You might remember famous Bollywood song, “khaike Paan Banaras wallah” from the movie Don starring Amitabh Bachhan as Don and singing the song . Such is the fame of Banarasi Paan that it has attracted cinema too.
Banarasi Paan is almost same as other Paan of any other part of India. But the process of making, way of service and creativity to shape Paan in different sizes and shapes is remarkable and makes Banarasi Paan distinct from other Paans.
Banaras has unknown tradition of Paan being served and prepared in each and every corner of street. There is no gali in Varanasi where you couldn’t find Paan. These Paan serving and offerings have great traditions from ancient times. Paan is a Hindi word for Betel leaves laced with areca nut and Pickling Lime.
People eat this Paan because of its remarkable taste and fragrance.
Ingredients of Banarasi Paan :
Banarasi Paan is same as other Paans. Betel leaves are stuffed with Catechu, Pickling Lime, Areca Nut, Plain Tobacco and other things. What makes difference is the process of making and using these ingredients into Betel Leaves. A Banarasi Paan walla does hard labour before bringing final Paan to your mouth. These ingredients are refined after soaking and filtering ingredients for many days and passing them through other processes.
How is Banarasi Paan made :
In process of making betel leaves are first cleaned. Betel nuts are cut and its astringency is removed after soaking into the water. Then Catechu or Kattha is dipped into the water and after some days it is dipped into milk. Then Catechu is boiled and spread in utensils to decant. After that Catechu is tied into the clothes and kept under heavy rocks. Thereafter, it Catechu is put into ashes. All this process is done with aim of removing astringency of Catechu.
After all this process Catechu is turned bright in colour. Then it is churned into a paste. This churned and hand-made Catechu is the specialty of Banarasi Paan. Fresh lime is never used it preparation of Paan in Banaras this is the exceptional thing from other Paan of world. After soaking limestone into the water for days and filtering it with clothes curd and milk is mixed with Paan. This gives Paickling Lime. In this process all the heat of lime is removed. Next come use of tobacco or Surti in local dialect. In Banarasi Paan Yellow or plain Tobacco is used instead of black tobacco. Almost plain surti is used as yellow surti is harmful and acidic.Plain surti is thoroughly washed and mixed with barash, small cardamom and peppermint. Rose water is added to it.In other cities like Delhi, Lucknow etc. ingredients of Paan are put into betel leaves hours before and become stale until you put it into your mouth. But in Banarasi Paan,Paan walla or Paneris put ingredients into betel leaves while serving.
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Style of Service :
In Banarasi style Paan walla follows Nawabi Traditions of service or royal way of service i.e. putting left palm under elbow of right hand. This makes their service distinctive from other cities.
History of Paan in Banaras :
There is unknown history of Paan in India. It is believed that rulers and common folk used Paan as a mouth freshener. Paan was much in vogue in ancient and medieval history of India. There lived a person called Paneri in Northern India who used to serve Paan to every home of the village. Paan was being prepared with special materials on special occasions. There was no home which didn’t welcome guests without Paan. Such was the tradition that people related Paan with prestige.
What is health benefit of Paan :
Paan or betel leaves without tobacco and areca nut are very good for digestion. It is used to remove bad odour of mouth after having meals. Generally this Paan without additional materials is called MeethaPaan.
Paan as an offering to Gods :
Paan is also offered to God in Indian culture. It is kept on earthen pitchers in marriages and other special ceremonies. Paan is considered as a symbol of longevity as it lasts long and remains green for long time. It is believed that offering Paan to Gods gives longevity to the husband of lady who offers it.
Cost of Paan in Varanasi :
It varies from INR 5 to INR 5000, depend upon the ingredients and making of paan.