(Last Updated on : 04-10-2019)
Ashutosh Sen set up a small and humble sweet shop at Fariapukur Street in the year 1897. He was not a professional confectioner. Making different types of sweets was his favourite hobby. One fine day, he made the 'Ratabi Sandesh' which delighted the connoisseurs of sweets in Bengal. He went on scaling new heights with newer creations like the 'Pink Pera', 'Malai Chop', 'Abar Khabo' etc., which were remarkable for their tastes and novity. He started with 'Ratabi Sandesh' and 'Pink Pera' which won the hearts of the Bengali gourmet. It was made of thickened milk churned heavily. They are still very popular in Bengal. Their tradition and dexterity still continue and the present proprietors are equally conscious and meticulous about maintaining the excellence in quality of their sweets. Today, the shop has added to its previous fame in the form of 'Peshwari Sandesh' and 'Cake Sandesh' - two sweets of unique delicacy. Moreover, the 'Ksheer Kadam' of Deoghar reached a new dimension with an enriched taste, in the hands of Sen Mahasay of Calcutta. Thus Calcutta got an additional sweet which was exquisite in taste.
Bengal is a land of festivals. Umpteen religious ceremonies abound the yearly calendar. Apart from the vast number of religious festivals, every minute aspect related to the wedding ceremony is celebrated with pomp videlicet, 'Gaye Halud' (rubbing the bride and groom with turmeric), 'Phool Sajja' (decorating the bed of the newly married couple with flowers on the nuptial night), 'Jamai Shasthi' (a day dedicated to the grooms when they are given a special treat by their in-laws) etc. On such occasions, the Bengalis have a custom of sending 'Tatvas' (Precious gifts, Sweets etc.) to each other that is the brides family to the grooms family and vice versa. 'Tatva Sandesh' is a special kind of sweetmeat made exclusively for the big day. The 'Tatva Sandesh' of Sen Mahasay is not only palatable but an exquisite specimen of art. Tasty and colourful Sandesh is available in different moulds and designs ranging from small houses, shanties, bride and groom on the decorated nuptial-bed, sehnai-player to the butterfly as the symbol of an auspicious and happy marriage. The Sandesh made in the mould of a petite and buxom doll is so impeccable that a layman would mistake it for a clay doll made in Krishnanagar. Again, another would show a large decorated tray and a cogitating Lord Shiva on it with his trident and 'Dugdugi' (tambour). Some other design would show a girl with a lamp. Her eyes are made of black pepper and her body is decorated with 'Mihidana' (a finely grained sweetmeat) and cardamom. Small 'Tub Sandesh' is also found which resembles the colour of clay.
However the most popular form of 'Tatva Sandesh' is 'Fish', as the latter is regarded as a very auspicious symbol in Bengal. These model-sweets look no less authentic than the real ones. Besides, there are several other patterns like 'Dilkhosh', 'Monoranjan', 'Pranhara', 'Dilhara' etc. which have carved out a niche for themselves in the glossary of the gourmets in Bengal.