bhakka, a food popular in Jhapa

Bhakka, a traditional food that is popular in Eastern Nepal, has its own day for celebration. Every year the 29th of Poush ‘Bhakka Diwas’ or ‘Bhakka Day’ is celebrated in Nepal. Sounds strange right? But this food is no less than special too. Originally prepared in a few settlements like Sunsari, Morang, and Jhapa of the Rajbanshi community, it is now getting known all over Nepal.

What is Bhakka? 

With the dawn of the winter, rice harvesting season is around the corner. The eastern terai having a large density of Rajbansi people who are traditionally engaged in agriculture are also busy during this period. It is their tradition to prepare a number of foods with the newly harvested rice, ‘Bhakka being one’. Natively called ‘Bhak kha’ it actually tallies with the steaming feature of how it is prepared. It is a fluffy neutral dish that is accompanied by chutneys and pickles. Before this, ‘Bhakka’ was eaten with only oil and salt but nowadays is popularly savored with hot tea during the chilly mornings. 

How is it Prepared?

  1. The soaked rice is prepared into flour by grinding and massaged by sprinkling drops of water into the flour with bare hands until it becomes a sand-like texture. 
  2. Then the flour is sieved in a sieve so that flour can be separated from the bigger flour grits. 
  3. Then the flour is filled into a bowl, covering it with muslin cloth and put upside down in a clay lid with a small hole under boiling hot water.
  4. After steaming for around 30 seconds the Bhakka is ready to be devoured. 

When is Bhakka Day celebrated?

Poush 29 has been celebrated as Bhakka Day since 2074 Bs along with the establishment of A Kochila organization. It is an initiation for preserving their traditions. As per the celebration day, it falls near Magh 1 when ‘Siruwa Pabni’, the greatest festival of the Rajbansi community is celebrated. All the relatives gather for this day, especially the married daughter returning back to their maternal home. The reunited daughters join hands together with their family in preparation of different dishes, especially ‘bhakka’ from freshly harvested rice that eludes slight sweetness when munched.

Who are Rajbansi People?

Rajbansi is the indigenous people found densely in the eastern foothills of Nepal like the districts Sunsari, Jhapa, and Morang. Outside Nepal, their settlements are in Northern Bengal, lower Assam, eastern Bihar, some parts of Bangladesh, and Bhutan. It is estimated Rajbansi settled in the Eastern plains of Nepal from northern parts of India. 

‘Rajbanshis’ is translated as ‘descendants of Royalty’. The royalty they associate with is of the Koch dynasty. The Koch dynasty was established from the remnants of the Kamarupa Kingdom. Throughout the centuries since its formation, the Kamarupa kingdom consisted of the Brahmaputra valley, North Bengal, Bhutan, and northern Bangladesh as well as part of Assam and Bihar. The large kingdom fell apart into fragmented territories ruled by the inhabitant ethnic kings or landlords of the region associated with the Baro-Bhuyan and Bodo-kachari People who are presumed to come from far north via Tibet. 

But it was specifically the man ‘Bisu’ later ‘Biswa Singh’, the founder of the Koch dynasty. He was a Mech descendant from his father’s side, left his father’s legacy, and joined his Koch mother’s heritage. He unified the local tribes like Mech, Koch, and Garo, and overthrew the previous kingdom. When making his claim legitimate as a ruler to the upper caste, the Brahmin priest bestowed him the Kshatriya title given the connection with the story of Parshuram’s genocide. When Parshuram started killing Kshatriyas, some (supposedly the Koch people) fled and settled in present-day Northern West Bengal and northernmost Bangladesh (ancient name Pundravardhana). 

Also know about the popular Nepali snack CHUIRA! Click here to read.