Sohan Halwa: a shared heritage of Subcontinent | Fruitofy
Sohan Halwa: a shared heritage of Subcontinent

We all remember a scene from the Bollywood movie, K3G where Kajal alludes towards her father’s ‘’halwai ki dukaan’’ in Chandni chowk. But we didn’t bother to explore whether this reference was fictional or actually existed? Chandni chowk was host to a 225 years old confectionary known as Ghantewala sweet shop. It was established at a time when George Washington was president of the United States, France was going through revolution, Mozart was playing in Vienna, King George III was ruling Britain while Shah Alam II was emperor of India. And you know what was their best selling sweet which held symbolic value for the shop? Yes, you guessed right, it was Sohan Halwa.

It was at the time of such momentous happenings when a confectioner Lala Sukh lal jain hailing from Rajasthan started this sweet shop. The reason why it was called Ghantewala shop is the guy would put sweets in a brass plate, place it over his head and go on selling from place to place while ringing a bell. Therefore he became known as ‘Ghantewala’ i.e. Bell man. As soon as his sales and popularity grew, he started a shop at Chandni chowk in proximity to Red fort, the seat of Mughal empire.

It’s most popular sweet was Sohan halwa, that remained a legacy being a favorite dessert of Mughal emperors and then presidents and prime ministers of India. This shop served generations of prominent families serving sohan halwa to Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi and then supplied it at their daughter Priyanka’s wedding too.

Those who lived in the same vicinity as of shop’s shared their experience of witnessing long queues outside the shop especially during festive occasions. It caused a news in international media when the shop had to close causing concerns amongst the lovers of traditional sweets. The reason given by the shop owner was the growing inclination of the younger generation towards western desserts or snacks.

 This trend of craving foreign delicacies is facing an upward move in Pakistani society as well. However unlike India or any neighboring country, the love for traditional sweets sees no decline. No festival or family gathering can be considered complete without local sweets. No one would like to distribute cup cakes or chocolates on wedding but a Sohan halwa shall always be in demand.

Food or desserts hold symbolic value for any culture. We must not let go of our traditional sweets that carry the legacy of centuries imbued with tradition. For instance a pastry can’t ever replace a hard noka filled with nuts. Hard noka is a type of sohan halwa, a hard, crisp, sweet made up of wheat flour, clarified butter (desi ghee), almonds, pistachios and sugar. When it’s winter, cravings for both sweets and nuts are high. And these sweet snacks satisfy the both.

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