The term ‘Pitha’ is an integral part of Bangladesh’s culture and tradition. It’s one kind of cake but not limited to the typical cakes we often see. As soon as they see the symptoms of winter, people start making different types of Pithas. They are frequently prepared from rice flour and wheat flour. They are wildly popular in Bangladesh and some of the regions of India. But some other Asian countries also have this tradition.
History of Pitha
The word ‘Pitha came from the Sanskrit word ‘Pistok.’ Again, The word Pistok came from the word ‘Pist.’ Pist means crushed or broken. Famous scholar and lexicographer Haricharan Banerjee wrote in the “Bangiya Vocabulary” book, “Pitha is a sweet dish made of rice flour, dal, flour, coconut etc.” Rice is the prominent food grain of Bangladesh. Rice flour is the main ingredient of Pitha.
There is no written, trustworthy evidence of when Pitha became a part of Bengali food culture in the context of The Indian subcontinent civilization. It’s a bit difficult to determine it from ancient stories and books. The word ‘Pistok’ is mentioned in Sanskrit poetries. So, based on the Sanskrit literature, it is pretty evident that the tradition of eating Pithas are ancient in the Indian subcontinent.
According to the Bengali literature, the poetries of the Kritis Ramayan, Anandamangal, Dharmamangal, Mansamangal, Chaitanyacharita, etc., and Mymensingh Gitika’s Kazal Rekha Akkhan mentioned the popularity of Pitha in Bengali Food Culture in the last 500 years. Since the ancient books have said about ‘Pitha”, it is assumed that the practice of eating Pithas are very old in Bengali society.
There is no uncertainty about the fame of Pithas in the Indian subcontinental communities. But today, we will limit our discussion within the politically separated Bangladesh.
Pithas in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, almost every year in this 21st-century urban life, the Pithas are bought and eaten from the shops. But there is no practice of eating Pithas throughout the year in rural areas where winter is ideal for making Pithas. It is because of direct interaction with the agricultural culture of rural people. It takes a while to store the fresh rice in the month of Agrohayan. Rural people don’t have time for hobbies during this busy time.
After the Nabanna festival, when the winter is slowly swelling, rural people start making Pithas. Then, until spring comes, they continue eating different sorts of Pithas. They mostly eat Pithas in Magh and Falgun month. After that, the taste of Pithas doesn’t remain decent. The flour made from new rice is ideal for making Pithas because of the aroma and moisture.
There is no perfect account of precisely how many types of Pithas are prepared in Bangladesh’s vast area. We can talk about some of the famous Pithas in Bangladesh. These include Chitoi, Patisapta, Pakan, Bhapa Pitha, Andosha, Jhuri Pitha, Rosher Pitha, Nakshi Pitha etc. The main ingredient of all kinds of Pithas is the new rice flour. They also add different ingredients to make different kinds of Pithas.
If you look at the Pitha recipes made in Bangladesh, there are two types of Pithas- Fried, and Steamed. These fried and steamed Pithas are sometimes chewed in milk or boiled sugar or Date juice to make them ‘Rosher Pitha.’ Nakshi Pithas are designed and fried.
‘Puli-Pitha” is very important in the discussion of Pithas because Puli Pitha is the only Pitha that is filled with different kinds of edible ingredients. The word Puli came from the Sanskrit word ‘Polica.’ In the ancient sense, the Polica is one kind of heavy bread. Meanwhile, Haricharan Banerjee writes in the Bangiya vocabulary book, “Puli is the food filled with coconuts.
Pitha mainly indicates sweet cakes. But some people eat spicy Pithas. For example, Chitai Pitha is also eaten with mustard seeds or pepper scum, or mashed fish. Then Chita Pithas are fried with peppers.
Jatiya Pitha Utsab
Pithas are a unique heritage of Bengali food and culture. The city people are gradually moving away from this unique tradition because of modernity. The National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and Jatiya Pitha Utsab Celebration Council have been organizing this festival for 13 years. There is no exact date for the Pitha Utsab, but They organize it between January and February.
The carnival features numerous types of Pithas, namely Bou, Patisapta, Rosh Phul, Bhapa, Malai, Pakan, Chitai, Malpoya, Pata, Bhajapuri, Kola, Rosh Golap, Ilish Pitha, Jhinuk Pitha, Jamai Pagal, Hridoy Haran, and others along with some new dishes. A lot of Pitha makers from across the country join the festival. It usually takes place in Dhaka Reporters Unity or the National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts field.
According to the organizers, They are organizing this festival to save tradition, and protect our heritage. The Pithas were made in the house in the past; now, they are made out and eaten together. Artists have to introduce innovative talent to diversify new patterns of Pithas. Among the flow of great traditions, Pithas are the pride of the Bengali nation.
Cultural events are being arranged every day to create a pleasant atmosphere for the visitors of the Jatiya Pitha Utsab. Gradually, the festival has become a gathering of people from the cultural courtyard of Bangladesh.
Women’s Contribution in Pitha Making
From generation to generation, women are carrying the traditional knowledge of making the Pithas. Although men have access to various parts of the cooking industry, the field of making the Pithas has been in women’s hands for a long time. The dictionary of the housewives still matches the secret of the taste-like style of tradition.
Importance of Jatiya Pitha Utsab
The idea of Jatiya Pitha Utsab came from the need to preserve such a great heritage. As the people are becoming tech mounted, they also forget the taste of handmade Pithas. So, an initiative like this needs to be appreciated. It doesn’t matter if we can’t make Pithas throughout the year. But we should at least join this event to support their efforts for saving this unique tradition.
Pitha has always been an essential part of Our tradition. As a part of modernization, it’s apparent that we are not making enough efforts to be a part of this tradition, to save the tradition. But we should try to preserve the tradition of Pithas as much as we can. If not, then at least appreciate those who are trying. Together we can represent our unique traditions in front of the world.
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