| A vegetarian food stall for kanwariyas in Sultanganj. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Residents and devotees visiting the silk city this Shravan can savour the flavours of Rajasthan.
Several hotel owners have kept signature Rajasthani dishes like veg-shabnam and lakhwanavi sabza biryani on offer to attract the pilgrims, who have vegetarian food during the holy month of the Hindu calendar.
Every year, hundreds of saffron-clad kanwariyas (pilgrims) come to Sultanganj in Bhagalpur to fetch water from the Ganges before leaving for Deoghar in neighbouring Jharkhand to worship Lord Baidyanath.
All these years, the pilgrims in particular and the residents in general faced difficulty finding quality vegetarian food.
The situation has, however, undergone a sea change this time with most hotels and restaurants along Kanwaria Path and Sultanganj-Tarapur Road having a variety of dishes, mostly from Rajasthan, to satisfy the vegetarians’ taste buds.
Kari, paneer diwana, paneer dilruba, mali-kofta, veg-navratan, paneer zafrani, aloo bhukhara kofta, bhaja moong dal, jeera rice, nan, chapatti, makai malai tikki, badami tandoori aloo, aloo methi ki sabzi, kumbh matar makhana ki sabzi, mixed vegetable jaipuri, dal taxila, vegetarian dum biryani, navratan pulao, shahi nan, corn salad, sweet rice phirni… the list seems to get only longer for the devotees to choose from.
“Keeping in mind the huge demand of vegetarian items, we have for the first time introduced Rajasthani dishes. Veg-biriyani is turning out to be hot pick,”said Banti Sharma, owner of Metro Rajdarbar, a food plaza in this eastern Bihar town.
“More than 90 per cent people visiting my shops are strictly non-vegetarians. But during Shravan, I have to make separate arrangements for vegetarian items. We have set up separate kitchens to prepare vegetarian dishes,” said Partho Ghosh, the owner of Big Bite, Bake Club and Gokul Sweets, two popular food plazas in this eastern Bihar town.
Adithya Ghosh, the chief manager of Hotel Nihar, said: “With Shravan being the holiest month and most foodies turning vegetarian these days, we have decided to cook special dishes for them. We have ensured that there is no onion and garlic in the dishes that we are making these days.”
He added: “The Kanwarias, particularly those who travel in their own vehicles prefer to spend nights in Bhagalpur before leaving for Sultanganj, are very selective about what they eat.”
The road-side food stalls are also not lagging to cash in on the devotees’ demand for vegetarian food.
“Kanwarias from villages want simple food at competitive prices. Some of them prefer spicy food. We have special dishes for them this time. They can pick up from bhaja moong dal, aloo bhukhra kofta and paneer zafrani,” said the owner of a road-side eatery at Tarapur on Kanwarai Path.
The devotees are visibly happy to get food of their choice as they move on to the pilgrimage.
“We need vegetarian food, that too without onion and garlic, during Shravan. We also prepare the meals in separate utensils and keep them aside. If hotels have taken that extra care to make special dishes for us keeping in mind our restrictions, we will definitely try what they have on offer,” said Bibhuranjan Prasad, a kanwariya reached Sultanganj from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Another kanwariya said: “There is nothing like a good meal to sustain us on the arduous pilgrimage, when we have to cover miles on foot.”