Subhasis Chatterjee: Bengal has a vast and intricate history with all things sweet and sugary. Can you blame it though? Bengal produces some of the finest sugar in the world. Think about how delicious gur is and you will immediately understand why a whopping majority of the population in Bengal has a sweet tooth that can never be satiated. Sugar rush? Pfft! What is that? The bengalis have never heard of it. Thanks to the Portuguese for introducing us to the famous cottage cheese or chhana which is now the foundation for all things sandesh.
Birth of the Jalbhara Talsansh Sandesh:
Once upon a time, in Chandernagore, was born a confectionery where the sandesh held rose water in it. Somewhere around 1818, Surya Modak, a man belonging to the sweet-making moiracommunity of Bengal, received a very special request. During that era, Bengal had seen an influx of zamindars, boroghars, chotoghars and paltighars. The Banerjees were a famous zamindari family, hailing from Telenipara, Bhadreshwar. One day, Surya Modak attended a “borozamindar”, probably a Banerjee, as his customer. That customer wanted to surprise, or rather, play a prank on his son-in-law (a zamindar’s son from Baidyabati)andto execute that prank, he needed a new preparation of sandesh. Surya Modak created asandesh which was crafted into the shape of a palm fruit kernel and into it, rose water was poured. Thus, the Jalbhara Talshans Sandesh was born. When the son-in-law bit into the sandesh, he only expected your regular, average, dry sandesh. However, the rose water spurted out in all directions, causing the sister-in-laws to giggle and laugh in revelry because now the son-in-law’s new Punjabi (Bengali style kurta) was wet and their prank was a success.
More about Surya Modak and his famous shop:
Surya Modak is also known for using seasonal ingredients for his confectioneries and as a result, during wintertime, the rose water is ditched and replaced with gur for this marvelous sweet.
The Jalbhara Talsansh Sandesh, now known as the Jalbhara Sandesh, turned Surya Modak into a success, making him one of the most renowned sweet makers of Eastern India in the early 19th century. His shop is situated in Chandernagore and till this date, is one of the most happening sweet shops on West Bengal. It is presently being run by his successors in the Modak family tree, Saibal Modak and GitashreeModak.
Address: 247, G.T.Road (East), Barasat, Chandernagore, Hooghly: 712136, West Bengal (India)