By Brij Khandelwal
Agra/Mathura: If it’s Raksha Bandhan, can the demand for the ‘ghewar’ specially-made sweatmeat be far behind? This year, the halwais say the demand has peaked to new heights.
Except for the tourists, no one is buying petha, the other speciality of the region, in Agra. “We are flooded with demand for a variety of ghevars. Till some years ago, it used to be only plain white ghevar. But we have now introduced kesar, chocolate and rabdi filled ghevars,” Raj Kumar of Agra’s almost 300-year-old Bhagat Halwai, told IANS.
Ghevar is available only in the months of Sawan and Bhadon (August-September), around Raksha Bandhan.
In Mathura ghewar sales had picked up phenomenally before the festival season. “Most buyers are those who will visit their sasural (in-laws’ place). It is customary for married daughters in Braj area to spend Sawan Bhadon (August-September) in their parental homes, with friends (sakhies), and enjoy the swings, (jhoolas),” Ram Babu Sharma, a local priest, told IANS.
“The son-in-law comes on Raksha Bandhan to take his wife back home. Usually he comes with boxes of ghevar to his sasural,” Sharma added.
The porous circular disc of maida, mildly fried in moulds, is soaked in sugary syrup and dressed up with rabri or dry fruits. The crispy ones are not heavy and are available in many sizes.
“The taste is obviously impacted by the quality of cooking medium. Desi ghee flavour is distinct but makes it expensive,” Raj Kumar Bhagat of Agra’s Bhagat Halwai, told IANS.
“Desi ghee ghevar is priced between Rs.380 to Rs.500 (per kilo). This time we have chocolate and kesar ghevars. Sugar-free is priced at Rs.600 (per kilo). Courier facility is also available,” Bhagat added.
Big and small halwais have been working overtime for the past week to meet the demand for ghevar.
“Customers, during this time, show no interest in other mithais. The top priority is ghevar, the fresher the better. Right now, the demand is for plain and rabdiwala ghevar,” Banwari Lal Khandelwal of Shankar Mithaiwala at the Holi Gate, told IANS, adding it is risky to keep the rabdiwala ghevar for more than 24 hours.
Goverdhan Raj Purohit, a halwai, said the rates were Rs 25 higher per kilo this year, but the demand continues to soar.
Mathura’s main sweet shops Brajwasi, Shankar Mithaiwala, Yadav Mithaiwala, Bharatpuriya Mithaiwala were crowded with customers.
“During the month of Sawan, we have to work day and night to meet the rush for demand which starts spiralling after Hariyali Teej (festival of greenery/August 17). We have around 100 skilled workers busy on 35-odd bhatties. The pressure will continue till Sri Krishn Janamashtmi (about a week from now),” Satish Brajbasi of the Brajwasi outlet, told IANS.
Tourist guide Ved Gautam said he took some foreign tourists to Seth Gali to show them how ghevar was made.
“They were amazed with the dexterity of the ‘karigars’ (workers) as each piece was immaculate in terms of texture, colour and flavour,” Gautam told IANS.
Ghevar has its origins in Hariyali Teej, a major festival in Rajasthan where ghevars are available in many colours and varieties. It is now popular in the whole of Braj Mandal.
“Radha Rani (Lord Krishna’s consort) is very fond of ghevar,” Acharya Jaimini, a priest at Vrindavan, told IANS.