The Food Story: How India’s favourite sweet dish rosugulla was born

Temple text suggests that rosugulla was in existence nearly 700 years ago and was invented as a tribute to Lord Jagannath’s eyes.

Written by Madhulika Dash | Updated: November 14, 2017 2:12 pm
The original rosugulla from Salepur (Source: Wikipedia)

From the sanctorum of Puri temples to the bylanes of Kolkata, Nepal and Rajasthan to the power corridors of Buckingham Palace, Rosugulla remains ancient India’s best culinary invention.

The Bengalis stake claim on it. The Oriyas believe it’s their invention. And the world cannot seem to have enough of it. Known as rosogulla, rasgulla or rasbari (depending which Indian state it is being referred in), if there has been one sweet dish that has been a true ‘game changer’ of the way sweets were perceived and eaten in India it has to be the Rosugulla – or how famous British chef William Harold described it in a journal  – “a bowl of sweet, syrupy, soft cheese balls.”

Rosugulla was one of the few things (Bhel Puri aside), the recipe of which Harold, in spite of his on-field research, failed to acquire. Every home he walked to gave him a different recipe and a different technique to work with. Unable to replicate the result, and already having started a mutiny with one soldier being shot in rage by the English officer he came to serve, Harold left the country but with 10 boxes of rosugulla believing that he will eventually be able to recreate the dish his people took fancy to.

Whether he ever succeeded in recreating the dish or the British version of this 13th century sweet dish remains a mystery. What however is known, is how addicted our colonial rulers were of the sweet dish, whose origin was inside the temple of Puri in Odisha. Lady Edwina Mountbatten is said to be rather fond of the sweet dish, and so was William Hasting.

History tracks down the origin of rosugulla to Puri in Odisha, where this 700-year-old sweet dish was part of a ritual. Known as Khira mohana due to its almost white appearance back in the 11th century, it was customary to offer this chenna sweet dish to Goddess Mahalakshmi as prasad, especially on the last day of the Rath Yatra, also called Niladri Vijay.

According to mythology, Jagannath, an avatar of Vishnu, to appease Lakshmi, his consort, on returning from Gundicha temple after a nine-day vacation (Rath Yatra) had offered her rosugulla as a present to get entry into his home. Since then, it’s a ritual that is followed annually.

In fact temple text suggests that rosugulla was in existence nearly 700 years ago and was invented as a tribute to Lord Jagannath’s eyes. That perhaps explains why rosugulla, especially the Oriya variety, is big and slightly oblong compared to West Bengal rosugulla which resembles a ball.

How did the sweet dish reach out of the temple’s periphery given that temples kept their recipes well guarded is unknown. But folklore has it that it was one of the priests who began teaching people the art of milk curdling and making rosugulla after he saw villagers throwing milk because it was in excess. Interestingly, for the villagers of Phala (a hamlet in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar the capital city of Odisha) this came as a blessing in disguise. This tiny hamlet was in fact home to more cows than humans, and milk was always in excess. Such is their expertise with chenna (ricotta cheese) that Phala soon emerged into the biggest market for chenna-based sweets and for rosugulla. In fact, it became a pit stop for anybody traveling across Odisha.

rosugulla-story (Source: Thinkstock Images)

The other variant of rosugulla that Odisha is famous for is the one from Salepur (yet another rosugulla making hamlet in Odisha near Cuttack). Bigger, softer, creamier with a velvety cream like appearance, this variation of Khira mohana was developed by a local confectioner, Bikalananda Kar. Called the king of sweetmeat makers, Bikalananda is often credited with inventing the real ‘rosugulla’ that most are familiar with. The technique of steaming the cheese balls and then allowing them to slowly rise in the sugar syrup was a technique that was mastered by him.

Many believe that it was this version of rosugulla that the creator of ‘sponge rosugulla’ Nobin Chandra Das tried to borrow and take to Bengal for creating an alternative to the dry sandesh. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Having failed at replicating the complex process, Nobin finally designed his own version using reetha and creating bubbles that could trap the cheese balls and lend them a sponginess that gave them extra shelf life without the need of being doused in the syrup and also an interesting beehive texture that made it chewy. The popularisation of the rosugulla was because of Bhagwandas Bagla, a wealthy non-Bengali merchant residing in Kolkata.

