Home > Bari Kothi Fam, Bengal History, FAM (Familiarization) Tour, FAM Trip, Food, General > Sheherwali Cuisine and much more at Bari Kolthi, Azimganj

Sheherwali Cuisine and much more at Bari Kolthi, Azimganj

Sheherwali Cuisine and much more at Bari Kolthi

Azimganj, near Murshidabad

Also see: FAM Tour of Bari Kothi, Azimganj

A decade after the death of the last great Mughal Aurangzeb, Murshid Quli Khan in 1727 declared himself the independent nawab of Bengal Province. A province which consisted of present day Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.

Bari Kothi 19

Dinner at the grand Durbar Hall, Bari Kothi, Azimganj

As the Murshid Quli Khan took up his charge, the trade and commerce flourished and historical records even suggested that Murshidabad contributed about 20% of the Indian economy and a staggering 5% of the world GDP.

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Breakfast by the river, Bari Kothi

The economic success of the Murshidabad soon attracted traders from far and wide, in came the Europeans and Armenians, turning Murshidabad into a international trading hub.

The Marawaris, a thriving business community from Rajasthan, were not far behind. In came the Dudhorias, Nawlakhas, Dugars, Singhis and with the growth of their wealth they started bringing in their families from home.

They settled in the twin towns of Azimganj and Jiaganj. Jiaganj is located just north of the Murshidabad, while Azimganj is west of Jianganj and across the Baghirati river. The Jain Marawari community travelled one town to other looking for better opportunities and came to be known as the Sheherwali, an identity which they continue to use to this day.

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Lunch being served on the boat

Food features prominently in the Sheherwali community and is known as the Sheherwali Cuisine. A strict vegetarian spread with a unique blend of cuisines from west and east India.

The Sheherwali Cusine originated from Rajastan, a land of dry and extreme climate. So food was cooked to last for a long time and even reheating was avoided. Milk and ghee replaced scarce resources like water.

With the scarcity of fresh vegetables flours of corn, bajra and gram were used in abundance along with a host of lentils. The Mughal influence introduced the usage of saffron, rose water and herbs thus enhancing the flavour of the food.

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Lunch on boat, Bari Kothi

As the Marawari community settled in Bengal, a land crisscrossed by rivers and where water was the most accessible of resources and so were fresh fruits and vegetables, they slowly adjusted and adopted to the local ingredients giving birth to a new food habits developing into the Sheherwali Cuisine.

In short Sheherwali Cusine is a veg cuisine of Jain Marawaris settled in Bengal. It is a fusion cuisine combining ingredients from east and west of India.

As the wealth of the Sheherwali community swelled they started building spectacular havelies (mansions) turning the nondescript town into into a city of havelies or mansions.

But Murshidabad soon lost out with the race with Calcutta, the capital of British India, and the Sheherwali, community left their abode for Calcutta (now Kolkata) in search far an another change of fortune. Azimganj and Jiaganz soon turned into forgotten cities with crumbling mansions.

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Bari Kothi, Azimganj at night

Recently the Dudhorias have turned one of their century old crumbling mansion, Bari Kothi, into a boutique heritage hotel. It provides a royal stay with exploration of the heritage sites of Murshidabad. Also it provides the opportunity of digging into Sheherwali Cuisine. However the food served in Bari Kothi is veg but not strictly Sheherwali.

Breakfast by the River

Breakfast in Bari Kothi is a elaborate multi cuisine affair with a Sheherwali touch.  It is served by the Bhagirati River. The several course breakfast consisting of north & south Indian and continental dishes and is served one after another. The plates of the  previous course are cleared before the next course is served in new plates.

The breakfast starts with a drink of Dhanagra, It is a mix of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, bay leaf etc boiled in water. According to Jain traditions Jains fast from sun set to sun rise and dhanagra serves as a fast breaking drink in the morning.

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Breakfast by the river, Bari Kothi, Azimganj

Next was a assortment of fruits peeled and cut to bight size along with soaked and peeled almonds. Also in the plate was a yellow crystalline yellow substance called Mirich. Mirich is crystalline sugar with a dash of black pepper and has a distinctive sweet and hot taste.

Four more courses followed consisting of north Indian dishes like kachuri and south Indian dishes like idly and vada. The dessert had a Sheherwali touch and consisted of atta ki halawa and a bullet like sweet appropriately named Goli. Goli is a sweet made out of grounded dried date paste and is floured with chopped pistachio and rose water.

Lunch on the Boat

After the heavy breakfasy it was time to explore Murshidabad. Since Bari Kothi is located in Azimganj, on the other side of the river Bhagirati we had to take the boat. We returned by the same boat and lunch was served on the boat.

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Lunch on boat, Bari Kothi, Azimganj

One unique think about Bari Kothi is the amazing way in which the food is served. Tables were laid out on simple country boat and were topped with garden umbrellas. Serving a multi course meal on a moving country boat is no easy task but the well trained staff of Bari Kothi, who are all from the locality, handled it with perfect harmony. It is worth mentioning that the entire staff force at Bari Kothi is locally sourced.

The lunch, was not Sheherwali and consisted of rice, gram flour bread, fried raw banana, cucumber fried with gram flour, papad, mixed dal, mixed vegetable and kadi. The desser consisted of local sweets.

Dinner at Durbar Hall

Lunch was the grandest of all and was served at the grand Durbar Hall of Bari Kothi and was a strict Sheherwali Cuisine. Unlike traditional sheherwali cuisine, which is served on a large brass plate accompanied by a large number of brass bowls, the courses of the Sheherwali Dinner at Bari Kothi was served one after another.

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Sheherwali Dinner, Bari Kothi, Azimganj

Top left: Dahi ka Pani (Lentil Soup). Mathri (deep fried pan cake). Kutti Mirchi ka Achar (mild chili pickle)

Top right: Kache Kela ka Tikki (pan fried raw banana pancake) with Dhania Chutney (coriander pickle). Bhapia (Steamed yellow split lentil duplings) with Kutti Mirchi ka Achar (chili pickle). Moogh Dal Chilla (yellow split lentil pancake) with Nimbu Achar (lemon pickle)

Centre: Missa (gram flower bread). Tikra (Wheat Bread). Dahi ka Barbatti (long yard beans in curd curry). Milao ka Sabzi (four vegetable curry). Kheera Capsicum (cucumber and capsicum curry). Aloo Chips (deep fried potato)

Bottom left: Gatte ka Pulao (gram flower balls in rice). Bore ka Akra (rosated gram flower). Maria (red gram and rice starch lentils.

Bottom Right: Chena Vada (Murshidabad’s famous cottage cheese dessert). Chum Chum (cottage cheese dessert)

Azimganj Bari Kothi quick facts:

  1. Official website
  2. Location: Near Azimganj City station (Google map location)
  3. Tariff: Stay at Bari Kothi comes in as a complete package with food and activities. Tariff depends on the food and activities opted by the guest. For more details please contact the Bari Kothi management

Special thanks:

  1. Lipika Dudhoria and Darshan Dudhoria our wonderful host at Bari Kothi
  2. Dipti and the entire staff members of Bari Kothi
  3. Bikram for guiding us through Murshidabad, Azimganj, Jiaganj and Boronagar
  4. My fellow FAM mates Amrita & Agni (Tale of 2 Backpackers), Tanayesh (Shoe String Travel), Debjani (The Vagabong) and Masood (Photo Stic Life)
  1. December 6, 2019 at 3:56 PM

    Another enjoyable read!!

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