Besides the eponymous karadantu, Belagavi is known for mandige or mande which is essentially a wafer-thin roomali like roti folded like a dosa filled with sugar, ghee and spices. According to historians, an inscription of 1121 CE of the Western Chalukya dynasty has mentioned that during the reign of Vikramaditya VI, Govinda-dandadhipa started the tradition of offering this sweet dish (known as mandaka in Sanskrit) as naivedya to Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Maheshwara at Pauthage in Salotgi village in Indi taluka in Bijapur district.
This ancient dish according to the locals, was again offered by a pious Brahmin when he had darshan of the Supreme Being when in tapas (penance and austerities). The Brahmin had nothing besides a little flour, sugar and ghee to offer the Lord. He mixed all three together and made a thin flat circular cake-like dish and baked the feather-light roti on his back using the fiery radiance of his tapas!
Mandige has been commercially sold in Belagavi since 1965. Though each vendor has his own unique recipe, the basic ingredients are good-quality wheat flour, sugar powder, freshly prepared ghee, cardamom, poppy seeds, sesame and sometimes semolina. Wheat flour and semolina are first mixed together and kneaded into a dough.
The dough is covered with a thin cloth and allowed to rest. It is kneaded gently again a couple of times and kept in a dry place. After a few hours, powdered sugar, ghee and spices are filled in it and rolled very thin. They are tossed in the air like the roomali roti and carefully transferred to be cooked over spherical pots (upturned karahis) and deftly folded like a dosa and stacked up in neat bundles and stored in baskets.
It is best to prepare mandige either in the early hours of the morning or evening as this dish requires tremendous skill and the dough once prepared cannot be reworked.
This wheat-based preparation is a must-have in all auspicious occasions in Maharashtra and Karnataka and is an obligatory offering to the Gods during festivals. Mandige is best enjoyed with warm milk or a spoon of hot ghee.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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