The story goes that Bagla was on his round, when his son felt thirsty. Bagla send his helper to Nobin’s shop for water. As etiquette goes, Nobin offered him a glass of water with one piece of rosugulla. Watching his son relish the piece, Bagla too tried the ‘rosugulla’ and loved it. Later on, with Nobin’s son K C Das introducing canning, rosugulla became less perishable and could travel more distance. And the rest as they say was history.

With Bagla and his fellow traders, rosugulla travelled from Nepal, where it became rasbari to Rajasthan where it was adopted as rajbhog to UP where it became rasmalai to Benras and even the offices of the East India Company, where it became the official ‘cheese dumplings’ treat.

Incidentally, while the dish brought in new versions across India, it did spew an array of different sweet dishes in its own place of origin. The chenna jhili, chenna pauda (the first cheese cake in India) the rasbali (fried chenna pancake), chamcham, rasmalai and even the famous Kamala bhog were desserts that were inspired by the humble rosugulla or the erstwhile Khira Mohana.

(Yield 6-8 Pcs)

rosu (Source: Chef Sahil Arora, Jaipur Marriott)


Cow Milk (1 Litre)
Whey to curdle (10 Ml)
Sugar (600 gm)
Water (100 ml)
Milk to clarify (10 ml)
Pista flakes and saffron strands to garnish

* Boil the cow milk and remove from flame. Let the milk cool to 50 degrees and add whey.

* Keep stirring slowly after time intervals till the whey separates.

* Hang the curdled cheese in muslin cloth in cool environment and let all the water drain.

* In a separate pot put sugar and water together and set to boil when sugar syrup starts to boil add milk to clarify the sugar by continuously removing the scum.

* When all the whey is drained from the chenna start kneading with the back of your palm for 15-20 min till it becomes light and airy.

* Form small balls of this chenna and steep them in boiling sugar on high flame.

* Slowly the chenna balls would fluff up and when cooked would start floating in syrup.

* Cool the rosugulla and serve chilled garnished with pista flakes.

