
- Heat oil, add cinnamon, cloves, chilli
- Add whole cummin, coriander and mustard seeds
- Add vegetables and salt to taste
- Add water, cook.

(Notes: a. No turmeric powder is used in this one
b. Add vegetables gradually: first potatoes, cauliflower, carrot and later brinjal and still later the capsicum to ensure even cooking of each vegetable)

14. RAJMA (Kidney Beans)

- Soak kidney beans beforehand for about 36 hours, changing water at least once in between

- Shred onion, garlic, tomato, set aside
- Pressure cook kidney beans until almost tender, set aside
- Heat oil, add chilli, cinnamon, clove, cardamom (big and small), peppercorn
- Add onion, sauté, add garlic, sauté until ready, add tomato, turmeric, coriander and cummin powder, salt to taste
- Add boiled (pressure cooked) kidney beans, water, stir and cover
- boil one peeled and chopped potato separately, mash and add to kidney beans when done to thicken consintency
- When completely ready add tamarind paste and remove from heat


This is a sweet item. Serve either as a snack or as a dessert.

- Heat oil and fry raisins and broken cashew nuts, set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, cinnamon, clove, cardamom (any or all), fry semolina until light brown
- Add water and sugar, stir thoroughly until all lumps are eliminated
- Add fried raisins and cashew nuts, remove from heat
(Ghee gives better results than oil)


- Fry broken cashew nuts and raisins (sultanas)
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, red chilli, cardamom, cinnamon, clove
- Add whole cumin and mustard
- Add peeled whole tomato and a little water, cook well
- Add sugar and fried cashew nuts and raisins
(The final consistency is rather thick)

17. RAITA (yoghurt based dessert)

- Peel and shred cucumber; set aside
- Take curd (yogurt) in container, add sugar, salt and powdered mustard, mix thoroughly.

- Add cucumber, mix


Another traditional sweet item, offered in temples to the Deity and prepared on auspicious occasions. The Oriya version is given here: it can be had as a food. The Bengali version is the same except that the flour is uncooked; in this latter form, only small helpings are recommended (not to unduly challenge the stomach!)

- Dry roast Atta (Chapatti flour), set aside
- Mash bananas
- Add milk, sugar, mix thoroughly
- Add roasted flour
- Add coarsely ground small cardamom
(The end product is viscous, not solid)


Sour rice: a great favourite on special occasions.

- Boil rice with salt, strain completely
- Heat oil separately, add chilli, mustard, curry leaves, Biri Dalli
- Add Tintuli Manda (tamarind paste), turmeric
- Add prepared rice, add some more oil, stir, remove from heat


Cauliflour rice. (Notice the absence of the umlaut over the 'u': 'u' here is as 'u' in 'but' and not as 'u' in 'put', in which latter case the umlaut would have been used!)

- Chop Cauliflower into medium sized pieces and fry in oil, set aside - Chop onion, set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaf and chopped onion, sauté until onion is brown
- Add cashew nuts and raisins (sultanas)
- Add salt, washed rice and water, cook until ready
- Remove from heat and add in the fried cauliflower


Rice pudding, eastern Indian style: a delectable dessert.

- Boil milk and rice, three tablespoons of rice for every litre of milk. Boil for about one hour, stirring frequently to prevent milk from boiling over. The rice should be soft in consistency and the milk thickened.
- Heat oil and fry Cashew nuts, raisins and a quantity of sugar (about half a cup for every litre of milk used. Fry until sugar begins to turn light brown, do not fry too long (else the end result will be bitter instead of sweet!).
- Add the fried materials into the milk and rice, remove from heat


Rice and lentil -- one of several varieties. When rice is cooked with lentil added (with or without vegetables), the result is Khechuri.

