Fresh old food

Something different? If you want something different, take a walk in the neighbourhood of one of the old temple towns of India. Yesterday I strolled around the lanes of Puri, near the Jagannath temple. This is old enough to have given the word juggernaut to the English language in its own recent history. I had my eyes on the hundreds of sweet shops that line these roads. Pilgrims need sustenance. This shop caught my eye. Malpuas were fried and soaked in syrup as I watched, and next to them was a tray of the khajas which this temple town is famous for.

I have never understood how this famous speciality of a little-known town called Silaon in Bihar came to be associated with Puri in Odisha. Perhaps it goes back to the famous war between Magadha and Kalinga (circa 260 BCE), the war whose effect was the spread of Buddhism through the then-known world: eastwards all the way to Japan, westwards to the Indo-Greek kingdoms of Asia. Temples are the amber which preserve old customs. This man, with his ascetic’s matted hair, was hard at work passing on a bit of old tradition to the future.