Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Like every year on March 20, ‘Pakhala Dibasa’ is being celebrated across Odisha today. This day is celebrated across the globe to enjoy and promote the special Odia dish ‘Pakhaḷa’ which is considered good to beat the scorching summer heat.

'Pakhala' is the Odia term for an Indian dish consisting of cooked rice that is washed or lightly fermented in water. The water of the dish is known as ‘Torani’.  In order to make the traditional Odia dish more delicious, curd, cucumber, cumin seeds, fried onions and curry leaves are added along with the fermented rice.

Taking it from the poor, day labourers to the rich, the special dish is prepared by every household in Odisha. To celebrate the ‘International Pakhala Dibasa’ on March 20, some restaurants in Bhubaneswar are busy innovating new mouth-watering dishes to attract food lovers and celebrate this occasion in a grand style by offering a delectable spread of this authentic Odia food.

Meanwhile, a woman from Aruha village in Puri district has been winning the hearts of her relatives and neighbours by serving the special delicacy for the last several years.

Meet Soudamini Das, who prepares special Pakhala by turning basic ingredients into soothing and carefully-crafted meals while showcasing the rich food culture of Odisha.

Das has a special interest in serving the special food on a special day every year. The preparation begins in wee hours as she cooks rice and ferments it with ‘Torani’. Then it is mixed with curd, lemon juice, ginger, coriander leaves, green chilli, coconut and a pinch of salt. Subsequently, it is served to the specially invited neighbours and relatives with fried potato (aloo bhaja), fried brinjal (baigana bhaja), fried badi (badi churaa), saga bhaja, fish fry (maccha bhaja) pumpkin flower fry (kakharu phula bhaja) etc.

“Pakhala is a special dish in Odia culture. I love to serve this special dish to my relatives and neighbours on this special day every year. All of them relish the dish and appreciate me for my unique preparation. It gives me immense satisfaction,” said Soudamini.

“Soudamini’s preparation is special. She used to serve us the special dish with utmost love and we all enjoy it. I join the Pakhala party at her home on March 20 every year and enjoy it along with my other friends,” said Puspalata Das, a neighbour.