While I was posted at Jharkhand zonal office, I used to travel sometimes to Lohardaga, Latehar, Palamau, and Garhwa districts of Jharkhand from Ranchi and a small town named Kuru (कूड़ु), around 60 km from Ranchi, used to be my regular stop. There is a T-junction at Kuru. The road goes straight to the bauxite city of Lohardaga, while the right one heads towards Betla, Latehar, and Daltonganj. There are a few sweet shops selling famous syrupy chhana toast and dhushka.
The making of chhana is mentioned in the Manasollasa, an early 12th-century Sanskrit text. It recommends the addition of some sour substance (even sour curds from a previous operation) to boiled milk, after which the precipitate was separated. The title Manasollasa (मानसोल्लास) is a compound Sanskrit word, consisting of manas ( मनस्) or “mind” and ullasa (उल्लास) or “rejoicing, delighting”.
The chhana (cottage cheese) sweetmeat has various other monikers like lorha mithai and the bizarre-sounding atom bomb! Yes, it’s popularly called atom bomb because of its larger-than-usual size. Since the sweet also closely resembles a lorha – the traditional stone implement used for grinding things like spices and green seasoning (herbs) on a sil (the flatter stone or base) – the name’s quite apt.
While returning from the trips, I used to stop for atom bombs to eat as well as pack them for home. The sweet is so popular that whenever people from other parts of Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh come to Kuru, they go back carrying packets of atom bombs.
In the course of time, the sweet travelled to other districts and evolved into various avatars and acquired various names. But even today, Kuru prepares it in the same fashion as it was made 50-60 years ago, minus all innovations. And diehard patrons of this sweet like me swear by the halwais or sweet makers of Kuru, who has ensured it tastes the same.
Atom bombs should always be as sweet!