Any person living in a city may be called an urban person, but how this term became limited to a certain group of people is an interesting tale to narrate.
Back in the 18th century, the Marwadi people from Rajasthan reached Bengal on the invitation of a nawab and settled in a small town near Bhgirathi River. Azeem Ganj and Zia Ganj, the cities situated on the outskirts of Calcutta, proved no less than heavens for the Marwadi traders.
Accustomed to the harsh climate of Rajasthan and deprived of fresh fruits and vegetables, these traders could now foresee great trading ventures in Bengal.
At the time, Bengal was the centre of the world’s attention for both of its political stability and rich trade. In such circumstances, the Marwadi traders, now known to be the richest, identified themselves as ‘shehr waley’ [urban] and have remained situated in Bengal for 300 years now.
Oswal Jain was the leader of Marwadi traders and the group flourished under his supervision. Shehr waley devised a new culture, an off-shoot of the Rajasthan and Bengal. They adopted the Bengali, with the Rajasthani royal streak embedded within.
Abundance of money provided means for leisure but the vegetarians refused to adopt alcohol and drinking.
The food of these merchants comprised of vegetables only. Scarcity of fresh fruits and vegetables in Rajasthan was contrary to abundance of these in Bengal. Bengal’s culture not only influenced their living but the cuisine too became an assortment of Bengali, English, Afghani and Mughal taste.
They couldn’t forego Rajasthani taste, but influenced by Mughals, saffron, dry fruits and rose water became necessary components of their food.
Vegetables cultivated in the outskirts of Mushadabad were cooked in Rajasthani style. Soft and small peas were used in salad and curd, while the larger and hard ones were used in curry and kachori. Bengal’s panj phoru [Padkaune Masala] enlivened their food, so much as that once tell the name of the dish, smelling the aroma rising from the kitchen.
Mango orchards of Azeem Ganj are popular for the variety of mangoes cultivated. Aamrus, Bimli, Champa, Rani, Bhawani were among a 100 varieties sent to the markets. It is believed that mangoes for Queen Victoria too were sent from these orchards.
The shehr waley are fond of sweets. The meals would begin and culminate with sweets. A time particular time was never specified; they would ear it whenever they want.
Presence of Mal Pura, Cheena Bara, Paras Qadam were mandatory on every breakfast table, while in winter, Khaja and Nimshi would suffice. Love for sweet dishes is a heritage, mutually shared by Bengal and Rajasthan. The people invented Cheena Bara using a Portugese method, which claimed great popularity in Bengal, with sweets dishes of various kinds still being made from Cheena.
Even today, a great population of shehr wali inhabits Azeemabad and Zia Gunj area.
This article originally appeared on BBC Urdu
The post The evolution of Marwadi merchants and their scrumptious food appeared first on The Express Tribune.