Both these culinary dishes have originated long back in Indian history – ‘litti‘ finds it mention during Magadh Kingdom (in Bihar) whereas ‘batti’ finds its mention during Mewar dynasty (in Rajasthan). Both these culinaries have approximately the same preparation mythologies (commonly, balls of dough) and as history explains, both of them have been used extensively by warriors/soldiers, for two reasons :
- Easy preparation
- Long storage. The soldiers would simply put balls of dough in sand (in Rajasthan) or fire (in states of UP, Bihar and Nepal), and in no time, food would be ready.
Litti even finds its heavy mention in 1857 “The First War of Independence”.From nutritional angle, ‘litti’ with rich quantity of roasted pulses (rich in protein) and medicinally beneficial spices like ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi), mangrail/kalonji (Nigella sativa), garlic, black pepper, dried ginger (Sunth powder), lemon etc with mustard oil (unsaturated oil) is “above par” than ‘batti’ with high ghee (saturated fatty acids) content.
Both being historically important with “above par” nutritional value of Litti-Chokha yet it has failed to travel across India whereas Daal-Baati-Churma has expanded from localised Rajasthan to externalised reach.
Consider the way “Litti-Chokha” has been projected externally. A visit to Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Allahabad railway stations which are gateways to most pilgrimage in north India, reveals a lot. All these stations have local “Litti-Chokha” stalls, with common characterisitc(s) – stinking smell from behind (i.e. the boundary wall used as common public toilet), age old decayed bubbled drainage, piles of ashes in open, tobacoo and/or paan spits, water thrown hither and thither, pathetic or no provision for washing hands before and after, no provision for clean drinking water and apparantely no measures in place for hygenic food.Similar conditions exists at Deoria, Bhatni, Ballia railway stations too and assumably inter state bus stations also.
A visit around “Gandhi Maidan”, the ground which witnessed the famous JP movement during emergency, and the entry point for most colleges in Patna, has also the same story to tell. Numerous local “Litti-Chokha” stalls exists but on comparing the hygenic environment, most people prefer to walk two steps ahead to have “Chowmin” or “pudi-sabji with jalebi” or “fruit plate” or “bread pakoda” instead, inspite of knowing that the nutritional value is inferior to what they left two steps back.
What could be done to improve?
- Creating awareness about the nutritional aspects of “Litti-Chokha” by health and food supply departments at respective government levels. If we can raise slogans against “beef” citing all historical, religious, cultural reasons, why not raise voices in favor of “Litti-Chokha” citting historical, cultural, nutritional reasons.
- Promote commercialization, I am sure, it will open many avenues under “Make in India” flagship program.
- Promote subsidization of Microwaves, electricity supply for young entrepreneurs willing to venture into food chain of “Litti-Chokha”.
- Provisions of easy loans for the entrepreneurs. Atleast these loans will never turn into “bad loans” resulting into a loss of 61% by state administered banks.
- And last but not the least, make the railway(s) and/or bus stands’ surroundings cleaner and more hygenic under “Swachh Bharat” flagship program, so that, in the absence of the above bulleted initiatives, “Litti-Chokha” is marketed naturally from mouth to mouth.
In a nut shell, the presentation of the highly nutritious dish has been too bad, whereas the presentation of other local dishes example idli-sambhar, dosa, uttapa, and the sibling ‘batti’ has been impressively good with “good dish” take-away for the foodies.
Images from YouTube:
Article by Basant Kumar