The layered crispy sweet traditional to Silao in Nalanda – Silao ka Khaja – might be the first Bihari dessert to get the GI (geographical indication) tag if everything goes well.
A “GI tag” is granted by the Geographical Indications registry on recommendations of the Chennai-based Intellectual Property Appellate Board. It acts as the “claim to fame” for a state, as the tag identifies a product as originating from a particular location and conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness to the fact of its origin.
The Bihar Heritage Development Society, an autonomous body under the art, culture and youth affairs department, will send within a week an application to the GI registry. It has worked to gather strong evidences to support the claim.
“So far as the antiquity of Silao ka Khaja is concerned, we have documented evidences of the sweet being at least 200 years old. Swiss physician Buchanan Hamilton has written about Silao ka Khaja during his visit in the 19th century,” said Bihar Heritage Development Society executive director Bijoy Kumar Choudhary. “For a product to get the GI tag, geographical delimitations, its history, production all has to be documented properly apart from videography; it has to be strong enough for it to get the tag.”
There are about a dozen traditional sweetmeats that are said to have originated in Bihar such as the Maner ka laddoo and tilkut but none of them yet have the GI tag. From Bihar, Madhubani painting, Sujini embroidery, Bhagalpur silk and appliqué work have the GI tag.
Bijoy Choudhary said folklores have also been mentioned in the documentation. “The locals claim that the sweet got its name from Lord Buddha. They say Lord Buddha was once travelling with his disciples when he tasted this sweet. The disciples asked him about the sweet’s name to which he told them ‘ kha ja (come eat)’ but the disciples thought Lord Buddha said the name was ‘khaja’. The residents of Silao (around 80km southeast of Patna) say the sweet is called khaja since then,” he said.
Documentation for the sweet’s history around three months ago, sources said.
Khaja-makers are happy about the initiative taken. “The Mauritius government felicitated my grandfather Kali Shah at the Sagar Mahotsav in 1987 for his Silao Ka Khaja preparation. Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai had come to our shop Sri Kali Shah to taste the sweet. Besides, actors Hema Malini and Dev Anand also came during the shooting of Johny Mera Naam,” said Sanjay Lal, the current owner of Sri Kali Shah, who has been to London, Paris and Mauritius for his sweet skills. “Getting GI tag would put the sweet and its makers on the world map.