Traditional drink 'Handia' sells like hotcakes in Orissa

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Salia Sahi (Bhubaneswar), June 20 : In the tribal areas of Orissa, the traditional drink 'Handia' is very much in demand in summer.

The drink made by fermenting rice through a special procedure, is intoxicating, keeps the stomachs cool and is a source of high energy. In the process, the tribals also make good money out of the sales.

Some call the country liqour the poor man's whisky. It is popularly known as 'Chipa Handia' or 'Badaej Handia' among the tribals.

The drink is immensely popular among the tribals in the region as it is commonly used during marriages, birth anniversaries and festivals.

It is also considered as a sacred drink and is offered to deities and used in other rituals.

The word originates from 'Handi' a big earthen pot in which the rice is fermented.

The procedure involves soaking and boiling rice in water. After that a herbal root, locally known as 'Bakhar', is powdered and mixed with the rice. The mixture is kept untouched for two days for fermentation. The liquid then is allowed to trickle down a bamboo sieve and collected in earthen pots.

"Handia is not a harmful drink. It is rather beneficial. It's consumption also has cultural relevance as it is being consumed for ages. Some people think that people can fall sick with it and it can also lead to death but that is not true. The energy we get from the drink is much more than what we obtain from our usual diet," said Raghunath Soren, a villager.

It is essentially a summer drink as it protects people from extreme heat conditions.

"The drink keeps our stomach cool and is also intoxicating. Though we can make it at home, we enjoy having it outside. We drink around two to three glasses costing Rs four to five," said Arun Patra, a villager.

The drink has also become a source of livelihood for unemployed people in the region.

"We make good money during summers and earning comes to around Rs 200-250. During winters, we earn approximately Rs 70-80," said Lali Baske, a seller.

The tribals have inherited from their forefathers the procedure of making the traditional drink and the craft passes on from generation to generation.

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