Gaya: Buyers throng roadside shops on the Ramna Road in Gaya on a winter morning as sweet shops remain filled with boxes and plastic packs of a delicacy that the district boasts of this time of the year - Tilkuts. A sweet specialty that is a trademark for the Makar Sankranti festival in these parts, Gaya's Tilkut traces its origins back about 150 years in this very area, which continues to this day.
Despite regular exports to other parts of the country as well as overseas orders increasing in demand, the Tilkut struggles for recognition on the official level. Speaking to ETV Bharat, local shop owner Vidyananda Gupta assures a superior product compared to other parts of the state.
"If you buy Tilkuts from other places, they won't taste as good. The sweet-makers and confectioners in this area are trained in this, and the til (sesame) is freshly procured from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. The amount of til is much higher in our products, and it is not, too, sweet either," he says.
"But, we have not received any official recognition for it. The government had promised us assistance in setting up of an export network, but so far nothing has taken place," Gupta, president of confectioners body Tilkut Sangh, said, adding that the market is forced to stay limited within India without a GI tag.
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Earlier, Union Minister Shahnawaz Hussain had taken a keen interest, but the situation went back to square one as soon as a change of regime took place. "I urge Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to pay attention and help us export our local products to foreign markets," he stated.
Explaining Tilkut's inception and change in Gaya, Ganesh Prasad, President of Sweets Sales Sangh, noted that earlier the sweetmeat was heavier. "One-kilogram pack would contain 10 Tilkuts. It is at this point that I shifted to Ramna, Gaya from Hisua in the neighbouring Nawada district. All of us used to make it in pots, but afterward shifted to the 'kadhai' (this helped Tilkut lose some weight)" he noted.
Providing an idea about average sales figures the shops are witnessing, he observed that about 200 quintals of Tilkuts were manufactured and sold in three to four major shops in the area this season. "The two variations made of sugar and jaggery each have witnessed an increase of Rs 20 per kg, with respective prices rising from Rs 260 to Rs 280 for the former variant, and Rs 300 for the latter," Prasad said.
Buyer Muhammad Shehbaz said he had walked 20 km to arrive at a local shop of his choice to get the sweets. "I'm quite an old customer here. Especially in winter, the Tilkut tastes good," he says, smiling. Mukesh Kumar, a customer, however, opines that several districts in the state can have a shot at the claim to fame for their Tilkuts. "Gaya alone is quite famous. However, Nawada, where I come from, also produces delicious Tilkut. I have heard in several places so far that they produce such extraordinary sweets," he adds.