WHO ARE BHATIAS?
The Thathai Bhatia community trace their origins to the ‘Bhatti’ clan from Jaisalmar, Rajasthan in undivided India. Sometime in the 14th century, the community moved to the province of ‘Thatta’ in Sind, West Pakistan. Over a period of time, the community came to be called Thathai Bhatias.
In the 18th century, the Thathai Bhatias embraced Vaishnavism and followed the Pushtimarg. With the adoption of this tradition, they became vegetarian and refrained from having onion & garlic in their cuisine.
The Thathai Bhatia community moved to various parts of India after the partition with Pakistan and then migrated to various cities across the globe especially in the Middle East to countries like Bahrain, U.A.E and Oman.
EVOLUTION OF THE THATHAI BHATIA CUISINE
Thatta was mostly a desert region, hot and humid. In the olden days, when the science of modern inventions had not been discovered, the cooking process was very slow using mostly charcoal or wood. The Thathai Bhatias devised different ways to make the cooking process simple and easy.
The use of fresh vegetables and lentils made using minimum spices but cooked delicately to keep the flavour of the food intact was devised.
They omitted the use of pungent flavours, that of onion and garlic, which emitted a strong odour and required a longer cooking duration. They also avoided the use because food prepared was first offered to the Gods – which the Bhatias call ‘Bhog Dharanu’. Use of onion or garlic rendered the food ‘Tamsic’ – something that is not pure, hence these were not used.
Bhog Dharanu is a ritual still followed in a lot of Bhatia households today, where the food prepared is first offered to the Gods – as a token of love and to thank him for the daily meal. The belief is that god blesses the food. The food offered is then taken away by snapping the fingers twice to tell god that it is being distributed to the family members as Prasad.
Thathai Bhatias have always been a god fearing community. They are religious to the core and observe fasts on auspicious days to please the gods.
One such day is ‘Ekadashi’ or ‘Igyas’, which falls on the 11th day of every Hindu month, i.e, twice a month on the Gregorian calender. The number 11 has a special religious significance. The mind is considered the 11th organ after the 10 sense organs.To have a healthy body, one has to have a healthy and a spiritual mind. And to enhance the mind, it needs to be at peace.
On Igyas or the 11th day, a meal consisting mostly of simple food, fruits and nuts is taken. This gives a break from the routine food habit and is a healthy alternative. It takes the mind off eating and a person is able to devote more time to prayers and devotion. Thus, the tradition of fasting on Igyas or Ekadashi was formed.
In contrast to days of fasting, there are days of feasting like Holi, Dassera, Diwali when special meals are prepared.
One such day is the day after Diwali when 56 dishes are offered to God. This is called ‘Chhappan Bhog’ or 56 offerings. This feast by Thathai Bhatias is called ‘Ankoot’ where various Sweets, Savouries, Rice, Lentils, Pappads, Loar are prepared.
As mentioned earlier, the cooking method adopted in Bhatia cooking is very simple. The vegetables are cooked with few spices and the tempering or the base spice is either of Asafoetida (Hing) or Cumin (Jeera). These serve the purpose of what onion or garlic is to other cuisines. Asafoetida and cumin are primarily used due to their medicinal properties of aiding in digestion.
Vegetables commonly cooked in Bhatia cuisine are the ones which were abundantly available in dry places like Rajasthan or Thatta. The use of vegetables like Brinjal / Eggplant (Baingan or Vanghar), Courgette (Turai) and Bitter gourd (Karelo) is extensive in the Bhatia cuisine.
The concept of garnishing is quite simple and is mostly restricted to finely chopped coriander leaves and / or a dash of lime in most of the preparations.
Bhatias are amongst the few communities who commence Lunch with a rice preparation and follow it up with Breads (Rotis, Phulkas, Poori) etc. Most of the other communities in India start their meal with Breads and follow it up with Rice.
The sophistication of Thathai Bhatia cuisine lies in its simplicity. The recipes given in this site cover almost the entire range of food eaten by Bhatias on a daily basis. We hope you find the recipes simple to understand and easy to cook.
Enjoy ‘Panja Khada!’