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Please Note -Cover Picture source by cooktube.in

To the people of India I have met on my travel. Thank you all for all sharing yourselves so generously and welcoming rather intimidating looking stranger with so much warmth and such awesome food.

Indian cuisine dates back over 5000 years. Each region has its own traditions, religions and cultures that influence its food. Indian food has been influenced by Mongolian, Persian and Chinese cuisine, among others. The common thread throughout the centuries remains the distinct mixing of spices that invariably give Indian cuisine its flavor and aroma. Today I will talk about the famous Kashmiri dish which travel to Persia to India with a rich history.

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Food Connection

When I was at Kufri in Himachal Pradesh, one fine night in dinner buffet menu, I found Mutton Rogan Josh. Before that I filled my plate with prawn, chicken, paneer, fish and probably one or two more dishes. But Rogan Josh made me feel like this was it. I did not need anything. I cleared my plate for it by placing all the dishes back to its utensils. Then I took more than a decent amount of Rogan Josh rice and sat in a table alone. I was about to start when a man came and sat in front of me. He was a complete stranger. I looked at the dining hall, it was quite empty. still he chose my table.

He looked at me and said “please don’t bother and enjoy your meal”. I started. He asked again, “how is it?” I said, “the best” and I put another morsel. He laughed. And I felt humiliated. My reaction made him realise that he is an evader in my peace. “I am Amitabh” he said. “Until you are Bachchan too, I have no interest” I said mockingly. he laughed again. “My friend you can’t name it the best, until you taste the best”, Mr. Amitabh said. ” I am telling you all this, because you are a foodie. The way you returned all the dishes for Mutton Rogan Josh, I connected with you. Being a foodie, I know it is prime duty to tell you about Mutton Rogan Josh. My friend you must taste the original Kashmiri Mutton Rogan josh. And you will able to find that when you know the history”.

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Story Of Kashmiriyat

In Kashmir the amalgamation of hindu and Muslim culture gave birth to Kashmiriyat. Kashmiriyat was bred during Zain nanak and Akbar’s time and evolved through the local language art lifestyle and food. Kashmiriyat means people of different religions, different sects are living together amicably as a group. Here Hindu Pandits also celebrate Eid and Muslims wish them on Ram navami and they eat from each other’s utensils at home.There is no strict provision. So this is a beautiful and wonderful thing about Kashmir about Kashmiri culture and Kashmiriyat.

But unfortunately , this secular Kashmiriyat was butchered due to the political games played in the name of religion. And this difficult time Kashmiri pandits who have been expelled from their own land. Without Kashmiri pandits Kashmir remains incomplete. But few Pandits live in kashmir and even today they have kept kashmiri culture alive.

The actual hometown of Kashmiri Pandit is Kashmir valley. Kashmiri Pandits are Brahmins but since they lived in the Kashmir Valley there is a custom of eating meat and fish. And they are the people who make perfect Mutton Rogan Juice.

Kashmir valley(Google Image)

Mutton Rogan Josh

This mutton dish which kashmiri pandits cook and eat with relish, called ‘Rogan josh’. All Over the country in novice Mughal restaurants you find a substandard version of Rogan Josh containing insipid curry and colors.The real Rogan Josh cooked in the homes of Kashmiri Pandits contain less gravy.

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Rogan Josh arrived in kashmir along with the Mughals around 400 years ago when Jahangir used to come to Kashmir. But Rogan Josh can be traced back to Persia, where Rogan means Ghee (clarified butter) and Josh means cooking on heat. Traditionally the dish is prepared in pure ghee, with the spices fried in fat to stimulate aromas and infuse the fat with the essence before adding other ingredients.

Yogurt is the base for the sauce. It gives a lovely tang with tomatoes while almonds add texture. It also thicken the sauce. Chillies and peppers mild heat are needed to complement the dish. with a die for taste, this dish complements with rice, chapati, paratha, naan. The choice will help you to mop up the rich gravy.

“Food is an emotion. It should not be cheated. Now you know the difference, it depends on you to find yourself the best.” Amitabh left me alone there. I finished that Rogan Josh and still waiting to taste the best.

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Cover image source by Google and influence by Kari. Kari is the name of make-up in Kathakali. It literally means black and is donned by cruel characters.

Everybody is a villain until their story is told. Generally temples are for Gods. But not all the time it is true. India is an unique country. It celebrates god, heroes and epic characters as well. Mayamkottu Malancharuvu Malanada temple in Kollam district, Kerala, is an unique temple. Shakuni (Mahabharata’s most cunning uncle) is worshiped here. Kuravar community runs this temple mainly.

Kuravar worships Shakuni as a God and believes he is not a villain in the real sense! They believe it is the circumstances that changed Shakuni to take revenge.

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Mahabharat’s Most Cunning Uncle’s Temple:

The temple houses Shakuni’s shrine. According to the popular lore, Shakuni performed austerities at this site to please Lord Shiva, and subsequently, attained Moksha. In the temple a granite is installed. Interestingly, it is believed that, Shakuni had used it as a seat for his ritual. The folklore also suggests that the Kauravas divided their weapons amongst themselves at this place. They took shelter here after travelling miles in search of the Pandavas. 

Another intriguing belief is that a community claims to be the descendants of the Kauravas. And they worship Shakuni’s determination, perseverance and passion towards his goals. Shakuni is also believed to be a personification of the Dwapara Yuga. This is one of the four cyclical yugas, or eras, of the Hindu mythology.

The Making Of Villain:

There are many stories about Shakuni and his family. Many of us know about the story that Shakuni was very close to his sister Gandhari. He could not accept the fact that she had to marry a blind man and Gandhari blindfold herself for her entire life.

But there is another story, which wrenched my heart. In many folk traditions narrate the story of explaining his hatred for the Kuru household. Astrologers had foretold about newborn Gandhari that she would be a widow soon as her first husband would have a short life. Her father, therefore, got her married to a goat, and sacrificed it soon after. Technically, that made Gandhari a widow. Later Bhishma came to know about that got furious. He could not bear the fact that a widow entered his great noble household.

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The Great Injustice:

An enraged Bhishma locked Suvala and his sons in a dungeon to punish them. He ordered to feed them a fistful of rice each day. Suvala knew that the rice was not enough for everyone. It was Bhishma’s plan to kill them starving. He came up with an idea, “let the most intelligent one among us eat only. He will live and avenge the great wrong done to the family”. Shakuni, the youngest, the sharpest, was the chosen one. He was fed regularly. While the rest of them starved to death. Shakuni witnessed their pain and great sacrifice. Before dying, Suvala broke Shakuni’s ankle, so he would remember the great crime every time he limped.

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After his family’s death, Sahkuni came to live in Hastinapur with the Kauravas. He pleaded them for shelter, pretended to be a great relative, but plotted their downfall all along. Though Bhishma never liked Shakuni’s presence but never disrespected Dhritarastra’s decision. Some variants had held Duryodhan responsible for killing Shakuni’s father and brothers. Also in some variants Dhritarashtra was the main culprit, as Suvala refused his marriage proposal for Gandhari.

Shakuni’s story is a reminder to everyone not to judge people without knowing their story. even the worst of villains have a story that might explain their actions, without condoning them. The story of Gandhari marrying a goat came from a Jain retellings of the Mahabharata.

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Kuravar Community And Shakuni:

There is one similarity between them. This community was placed under Criminal Tribes Act 1871 during the British rule India. As they used to trade salt and crops. They were denotified after independence in 1952. But the stigma still continues. They are best known as Gypsy community in Tamilnadu. They were been oppressed for ages by their own people. This has led to protests and resentment from the community.

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