Recipe and picture Courtesy – Chef Sahil Arora, Jaipur Marriott

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  1. S
    Aug 19, 2016 at 8:25 am
    Haha here we are talking about rasogolla and these ppl drag some old history about odisha kalinga n bla bla.You ben can't accept the thing .Rasogolla is originated in Orissa only ..If you know history of Orissa than us then y u mistaken such great thing about Orissa.You ppl migrate in Puri in such numbers that I even forget I am in odisha .it seems like I am in West Bengal.oriyas are so innocent they transform themselves totally to give good service to bens in Puri.I came through many incident in Puri.every Oriya brahmin to samosa vendor learn ben to gave them best service.please oriyas,have your ego and don't change yourself for those who are just don't deserve it.I feel really sad when I see such situation in innocent Oriyas
    1. Kaushik Banerjee
      Jul 13, 2016 at 5:55 pm
      this absolute third grade recipe article is now being used to claim the origination of roshogolla. This is not right. This is not even wrong. This is pure mockery of;br/gt;The chhana was a dutch-portuguese contribution to indian cuisine. Before the Europeans the texts don't mention of a single cottage-cheese dish. In fact, even after the chhana sweets became por, they were not allowed to be offered for worships and rituals as Chhana itself was considered equivalent of beef (as it is made by "destroying" or "killing" milk. So there is no question of Chhana sweets being offered to Jagannath. That kheer-mohon is also a tradional bengali dish, made of suji and sugar. The only chhana dish that the odiyas can claim are made primarily in odisha is chhana-pora, which is of course brilliant. But rosho-golla came after the europeans gave us chhana... we made the golla out of it, dipped it in sugar syrup (plenty of sugar in bengal, Bengal was known as Gour, the country of Gur or moles) and called it roshogolla... then Nabin_das and KC Das made the sponge variety. lt;br/gt;This is what happens when history gets written by opinion polls...
      1. A
        Ajit Nayak
        Mar 7, 2015 at 7:12 pm
        Odisha neither try to take credit of achievement of others nor we regard our neighbours as enemies. We have enough respect for our neighbours. But during british time, it was really very bad to make a big attempt to take the cream of other state and put it under Presidency area. And the presidency also got the benefit of it. But when we have proofs of rasagola being originated in Puri temple, then there is no point of someone telling it from other place. Ok, if time comes, govt also will show the doent proofs. ----------------------------------------------- Now people will think why I am telling about the doent proofs!!!??? This comes from the language issue: Before Odia got clical language status (6th clical language in India), it was told by one leader in west bengal, "Odia eka swotantra bhasa noye". But now the mouth is shut. Whatever it might be, past is ped and still bengalis are our friends :) . ------------------------------------------------ For them who talk about Pandit Rabindranath Tagore: We Odias cant tell about him. We accept that Pandit Rabindranath is from West Bengal and let bengal take the credit of him. ------------------------------------------------- For them who talk about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: Though he was born and brought up in Cuttack, we never try to take copyright of him as we dont have the calibre to judge the stature of Netaji. He is a National leader and then Odia. But West bengal has always taken credit of Netaji. Dont know how someone can make a National leader as regional. I also dont understand as to how someone is identified as Odia or Bengali? Is Bose mean bengali and Nayak means odia!!!??? Then what about Dash? Both West bengal and Odisha have huge number of people with Dash surname!!! -------------------------------------------------- For them who talk about Sri Jayadeb: As ASI department says based on legends, Sri Jayadeb was born in Kenduvilwa (currently Kenduli) village in Odisha. But the problem is that there is a village in West bengal with name Kendubiloo (Currently Kenduli). But now all scholars from Odisha, West bengal and Center also accept the birthplace being in Odisha. If someone does not believe, please check this rissareview/may-2007/engpdf/Page24-27.pdf aydev_Kenduli -------------------------------------------------- One for Bay of Bengal: Everyone knows the previous name of Bay of Bengal being "Kalinga Goda" when Kalinga was in power. When british came to power and made the presidency in Calcutta, the name of the sea was changed to "Bay of Bengal". But we Odias dont speak of it because Bay of Bengal is not our state property and it is an international name now. ------------------------------------------------- India will allow everyone to blabber, but the same is not allowed for Odisha. So Odisha only speaks when they have proof and so Odia got the 6th clical language status. So... telling that rasagola originated from Odisha, should not hurt anyone.
        1. E
          Aug 1, 2017 at 3:31 am
          Awesome ..crisp and to the point.. Had it been possible they will even claim Jagannth is theirs .. I had a fight with a lady while i was in Kolkata who said , Chaitanya is Mahapravu and not Lord Jagannath and his stature is bigger than Lord of Universe ... After a while i stopped arguing , as we all know we can't win with and mad people....
        2. A
          Sep 17, 2015 at 11:44 am
          To all Bengali friends here, hope you all claim Odishi as your clical dance form after some years like you are claiming for Rasagola.... problem with you people is you don't have anything in original expect a large strength of potion
          1. A
            Aparup Das
            Jul 3, 2015 at 2:01 pm
            Khira Mohana is Puri i understand, though Bengal has a variant of that as well. But Come'on Rosogolla has always been and will be Bengal's Just you have additional Political Mileage in the Current Indian Ruling Strata does not actually mean you can sell this BullS**t on a Platter. Wow, so now you say Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is a Odiya :) Clic man , seriously, probably anyone who has ever sta in Odisha at any part of his life and has interacted with an Odia , becomes an Odia eh ??? IF Indira hi/Narendra Modi/Barrack Obama Sta there for sometime , you would call them Odia .... pathetic... To Really gain some mileage in life , why dont you work hard and achieve something in life... rather than crying about Bengalis or giving some Excuses... I dont know with your limited vision , would you really be able to comprehend this info... But try Try to realize that not much good will come if you keep fighting with others to gain some mileage , rather try to change and make your life worthwhile.... While yeah i agree .... Bengalis nowadays are PATHETIC... cant even stand up to create a proper b image , lousy Government, Lousy approach to life, fighting amongst themselves... but Read... Read some history to understand that all the Glory that BENGAL had , wasnt thrown at them by the British, they achieved it on their own. Read to understand that , that all the changes that took place in Modern India started from there, from Removal of the Sati Pratha to a lot of Renaissance of the Modern Indo-Culture. Read and then Cry... Why some people used to cry and complain about the Bongs is they started becoming arrogant and always used to win... And my friend , if you read, you would understand that Kalinga and ODISHA are different places... the ODRA Desha included north orissa , a bit of medinipur , a bit of Jharkhand, While Kalinga started from Central/South Orissa and neither did they Speak ODIA... just because you got lucky and some Govt official has tampered the way to help Odia's gain some mileage doesnt mean you throw dirt at Bongs .... By the way , FYI, i know better odia than you :)
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