GI tagged Bikaneri Bhujiya

In today's post, we will know about a very popular snack Bikaneri Bhujia, which has become the identity of the city of Bikaner in the western state of India, Rajasthan. Bhujia has become not just a characteristic product of Bikaner, but also a generic name.

In October 2008, Bikaneri Bhujia was granted Geographical Indication protection. A geographical Identification tag provides legal protection for any product. It promotes the economic prosperity of the producers of the goods produced in the respective geographical area. The GI tag is good for local businesses. GI tag has helped local bhujia producers to fight the big companies like Pepsi who had ventured into this namkeen business, thus protecting the livelihood of local workers and industry. 

On hearing the name of Bikaneri Bhujia, our mouth starts watering. And if you eat fewer spices then your eyes will also start watering.😂

This is an important part of the local market of Bikaner City. In Bikaner, the bhujia marts start work at 4 a.m. to collectively produce over 250 tons of bhujia before closing. This must have given you an idea about the volume of this business. 

Indian poet Ashok Vajpayee described Bikaner as "a city where half the population is busy making bhujia and the other half is eating it." Any person from Rajasthan would agree to this. 

Mainly urad dal and gram flour are used to make it. It is flavoured with a unique blend of spices and tangy sweetness. It is fried to make it crispy.   Shaped like thin noodles, this golden and crispy fried snack is served everywhere from small roadside tea stalls to high-end cocktail bars. It is used as a topping at breakfast and curries at lunch and dinner too.


The history of Bikaneri Bhujia is also interesting.

It was sometime in the year 1877, during the reign of Maharaja Shri Dungar Singh when the first batch of bhujia was produced in the princely state of Bikaner.

The story goes that in 1877, Bikaner state monarch Maharaja Shri Dungar Singh asked royal chefs to come up with a novel savoury item to treat guests at his palace. The royal chefs came up with bhujia. Little did Singh know that what emerged from his kitchen would become an Indian national treasure.

News of bhujia spread fast and soon it was being made in homes around the state. I would like to share the story of a local halwai (sweet mart), that became a big brand late on.  In 1937, an enterprising local sweet mart, Ganga Bishan Agarwal, began selling the snack from his humble shop in a Bikaner backstreet. A decade later, Agarwal left town to create his own sweet empire, which proved so successful that several curious businessmen from the field were prompted to trace his origins and discover the magic of bhujia. Ganga Bishan Aggarwal had named his brand as "Haldiram". 

Today most bhujia-producing businesses have their roots back in Bikaner. But that doesn't mean you can set up a wok and churn out bhujia anywhere and call it "Bikaneri."

For many fans, only bhujia made in Bikaner counts as the "real thing." I have tried it and there is no comparison between freshly made bhujia and the packed bhujia which we all eat. But since this is the next best available to all of us who are not living in Bikaner, let us not complain. 

In 2010, the Bikaneri bhujia was issued a coveted Geographical Indication tag by the Indian government. Now only those manufacturing inside the geographic territory of Bikaner are allowed to use the adjective "Bikaneri" to label their bhujia. It is like Champagne. Do you know that the wine produced in France in only one specified region of France can call its sparkling wine Champagne?

Bikaneri bhujia was prepared with ingredients like urad dal, oil, salt, and coriander powder etc. Initially, it was available only in the local market of Bikaner.  The story goes like this. The local merchants were preparing to travel from Bikaner to Delhi in connection with the business as was the case earlier. The merchants packed bhujia with their food as it was tasty and had a long shelf life. Traders remained traders, they started selling it on the way during the journey. The response they receive was good. Gradually its demand grew and it became a staple savoury dish. 

This is widely popular all over India. Often people eat it with tea. 

Apart from Bikaneri Bhujia, many other savoury snacks are made in Bikaner, such as Bikaneri Sev, Bikaneri Millet Flour Matri, Kachori, Papdi, Chilli Vada etc. All these can add a whole new dimension of enjoyment and taste to your life. But in this post, we will keep our focus on GI-tagged Bikaneri bhujia.

The commercial importance of Bikaneri Bhujia is also very high. Bikaner has several industrial units engaged in the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of Bhujia. The Bikaneri Bhujia manufactured by the artisans and entrepreneurs here is exported for consumption in various states and abroad, thereby creating employment opportunities in this sector. The Bikaneri Bhujia industry is also an important source of income for the artisans. The teams in the industries that make it often rely on family members and local workers.

The speciality of Bikaneri Bhujia is that it can be preserved for a long time.

Bikaneri Bhujia is a delicious and versatile snack that can be enjoyed alone or with other food items. It is a great snack to have with tea or coffee, and can also be used as a topping for salads or soups. Bikaneri Bhujia is a great way to add a touch of Indian flavour to your next meal.

This is all for this post. 

Let your life be as spicy as Bikaneri Bhujia!

Neerja Bhatnagar

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