‘Bhagwaan ke Pakwaan takes us on an exciting journey that explores
faith, cuisine and culture from across the country. With the help of
beautifully captured pictures and the bonus of traditional recipes for one
to try at home, this book is a homage to India’s rich culinary heritage and
diversity’ —Shashi Tharoor
‘If there’s a God and He lays his hands on a copy of Bhagwaan ke Pakwaan,
he would I am sure roar with laughter, working up a healthy appetite. Devang
Singh and Varud Gupta play a culinary duet to perfection, with a refreshingly
light touch and a sparkling sense of humour. Others have written about the
Chhappan Bhog and Sacred Foods offered to gods in myriad temples across
the length and breadth of this land, but most seem to groan under the burden
of gravitas. None have dared to include in their researched tomes favourite
foods of tribal deities—Flesh, Fish and Fowl. What a delight it is to encounter
blessed delicacies that are prepared in Parsi agiaries and Jewish synagogues!
The authors have led fascinating lives and are gifted with enchanting visual
imagination. With a few well-chosen words, they transport us to exotic tribal
homelands as well as the hallowed precincts of the legendary Jagannath
temple. Absolutely unputdownable. To be dipped in ritualistically at regular
‘Both ambitious and unique in scope, Bhagwaan Ke Pakwaan serves up a witty
take on the intersection of food and faith in India, and along the way the
hidden cuisines to be discovered on this spectacular journey’—Gul Panag
‘This wonderfully quirky book is a heady cocktail of culture, history
and cuisine that showcases that there’s a lot more to food than what we
‘An absolute masterpiece that takes you into the depths of tribal ceremonies and
intimate rituals. The pictures are outstanding. And as someone who is deeply
connected with the north-east, the first chapter transported me home. Eager to see
what’s next on this journey!’— Chef Saby
Welcome. It's great to meet you, book-to-face.
You might be standing at the store, lying in a hammock, or
reading this book years from now when Earth has come to a
cataclysmic yet predictable end and you're piecing together
the remaining fragments of humanity with a small band of
survivors, and thinking, ‘What? Bhagwaan ke Pakwaan? What's
this all about?’
Well, that’s what prologues are for.
Firstly, ‘Bhagwaan ke Pakwaan’ loosely translates to ‘Food
of the Gods’. Hopefully that’s a good first step towards
understanding what you have in your hands. We titled it so
because it’s just catchier in Hindi.
Secondly, if you're expecting a traditional cookbook then
you can stop right here (or, if experiencing the third scenario,
get your priorities in order). Because this book, like most
of human existence, is a hotchpotch journey that can't be
defined by a single genre.
Oh sorry! We skipped a step.
Let us introduce ourselves first. I-as in one half of the ‘us’,
whose names are on the front cover—am Varud Gupta, the
writer. The other is Devang Singh, who clicked buttons
resulting in the majestic pictures that follow.
Bhagwaan ke Pakwaan began with a small idea between two
foodies: how can we explore the culture and cuisine of this
country without ripping off someone else's idea? And in India,
there are no two more important facets of life than religion
But-religion in India? That's tricky.
Especially when you consider that between the two of us, one’s
a confused atheist and the other a procrastinating agnostic. So
why in Goa’s name are these two people making this book?
Because we swear to the God we don't believe in or the God
we can't know (respectively), we were simply fascinated by the
stories we came upon and decided to tell here.
Did you catch all that? Wait, don’t reply out loud. We can't
hear you and people will think you're crazy. But take a
moment to digest this. We have all the time in the world.
Traditionally, when talking about this area of food-meets-
faith, people might think of what's known as bhog, or food
specifically offered to Gods—but that’s a narrow outlook and
quite frankly unfair to both cuisine and religion. There's more
to the picture: how faith can inform the food of a community
and, surprisingly enough, how food can in turn influence faith.
The Zoroastrians have food that is prepared for the souls
of the departed. In Spiti, due to a history of scarcity, some
Buddhist monks still consume meat. When the Baghdaai
Jews came to India, local ingredients added quirks to their
kosher diet. The Temples of Odisha beat to the rhythm of
chhappan bhog: fifty-six dishes prepared daily for the Lord of
the Universe, Jagannath. And in the Karbi tribe, rice, especially
rice beer, is the lifeblood of the community.
You are now running out of time. You've been awkwardly
holding this book for too long. You're thinking, ‘Should I buy
you? Are you worth my time?’
We know your time is precious, but we also know you're
different from everyone else. You're edgy. Original. You want
something before the masses have leeched it. Everyone has
already watched Sacred Games; what do you want to do? Be a
follower, or a trendsetter?
Maybe you'll learn something from this book. Perhaps try a
recipe or two. Maybe you'll appreciate a culture more the
next time you travel. Maybe on Tinder, your match will have a
quote from this book in their bio and then—BAM!—love at first
swipe. Or perhaps, if, like us, you are equally confused when it
comes to faith, this could be that step forward.
Worst case, buy this book and carry it around with you. Throw
on a pair of glasses. You'll immediately seem like a more
interesting person. And that’s all worth it in itself, right?
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