Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Khaike Paan Banaras Wala, Khul Jaye Band Akal Ka Taala

This famous song from the Amitabh Bachchan starrer - ‘Don’  has made the Banarasi paan a part of our national psyche. This betel leaf Banarsi wonder - Paan - is a trademark of the holy city of Varanasi.

One associates the ubiquitous paan with the brick-red stains that cover the facades of Banarsi structures—old and beautiful, modern and shiny.

But Paan is also associated with the best of Banaras—with musical sittings called baithaks - in which paan is offered graciously to listeners for aesthetic enhancement; with strolls at sunset by “Gangaji” and with family gatherings and festivals.

In Banaras the ‘paan’ is savoured as a treat at odd moments and often to mark even the smallest of special occasions. The Banarasi paan is inseparable from 'Banarasipan', which is the ethos that is associated with Banaras, a joie de vivre that the locals called mauj and masti or abandon and revelry.

For the people of the city, Banarasipan is embodied by a dip in the Ganga, a nap under a tree, an unannounced stop at a friend’s place, an open-air music session, a trip to a local saint’s tomb—or, indeed, savouring a paan.  

The Banarsi paan has many stories built into it. The elders say, in the decades before India’s independence, members of the Indian National Congress would secretly exchange messages hidden in the ubiquitous paan.

Bismillah Khan - the famous shehnai player who lived in Banaras, in the neighbourhood of Beniabagh used to relax at Chaurasiya paan bhandaar (in Chowk area). A simple, poor man, a pakka Banarasi. His biggest joys were playing his music and enjoying his paan.

The ingredients of a typical paan are :

8 beetle leaves (paan)

4 tsp small fennel seeds (saunf)

2 tsp betel nut slivers

2 tsp coloured sugar coated

1/4 tsp cardamoms powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg (jaiphal) powder

1/4 tsp cloves (laung / lavang) powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon (dalchini) powder

1 tsp grated dry coconut (kopra)

2 tsp tutti fruity 1/4 tsp menthol powder

1/4 tsp camphor powder

2 tsp gulkhand  

1/2 tsp slaked lime

Though we (at the Granny’s Inn) are still quite new to Banaras and therefore far from an expert on where to get the best paan. But would recommend paan at these two places. (a) Near Diamond hotel in Bhelupur and (b) the famous Prahlad Prasad Chaurasiya Pan Bhandaar at Chowk!

The blog post content has been excerpted from this Live Mint article

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