Rock grinding pad & pestle 'Shila-shilpua' yet essential toolkit for Odisha kitchen

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | May 08, 2024 IST

Prasanta Kumar Dash

Bhubaneswar, May 8: Indian homes have got a metamorphic evolution in redefining their kitchens with many ultra-modern housewares. Thus, Kitchen in India and abroad are now well equipped with electronics and electrical kitchenware and appliances to ease the housewives’, cooks’ and master-chef's worries to a great extent. However, the mortar-pestle, traditionally popular as ‘Shila-Shilpua’, is yet an essential toolkit in Indian kitchens from ancient times.

Besides outreached rural pockets of Odisha where Shila-shilpua, Chhaki, Khala(medicine pounder) are mostly used for crushing and grinding food grains regularly for lack of electrical connectivity, it is one of the household items for the denizens living in towns and even in smart and metro cities. It’s why a lot of Shila-shilpua shops are found on roadsides of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. In most of the prime locations in the Odisha’s capital city Bhubaneswar, one can find a number of exclusive shila silpua open-shops especially near the bigger apartments and residential colonies for its wide demand.

One can find a number of exclusive  shops near the Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves on roadside that showcase "shila-shilpuas" made in Odisha’s Ganjam, Kalahandi and Nayagarh district. Similarly, shila shilapuas crafted out of whole-granite rocks are also imported from Maharstra, Jharkhand and Rajstan, which are better polished and granular, that catch sights of the women. 

According to Ajay Kumar Sahu, a "shila" seller at the Khandagiri Chhak on the NH 55, he has been earning his bread for his 5-member family from this trade round the year.  Handed down by his grandfather, he has adopted the roadside business since a few years which fetches a good income. He earns at least  Rs15-20 thousand a month from the trade that needs a meager working capital. 

Customer Rashmita Barik, a native of Kolathia said “Let alone the readymade spices available in the market, our family not at all prefers home-grinded spices in dishes using a mixture-grinder. Rock-crushed spices are our first choice”.

Similarly, Rosy, the proprietor of Rosy's Kitchen, an online cloud kitchen and food chain house, popular in the Twin-City said," it’s magic of shila-grinded spices that made our venture an ample success, for its better aroma and homely flavours."

Customer Rashmita Barik, a native of Kolathia while bargaining a pair of the handy kitchen-device said, “let alone the readymade spices prevailing in Market, our family not at all prefers home-grinded spices in dishes using a mixture-grinder. Shila-shilpua crushed paste of spices and tubers are our first choice”.

Similarly, Rosy, the proprietor of Rosy Kitchen, an online cloud-food chain popular in the Twin-City said, it’s magic of shila-grinded spices that made our venture an ample success, for its better aroma and homey flavours.

May it be a grater, mixture & grinder or juicer, all these kitchenwares help the cooking women and master-chefs especially the homemaking mothers to prepare mouth watering dishes of a wide range seamlessly and promptly. 

A pair of shila-shilpua used in Odisha homes in grinding rice, pulses with essential spicy ingredients to make Indian nd Odishi cakes (pitha). Mostly, it's used in making turmeric powder, paste and pulp with mixing other tubers and spices at home for making light breakfast items in Odia homes.

Despite the wide use of electronics mixture-grinder, Ayurvedic pharmas prefer shila- shilapua and rock made mortar-pestle to prepare powder, paste, pulps and tinctures from medicinal herbs, shrubs, useful minerals, rocks and salt while prepare ayurvedic medicines. It's to retain the medicinal values of the ingredients and for preserving its better healing power.

Besides, the Shila-shilpua is now one of the essential tools in multi-cuisine hotels and restaurants, to use country-yield spices in their recipes. Hoteliers and professional caterers prefer the primitive kitchenware to keep up the natural aroma and flavour of the basic compunds, essentially garnished in veg, non-veg recipes and even in the localised cakes and sweets.

Apart from it, Shila Shilapua though it is named differently at different regions and ethnic groups, is also widely used in other states. It's reportedly used for baking the ceremonial cakes on birthdays following the grinding of grams and rice with the traditional tools. It's also prevailed in some other southern states. 

Asked on the advantage of shila, Kabiraj Bholanath Sarangi, an Ayurvedic practitioner said, grinding food grains, herbs & shrubs, healthy minerals using electrical mixture- grinders loses its original quality. It’s why its medicinal values are reduced to a great extent. Similarly, foods get tasteless and their nutrients are lost with machinated warm grinding. 


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