- Wash rice and lentil (mugga and/or masur), mixed, set aside
- Chop assorted vegetables, wash, set aside
- Shred onion and garlic, set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, red chilli, whole pepper, clove, cinnamon, cardamom (big and small)
- Add whole cummin and coriander
- Add onion and garlic, sauté on low heat, taking care not to burn cummin seeds (add tiny doses of water if needed)
- Add rice and lentil, salt, turmeric, cummin and coriander all powdered
- Add water and cook


Rice without lentil -- One of several varieties. When rice is cooked with vegetables or meat but without lentil added, the result is Polau

- Cook Basumati rice, set aside, preferably spread out on a flat surface and fluffed out
- Cut any combination of bean, carrot, capsicum, potato (very tiny pieces), cauliflower, set aside. Fine chop onion.
- Heat enough oil to be subsequently able to mix the whole with the rice, add clove, cinnamon, chilli, then sauté onion
- Add salt, powdered turmeric, vegetables, cook until ready
- Remove from heat and mix the whole into the rice

B. Non-vegetarian:


- Shred onion and/or garlic, tomato; set aside.
- Peel and halve potatoes; set aside (optional).
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, chilli.
- Add onion and/or garlic, saute until golden brown.
- Add shredded tomato.
- Add powdered turmeric, coriander, cummin and salt
- Add chicken and potatoes, stir occasionally.
- Add water, cook until ready
- Add powdered Garam Masala and remove from heat.


- Boil eggs, peel; set aside
- Peel and halve potatoes; set aside
- Shred onion and/or garlic; set aside
- Heat oil, shallow fry boiled eggs, adding powdered turmeric; set aside
- Heat oil, lightly shallow fry potato; set aside
- Heat oil, add whole pepper, bay leaf, chilli (optional), cinnamon, clove, cardamom (big and/or small)
- Add shredded onion, saute, then add shredded garlic, saute
- Add salt, turmeric, cummin and coriander, all powdered. (Add shredded tomato – optional)
- Add potato and water, cook until ready
- Add eggs, powdered Garam Masala, remove from heat


- Shred garlic, chop tomato, set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, red chilli, whole pepper, clove, cinnamon, cardamom
- Add chicken, stir fry till flavoured oil sinks in
- Add salt, turmeric, cummin, coriander, all powdered
- Add chopped tomato and water, cook until ready, stirring occasionally
- Add Garam Masala powder, remove from heat


- Wash fish thoroughly, marinate with salt and powdered turmeric, deep fry, set aside
- Fine chop onion and garlic, cut potato, tomato and (optional) other vegetables, set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaf, chilli, pepper, clove, cinnamon, cardamom (big and small), sauté onion and garlic
- Add tomato, sauté. Add turmeric, coriander and cummin (all powdered), salt
- Add potato, vegetables, stir for some time, add water, cook until ready
- Add Garam Masala powder, remove from heat and add fish, keeping fish as completely immersed in the curry as possible

5. KEEMA (Mince)

- Marinate mince with salt and turmeric
- Shred onion and garlic
- Heat oil, flavour with cinnamon and clove, saute onion and garlic
- Add mince, stir thoroughly
- Add very little water, cover, cook on very low heat
- When cooked turn off heat and add in Garam Masala powder

6. CHINGURI CHARCHARI (Shrimp and vegetables fried)

- Fry shrimps lightly in oil, set aside. (If using frozen shrimps, first immerse in warm water until thawed and then squeeze out excess water), set aside
- Dice potatoes, cut cauliflower, broccoli, spring onion, carrot or any mix of vegetables
- Fry vegetables in oil, adding turmeric and salt
- Add fried shrimps and remove from flame

7. CHINGURI MALAI CURRY (Shrimp in coconut cream)

- Fry shrimps lightly in oil, set aside. (If using frozen shrimps, first immerse in warm water until thawed and then squeeze out excess water), set aside
- Grate or fine chop onion and ginger, set aside
- Dice potatoes, microwave to make tender, set aside
- Heat oil, add bay leaves, add onion and ginger and sauté
- Add salt, turmeric and green (fresh) chilli
- Add potato and shrimp, stir to absorb oil
- Add coconut crčme and remove from heat

8. MAÜNSHA GOLMARICHA TARKARI (Mutton/Lamb Curry - with golmaricha = pepper)

- Cut mutton (= lamb meat or goat meat) into suitable sizes
- Marinate in salt and turmeric, keep aside
- Peel potatoes, cut into suitable sizes (approximately the size of the pieces of meat), wash and keep aside
- Shred onion and garlic
- Heat oil, add whole peppercorns, cinnamon, clove, cardamom (small and large)
- Add onion, sauté. Add garlic, sauté
- Add meat, stir. Add potatoes, stir further
- Add salt to taste, powdered pepper, cumin, coriander and Garam Masala
- Add water (very little: meat releases water), cook until tender
- Add Garam Masala and remove from heat

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