KALARI – The Pride of Duggar

Rajinder Chand Anthal
Kalari is a unique dish of Duggar land. From centuries onwards the residents of hilly areas of Duggar are engaged in the profession of milk products. It is in line of this profession that KALARI is said to be originated in cold hilly areas of Duggar. Slowly the product reached towns and cities due to its unique tangy taste and nutritional value.
Nothing is on record where the Kalari was first prepared but oral history of this product passing down the generations pinpoint its origin in upper hilly areas of Chenani adjoining Pancheri. It is also on record to say that huge quantities of Kalaris were sent to Jammu by Rajas of Chenani especially during the time of Raja Kedar Chand. Such great is the magic of name KALARI that we get mouth-watering experience just on first look of Kalari.
KALARI is prepared out of raw full fat milk. The method of preparation of Kalari resembles preparation of ‘PANEER’ to some extent. While paneer is prepared from boiled milk, the kalari is prepared by adding old split milk called ‘Mather’ to lukewarm milk. It is not everybody’s job to prepare kalari. The preparation of kalari needs technique and calculation of time for various processes. The cleanliness of self, utensils and environment is the basic requirement to make good quality kalari. The milk settlement so obtained by adding ‘Mather’ is kept separate and round shaped Kalaris are made by hand. They are kept on pine leaves, Fakada leaves, and wooden baskets to dry up slowly in the sunlight. The Kalaris are kept covered with thin white cloth to keep dust away. If properly dried the quality of Kalari will improve and it can be used for long time. Nowadays the Kalaris are kept in refrigerators to retain their original goodness.
The cow milk Kalaris are light yellow in colour while buffalo milk Kalari is white in colour. Good Kalari does not need any oil or ghee while cooking because with slow heat it will give its fat content for comfortable cooking. As far as nutritional value of Kalari is concerned it is rich in Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Calcium, Phosphorus, fat, Carbohydrates, and Vitamins. These days Kalaris have become an important part of various stalls to be put up in marriages and other functions. Kalarikulcha is present day favourite dish in every tea stall and hotels. Usually the Kalari is roasted in a pan and salt is sprinkled on it before serving, but in some cases, special mix of spices is put inside the loaves of Kalari while cooking to give unforgettable taste. One such recipe of special Kalari lies with KASATA Brahmins of Sudhmahadev, which they do not disclose ordinarily. Pertinent to mention that KasataBrahmins used to present special dishes to Kings of Chenani and special Kalari was the most favourite dish of kings and their guests. Due to its unique delicious taste, Kalari can also be taken raw. It can also be cooked with Potatoes like vegetables. KalariPulao is also famous in the hilly areas where Kalari pieces are mixed and fried with rice. In Dharamthal and Samroli areas Kalari is served with special ‘TIMBRU’ chutney which is specially made for Kalari dish.
Due to its great demand and popularity, large quantities of Kalari are being prepared by Halwais in towns but the uniqueness and originality of Kalari is found only if prepared in hilly areas with pure milk, dedication, and bright sunshine.
The Kalari profession has kept alive the livestock culture in the villages. In order to make Kalari, the villagers need milk, so they keep cattle in large numbers. Kalari making, its transportation and sale is giving handsome employment to thousands of youth in rural areas. There are many success stories of local youth who took up this profession and have successfully established Kalari sale points on the National Highway and earning handsome income thereof. One such success story is of ‘Sham Kalari,’Dharamthal. Due to suitable location on the National Highway, Samroli and Dharamthal are the most preferred spots for sale of Kalari to tourists and visitors. Sham LalKerni, a local youth started Kalari business in the year 1985 at Dharamthal from his karyana shop. He visited number of villages in Ladha, Pancheri, Mada, Ramnagar, and Chenani to motivate locals for Kalari production. He got good response. Village ladies took great interest in Kalari making to generate their source of income. As demand increased, he opened his independent unit on 26th of January 2000. At present he sends quintals of Kalari daily to other stations. His Kalaris have reached Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, and Dubai. The tourists visiting Patnitop and Srinagar taste Kalarikulcha at Samroli and Dharamthal. Now we can see a number of Kalari shops on the Highway from Udhampur to Chenani including some duly registered cooperative societies. The employment so generated has gainfully added to the rural economy. The uniqueness of Kalari and its great demand in the country has made the people of Duggar proud of such a tasty and healthy dish.
(The author is Retired Zonal Education Officer, Chenani)