The Tale of TIRUNELVELI HALWA and Rajput Cooks
HISTORY OF TIRUNELVELI HALWA
The visiting card of Tirunelveli is its sweet delicious culinary preparation, the Tirunelveli halwa. It is a very famous dish not only liked by the inhabitants of Tirunelveli area but also across the globe. This halwa with a jelly like texture looks golden brown with ghee and roasted cashew nuts giving the halwa a greasy appearance. The very sight of the halwa is sure to cause anybody looking at it to smack their lips. It is very popular and indeed its fame is spread everywhere. The people of Tirunelveli are so much attached to the halwa that a day wouldn’t pass for them without eating the halwa for they can use it as a side dish and eat it even along with dosa and idli. The halwa is nearly three centuries old and has a very interesting story behind it. The halwa was first prepared by Rajput cooks who were hired by the zamindar of Chokkampatti (a village near Tirunelveli),” says a spokesperson for the shop. The zamindar, enraptured by the sweets he tasted at Kasi, insisted that Jegan Singh’s family prepare them in his palace. Later, Singh moved to Tirunelveli where he opened Lakshmi Vilas, naming it after a female relative who was incidentally the first to sell the halwa on the streets of Tirunelveli.
THE HALWA WAS SOLD IN STREETS BY WALK -In those days the halwa was sold in streets by walk. However the origin of the halwa dates back to 1882 when Mr.Jegan Singh who is considered as the father of Halwa took the initiation of opening a shop in Tirunelveli. It was the first halwa shop and was name as “Tirunelveli Halwa”. A beautiful comparison is made between the halwa and saliva where the saliva had fallen in love or has a deep love affair with the saliva. It is always anticipated and appreciated by anybody with the smacking of their tongues. The superior and the genuine quality of halwa are sold in the “Iruttukadai” which is supposed to be the best shop to get the original quality of Tirunelveli halwa. They are the pioneers of Tirunelveli halwa. The shop is referred or more popularly known as Iruttukadai or the dark shop for the shop still follows the tradition of selling halwa in a dark place with just a minimal facility of just a 40 watt bulb.
TIRUNELVELI BUS TERMINUS BUSY THROUGHOUT THE DAY -The Iruttukadai is a very old shop which even now has only follows the pattern of having wooden shutters though the halwa is very famous worldwide. This shop is estimated to make at least several thousand rupees worth of halwa every day. There is lot of shops in and around the main Tirunellveli bus terminus busy throughout the day. But however the people here say that nothing can take over the original or pioneer namely the Iruttukadai which is situated a mile away in place generally referred by the people as The Town. This shop is located near the famous Nellaippar temple, where when you take a left from the temple and the sixth shop on the left is the Iruttukadai or literally the dark shop. There is not even a name board to indicate the shop. The shop is referred as iruttukadai for at least the past five decades. The shop is not open throughout the day for it opens only at 6 in the evening even before which there would be a big crowd gathered outside the shop to buy the halwa.
HALWAS ARE ALREADY PACKED AND READILY AVAILBALE -The halwas are already packed and readily available in ¼, ½ and one kg packs for easy distribution but however even small amounts when required are weighed and parceled to be sold. Though it is not directly exported to other countries, friends and relatives buy the halwa and parcel it and then courier or send through people traveling to different parts of the world. On such instances the shop takes extra care in the packing of the halwa with additional cellophane paper but still charge nothing. Halwa is also sold as short- eats to people who wish to eat it hot on the spot. The family which is involved in the pioneer halwa is Mr.K Bijli Singh or the present owner of the shop who is a Rajput by birth. He says that his family is into the making of famous Tirunevelli halwa at least for the 6 to 7 decades for even his father Mr. Krishna Singh, the man who started this was born in the Chokampatti town of Tirunelveli.
RICH HERITAGE OF THE SHOP IS STILL MAINTAINED -The rich heritage of the shop is still maintained. The shop owner explains that initially the halwa was made exclusively by them itself but later they started using local cooks to prepare the halwa but still the recipe remains the same. Thus in the rest of the world the Rajputs are known for their warrior skills but in the town they have also exhibited their talent in making this extra ordinary lip- smacking treasured dish. But still questions arise if the same recipe is followed everywhere then why the taste differs in other parts of the country where they make the halwa. When this question is put across the owner he just says with a twinkle in his eyes that is because they use the most sweetest water from the Tambiraparani river.Bijli Singh is so much attached to old sentiments and traditions that he doesn’t want to change anything in his shop for he says that any changes in the shop may give the people a chance to think that the management is changed and will lead to a setback in the business.
SPECIALTY OF TIRUNELVELI HALWA -The specialty of the Tirunelveli halwa is that it is made of wheat and cooked in the water from the Tambiraparani River which is nourished with Herbals from Western Ghats especially the Agasthiyar Hills (Courtallam Falls), the origin of Siddha Medicines. The recipe of this wheat -based halwa is sure to raise your brows up and makes you to stick out your tongue. Though the original recipe or the formula is duplicated and copied throughout not only the country
Specialty of Tirunelveli Halwa
but even across the globe but still nothing can beat the taste got from the original town. Infact there are even lot of other shops in and around Tirunelveli which is based on only making this halwa which cannot mark itself up to the grade of the Tirunelveli Halwa got from the Iruttukadai. The halwa got from this shop tastes unique. It is very difficult to copy the authentic halwa. Infact halwa can also be mentioned as a part of Tirunelveli legend.