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In Belgauam, Kunda has now become a symbol of all the good times. Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari

Belgaum is a cool and laid back second capital of Karnataka, but it is warm and feverish when it comes to food.

A city bordering the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, Belgaum, also known as Belagavi, is home to a wide range of ethnicities and is currently in the news for competing attempts of domination by the two major ethnic groups of the town - the Marathas and Kannadigas.

However, despite the claims and counter claims, the city has a long tradition of harmony between diverse heritage, cultures and flavours.

As a result of its composite culture, the city has become home to a syncretic cuisine.

A hub of sweets, Belgaum is also known as Kunda Nagari, taking its name from a sweet dish that has become synonymous with the city.

So, how did the city come to be known as Kunda Nagari?

Cultural hotspot

For centuries Belgaum has remained a cultural hotspot and was hotly contested by various dynasties due to its temperate weather and strategic location on the foothills of the Western Ghats.

Being in favour of the royal elite means drawing people, skills and flavours from different parts of the world.

The city’s chequered history and shifting influences are visible in its diverse architecture, culture and more importantly its colourful cuisine.

From Biryani and vegetarian Khanavali platters to kebabs and Kunda, Belgaum is a food lover’s delight. But, among all its varied offerings, Kunda is what the city is really known for.

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More than a century later, Gajanan Mithaiwala continues to milk the legacy of Kunda from the same where it was first made. Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari

For Belgavkars, Kunda has become a symbol of all the good times. It’s a must have item even if one doesn’t have a sweet tooth.

Available at every corner of the city, Belgavkars look for excuses to have the mouthwatering delight and the ubiquitous presence of confectionaries at every block of the city makes it all the more difficult to resist.

Soft, sticky and succulent, Kunda is a simple sugar and milk concoction that its inventor Raghunathji Joshi came up with accidentally some 130 years back. It’s an accident that his descendants are proud of and continue to milk.

Family legacy

The legacy now runs into fourth generation, with the great grandsons of Raghunathji continuing to spread the sweetness from the same spot where he first fumbled with the dessert.

“Our great grandfather Raghunathji Joshi came to Belgaum 130 years back. He hailed from Nagor in Rajasthan and settled here with his family. He set up his small confectionary stall just a few metres away from where we have our shop now. According to our family legend, one day while preparing his regular traditional Rajasthani sweet items he struck gold,” said Kamal Kishor Joshi, co-owner of Gajanan Mithaiwala and great grandson of Raghunathji.

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Kamal Kishor and Vishnu Joshi, the fourth generation descendants of Raghunathji Joshi, who first made Kunda some 130 years back. Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari

Joshi states that his great grandfather was running his sweet stall from the roadside in the Shahpur area of Belgaum, where Gajanan Mithaiwala is currently located.

“Legend has it that Raghunathji found Kunda accidentally. He was boiling sweetened milk to make his regular sweet dishes when he left the milk unattended for some time and when he returned to the stove, the milk had thickened to a degree more than his liking, the colour and texture were also unusual. However, when he tasted the preparation he liked it. With a little improvement he arrived at a formula for perfect Kunda,” Joshi said, explaining how his great ancestor came upon the historic formula.

Though, Raghunathji liked what he tasted, he was still not sure if his customers would like it, because the sweet was nothing but a thick sugary paste.

“When Raghunathji reluctantly served the sweet to his customers, it was an instant hit,” he added.

What’s in the name?

However, none of the family members are sure how the popular dessert got its name.

“We are not sure, how Kunda got its name, but soon word about Kunda spread across the city and whoever was passing by the Shahpur area had to have it. Our grandfather Jiakishenji, who became famous as Jakku Marwadi took the business to the next level and set up this shop, which our father Gajananji developed further,” said Vishnu Joshi, another partner in the family business and a master confectioner.

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The legends - the Joshi clan that made Kunda a household name. Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari

However, Kunda is not just a family legacy now, it is the proud heritage of Belgaum, but more interestingly has become the monopoly of the city’s Purohit community to which the Joshi family belongs.

The Purohit community originally belongs to Rajasthan, but has made Belgaum its home for more than a century.

“For a long time the secret of Kunda remained within our family, but over the years some of the people who worked for us learnt the formula and started their own business. Now, Kunda has caught on like a wildfire, but it doesn’t bother us. We are happy that Kunda has helped develop Belgaum’s sweet industry and we have had a major role to play in it,” said Joshi, who leads the family business.


Despite the proliferation, the Joshi family is unperturbed as their business continues to do well.

“People know us, they know our name and our quality, so they come from all over searching for us. Our Kunda is still made at home with pure milk bought from small dairy farmers, with the same passion and method that we inherited from our ancestors,” said Joshi, visibly proud of his family inheritance.

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Kunda is a milk-based dessert that has become synonymous with Belgaum, the second capital of Karnataka. Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari

For the Joshi family this is not just a business, it’s our family tradition. They believe in staying true to their legacy to keep the tradition alive.

“We are maintaining the heritage of our ancestors and we can do it only by keeping it small and simple. For us authenticity matters and not expansion,” say the Joshi brothers in chorus.

The story of Kunda and that of its authentic makers reflect the triumph of authenticity over commercial proliferation, it shows how keeping it small and simple can keep you rooted and take you far.

-- Shafaat Shahbandari is a freelance journalist based in Bengaluru and Founder-Editor of Thousand Shades of India