Remembering the Old Flavours of Bhopal - Paan Culture, Zari Zardozi, Sulemani Chai
Bhopal boasts of great historical experiences which have definitely left their impression on the art and culture of the city of lakes. Be it the ‘paan’ culture which is continuing from the old times or the legacy of ‘zari zardozi’ which was loved by every female of the city including the Begums of Bhopal, there are endless things and experiences that are remembered even today for a good reason.
Recalling the paan culture of Bhopal
Paan has a long association with the history and culture of Bhopal and is far older than what people think. We cannot forget the glimpse of aged people, gathered outside the house, chewing paan and having endless discussions on current affairs & bracing their old funny stories. After a satisfying meal, almost every house member used to finish it with flavoursome paan. Earlier, beetle leaves, supari, and cloves were kept in the customised pandan (paan case). Carved sarotas (betel nut cutter) were used to cut supari (betel nut). Thus, paan was more than just an edible item, as it was enjoyed for the whole experience. From the time of 11th ruler Shahjahan Begum who herself was a paan-lover until today, the love for paan in the people of Bhopal doesn’t seem to get any less. Banarsi Paan Bhandar in New Market and Milan Paan Corner at Itwara road are some of the popular options to go and try Bhopali paan.
Zari-Zardozi - an iconic art which was very close to the heart of Begums of Bhopal
Walk the narrow alleys of the old city market and you'll see beautiful zari-zardozi batuas adorning the shops. Made with gold coils and beads tucked onto opulent fabric, garments made of zardozi used to be the fashion statement in old times. It is said that Begums of Bhopal worn the royal outfits that had the rich zari-zardozi work done in pure silver and gold threads. They also empowered the women around by teaching them the craft. If you want to relive this delicate art in making then head to “Zari Centre” at Peer Gate, Moti Masjid road to meet the artisans and witness the live process of this gorgeous form of embroidery.
Brewed for hours with a pinch of salt, the aroma of sulemani chai will take you back in time. Served in a cup and saucer with garnishing of ‘malai’ on top, the unique taste is to die for. Some of the shops have been around for decades and are still today serving the same flavours which were relished by then generation who enjoyed the endless discussions over a cup of tea. Even today, the shops at Itwara Road get all swamped during the evening when tea lovers come here to relish the salty Sulemani Chai.
It’s not just about two or three things but every nook and corner of Bhopal has something to tell about the old good times which will unfold as you explore the old food joints, paan corner, tea stall, handicraft shops yourself and hear the stories from the shopkeepers.