Most of you must have definitely tried the famous Bengali sweet Ledikeni, a light reddish-brown fried sweet ball made of chena and flour and soaked in sugar syrup. Did you know that the sweet was first prepared by famous confectioner Bhim Chandra Nag for Lady Canning, the wife of Charles Canning - the Governor-General of India during 1856-62?
Ledikeni, a unique variation of gulab jamun, originated in the mid-19th century. There are several legends behind its name and origin. It is believed that the sweet was prepared by Bhim Chandra Nag in honour of Lady Canning, who had come to India in 1856 to live with her husband. Another legend says that it was prepared on the occasion of her birthday. Yet another legend states that ledikeni was prepared by the confectioners of Beharampur after the mutiny of 1857 to commemorate Charles and Lady Canning’s visit to India.
Whatever may be the story, it is said that Lady Canning loved the sweet so much that she would demand it at every occasion. After Lady Canning passed away in 1861, the sweet gained immense popularity. No grand celebration or festival was considered complete without the sweet, which had begun to be known as ‘Lady Canning’ by then before being eventually pronounced as ‘ledikeni’.
It is only fitting that the lady, who popularised ‘ledikeni’ in sweetshops across Kolkata, remains here. Lady Canning was buried in Barrackpore while a memorial was built in her memory in St. John’s Church in Council House Street in Kolkata.
Bhim Chandra Nag – The Iconic Sweet Shop
The unbeatable taste of Bhim Chandra Nag continues to satisfy the sugar cravings of the city folks even after almost 200 years of its inception. The shop, located in Bowbazaar, was established in 1826 by Param Chandra Nag and, later, inherited by his son Bhim Chandra Nag.
It serves a delectable combination of sweets and is famous for its different varieties of sandesh, besides the ledikeni obviously. Stalwarts like Rabindranath Tagore bought their sweets from here. Artists, filmmakers and cricketers like Sudha Chandran, Robi Ghosh and Kapil Dev have also visited this shop.
The shop also boasts of a custom-made clock gifted to Bhim Chandra Nag by Thomas Cooke over 160 years ago. Legend has it that Cooke, who was into the business of making clocks in London, had visited the shop in 1858 and was extremely impressed by the taste of the sweets. He was surprised that the place had no clock and decided to present Bhim Chandra Nag with one.
However, Nag requested him to provide a clock with numbers in the Bengali script instead of English as his staff did not understand the language. Cooke agreed to the idea and that’s how the clock found a place in this iconic shop and continues to run without any trouble.