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World Pakhala Day: A culinary heritage of Odisha

Pakhala, an age old traditional dish of Odisha with its origin dates back to 11th century has mustered global attention over the recent years in the wake of celebration of World Pakhala Day every year on 20 March is all thanks to the Odia communities, who in a bid to perpetuate the culinary legacy of Odisha, had taken a praiseworthy but popular initiative on 30th March 20211 to be marked as Pakhala Dibas and what is more, they called upon the Odias inhabiting across India and abroad to celebrate the day as World Pakhala Day. Since then the day came into being and is being celebrated annually to consume and promote this Odia dish worldwide.

 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

Pakhala, a characteristic and typical Odia food has been in existence since time immemorial. Historical evidences show that Pakhala was offered to Lord Jagannath as ‘Bhoga’ during during 12th century. The evidence to this effect are found on one of the stone inscriptions of Pataleshwar temple(12th century )situated in the premise of Sri Jagannath temple of Puri, Odisha. On the same inscription it is clearly mentioned that during the reign of Ganga dynasty, a Sevayat ( Servitor of Sri Jagannath Temple), descendant of Padhi Surname was in charge of collecting required ingredients for the preparation of Pakhala being offered to Lord Jagannath as ‘Bhoga’ on ritualistic pursuit.

PAKHALA & SOME OF ITS IMPORTANT VARIANTS:

The term Pakhala is derived from pali word ‘Pakhalita’ as well as Sanskrit word “Praakshalana” which means washed/to wash. Obviously, it consists of cooked rice washed or lightly fermented in water. The liquid in it is called “Torani”. It tastes slightly sour and is perfect for beating the heat of summer. It is served popularly with dry roasted vegetables like potato, brinjal, Saga bhaja, badi or fried fish.

 Pakhala consists of many variants of delicious taste and flavours. Some important of them are as follow:

  1. Saja Pakhala :In this variant, water is added instantly to the freshly cooked rice. Further drops of lemon are added to make it pleasantly sour. It does not require fermentation.
  2. Basi Pakhala :It needs fermentation for several hours or even overnight. It bears a tangy flavour.
  3. Jeera Pakhala :It is prepared by seasoning the pakhala with cumin seeds.
  4. Dahi Pakhala :This Pakhala is seasoned with curd, salt and roasted cumin seeds.
  5. Ada Pakhala :This variant is prepared by soaking cooked rice in ginger water. The dish has a spicy and tangy flavour.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DAY :

Though the celebration of the Divas stems from Odisha, yet it has turned out to be no less than a national and global festival over the years for its universal significance.

I. Promotion of traditional cuisine:The day seems to be successful in promoting the rich culinary tradition of Odisha across the globe. The nutritional value of the dish is encouraging the people to consume it as a healthy and refreshing meal.

II. Social harmony & Unity:People irrespective of any sort of hierarchical order come together to celebrate the day by consuming this refreshing dish as a mark of their love for food and culture. Consequently,It wouldn’t be redundant to say that the festival rears and nurture social unity and harmony.

III. Sesonal Significance:Pakhala is consumed customarily during the hot summer months in Odisha. As such, celebrating Pakhala Divas in March,heralding the onset of Summer, urges us to prepare for the season ahead.

IV. Fostering Sustainability :Pakhala Divas in no less measure but substantially fosters sustainability and responsible consumption. Uses of locally originated ingredients,reduction of food waste and adoption to eco-friendly practices are the appeals of the day.

PAKHALA AS SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND DIET:

Pakhala as a scientifically sound diet can bring the following health benefits:

I. Pakhala being a fermented dish contains Probiotics which can improve gut health and boost the immune system.

II. Pakhala is also a good source of Carbohydrates. As a result, it can supplement sustained energy throughout the day.

III. As Pakhala is low in fat and calories, it can, therefore, be a healthy choice for those who are striving for maintaining their weight in due proportion.

The quintessential summer dish of Odisha, Pakhala encompassing odia culture, history, heritage, rituals and religion has turned out to beno less than the existence, essence and Identity of the Odia and Odisha. on raising the Pakhala day from local to global dimension, the Odias inevitably deserve to be the proud pioneer in perpetuating a rare culinary culture across the world.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

Bankim Mund 

Lecturer in English

Dharmgarh Women’s Jr. College, Dharamgrh, Kalahandi Mob 8327717672

You can reach to him : [email protected]

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