Devotees throng the holy city of Deogarh for two reasons namely to have darshan of Lord Bholenath at Baba Baidyanath Mandir and to sample their world-famous prasad, the delectable peda. The temple of Baba Baidyanath, a Jyotirlinga is said to have been built by the Pala Empire (Pala Dynasty of Orissa) and the tradition of offering peda to Lord Shiva has been followed for centuries.
Locals say that the peda here is not merely a sweet but a divine blessing of Lord Bholenath and therefore, all the shopkeepers assiduously follow the tenets as laid down in the Hindu scriptures while preparing this prasad and serving it to the devotees. The peda in both Deogarh and nearby Ghormara are collectively known as Babadham peda prasad.
One will find the extremely popular malai peda, kesariya peda and another type of peda made with chaashanee (sugar syrup) in almost all the shops while taking a stroll in the legendary Prachin Peda Galli. What sets this peda apart from those made in Mathura, Bihar and Dharwad is the excellent quality milk and khova.
Khova prepared either in the villages or at homes from full-cream cow and buffalo milk is used to prepare this mouth-watering sweet. The shopkeepers are very particular about maintaining their high-quality in every batch and hence, prepare only 5 to maximum 6 kg of peda at a time.
The key to making this peda lies in its preparation and the time invested in getting the right texture and feel of the khova. It is because of this age-old method that the peda turns out to be unbelievably delicious, soft as butter and simply melts in your mouth and lasts longer as well.
Unlike other pedas prepared across India, this peda has very little sugar approximately only 1/10th measure of the measure of khova. The other ingredient is elaichi and saffron in the case of kesariya peda.
This unique peda is now vying for the coveted Geographical Indication Tag (GI) and one hopes that this peda that is a full-fledged small-scale industry of Deogarh will increase the revenue of the shopkeepers and provide employment for the locals of this district.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)