Hajari Gur, a particular variant of molasses native to Jhitka in Harirampur upazila, is not your garden variety of molasses. A cultural asset in Manikganj, these molasses are nationally renowned for its superior taste and quality.
With its uniqueness and tradition, which can be traced back to 200 years, Hajari molasses are internationally renowned as well.
Although the production of Hajari Gur was vast once upon a time, volumes are waning by the day due to a multitude of factors, include a decrease in the number of date palm trees, fuel shortage, to mention a few.
However, there are many purveyors of fake Hajari gur, which have compromised the unique tradition and heritage of the district after being sent to market.
However, despite myriad challenges, only a few families in the Jhitka area have managed to hold on to this glorious Hajari gur tradition.
History of Hajari Gur
According to locals, about two hundred years ago, a man by the name of Mohammad Hazari started making this special variety of molasses from date juice in the Jhitka area of Harirampur upazila of Manikganj. In fact, Hazari molasses is named after him, and the date molasses harvesters (called gachhis) of the Jhitka area have kept the 200-year-old tradition alive.
It is also said that during her visit to Dhaka, Queen Elizabeth II of England praised Hajari Gur.
Hajari molasses is priced in the local market at around Tk1,000-1,500, while other types of molasses are sold for Tk250-450 per kg.
Why is it unique?
Hajari molasses is made from the juice collected for three days after the date palm trees are cut. The tree is prepared again and dried in the sun. After three days, the juice is collected again for an additional three-day period.
Anwar Hossain, a gachhi (tree climber) said, "To make Hajari Gur, we collect date juice for three days in a row. Then, we don't collect juice from those trees for the next two days. On the third day, we again prepared the trees to collect juice."
The quality and taste of molasses made from date juice collected every three days will not be the same as other kinds of molasses, he added.
One kilogram of Hajari Gur requires 12-13 kg of juice from date palm trees. This specific variety of molasses is made at the culmination of various processes after juice is collected from the tree every morning.
Hajari molasses manufacturer Shahid Hajari said, "The number of date palms is decreasing by the day. To add to that, we also are facing a huge fuel crisis. Therefore, we're not being able to cater to the demand", he said.
Abul Kashem Hajari, another manufacturer, said due to the high demand for Hajari Gur, some unscrupulous traders have been producing sub-standard molasses and selling it for cheap, passing it off as genuine Hajari Gur.
Shafiqul Islam Hajari Shamim, proprietor of Hajari Products Manikganj, said 20 to 25 families in the Jhitka area produce 50 to 60 kg of molasses every day. Initiatives have been taken to market genuine molasses and preventing adulteration by pasting the registered trademark on their packets.
They urgently seek government support to boost molasses production and to preserve local heritage.
Manikganj Deputy Commissioner SM Ferdous said the very name of Hajari molasses is associated with the tradition of the Manikganj district, and the administration has always sought to preserve its local heritage.