Udayavni Special

Bygone pandemic that led to invention of Dharwad peda


Team Udayavani, Sep 4, 2021, 12:24 PM IST

Peda, a popular sweet with milk as its main ingredient, is available in different varieties in the market.

One of the most famous varieties of Peda is Dharwad Peda which derives its name from the city of Dharwad in Karnataka.

Believe it or not, the history of the sweet is around 175 years old.

The 1896-1897 plague epidemic is said to have originated in the Chinese mainland during early 19th century and spread further southeast reaching the port cities by 1894 and killing more than 70,000 people on its way. The plague eventually reached India via naval trade routes and was spreading through Bombay by the summer of 1896.

In order to escape the plague, a Thakur family from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, migrated to Dharwad, Karnataka. To earn a living, Ram Ratan Singh Thakur started making a sweet dish named pedha, using only milk and sugar and a secret formula.

Dharwad Pedha is actually an improvised version of the classic Mathura Pedha. The ‘browning process’ of the Dharwad Pedha distinguishes it from the traditional pedha but the cooking style is similar.

The milk is cooked down and sweetened appropriately and then thickened mass is rolled in powdered sugar.

Dharwad peda is prepared from the milk of Dharwadi buffaloes which in earlier times were raised by the Gavali community in and around Dharwad. Khova is warmed on moderate flames to eliminate moisture. It is then treated with ghee, sugar and milk till the colour turns brown. It takes one-and-a-half hours of constant stirring.

The mix is crushed into smaller pieces using a blender. The crushed khova-milk-sugar mix is pressed into a desirable shape and heated on a pan. A few prefer adding cardamom to enhance the flavor. Final product is then rolled in sugar and is ready to serve.

The family closely guards the recipe of the Peda as a trade secret which has been passing down the lineage. They do the mixing themselves every morning so that even the workers working on the Pedha do not know the formula.

Also, it is said that they still condense the milk on a wood fire and not on gas or electric heat.

Although since ages, many have tried to figure out the secret ‘formula’ used in making the dharwad pedha, none have been successful.

However, all kinds of theories do the rounds in Dharwad about the pedha. A few locals believe the sweet shops use a pinch of salt in the recipe while others claim that quite a few shops use caramel to cut down the long process involved in browning the pedha.

Thakur is credited with popularising the Dharwad Pedha at its iconic Line Bazaar location and and the peda came to also be called locally as the “Line Bazaar Peda”

The shop is today run by the sixth generation of the family, They produce 700-800 Kgs of Pedha every day. They have also added other popular Indian sweets like Laddu and bakery items including bread. The pedhas are still packed in the small boxes and stored in steel trunks to transport them to their shops across the city.

Babusingh Thakur’s single outlet store that was running for a few decades expanded later in Dharwad, Hubli, Bangalore Belgaum and Haveri. In many other cities around India other confectioneries also sell Dharwad peda which is not connected to the Thakur family.

There are several shops in Hubli- Dharwad by the name Thakur Peda, Mishra Peda and many other shops where Dhaward Peda is prepared and sold.

Today, they are sold under different names like Dharwad, Thakur, and Babu Singh Thakur pedha. It has also won GI (Geological Identification) tag.

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