Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Udupi Mattu Gulla or Udupi Brinjal - An Essay

The story of Udupi Brinjal or Gulla begins with a key figure, a saint named Swami Vaadiraja. In Udupi, a special variety of Brinjal is known as Mattu Gulla or Matti Gulla. This is a heirloom variety of seed with a 100+ year old legacy and age; grows only in the land of Udupi at a small village named Mattu, located near Udayavar. This story was narrated to me by my mother. Swami Vaadiraja used to offer a delicacy prasad named Hayagreeva Maddi to Lord Hayagreeva, a white horse lord. Hayagreeva Maddi is a sweet delicacy made of Bengal Gram, Jaggery, Ghee and Grated Coconut. Incidentally, this is my mothers favorite sweet as well. Vaadiraja used to offer the offering everyday to Lord Hayagreeva. This Maddi was kept on his head and the horse-shaped lord would partake some portion of it and leave some for Vaadiraja.

Some devotees who did not get to eat the Maddi plotted a plan and mixed poison in one such preparation. As usual, Vaadiraaja offered the offering to Lord Hayagreeva and no sooner he had a portion of it, he turned blue. Lord Hayagreeva did not leave any morsel for Vaadiraaja and cleaned the bowl. Incidentally, the Udupi Krishna idol turned blue. The same night around, Vaadiraaja had a dream that few seeds of a brinjal ought to be given to Udupi village farmers hailing from a place named Mattu. They would be required to harvest a crop and offer the Mattu Gulla or Brinjal to Lord Krishna. The Brinjal would serve as a remedy for extracting the poison off the lord. Promptly, the farmers sowed the seeds, harvested the crop and offered the Gulla to Lord Krishna and thereby the poison removed. This is the famous folklore associated with the origin of Mattu Gulla.

This Brinjal came to be known as the famous Mattu Gulla or Matti Gulla. This Brinjal is green in colors opposed to conventional blue Brinjals. The crown of the Brinjal has thorns on it and this Brinjal grows only in the land of Udupi. The Brinjal has a spherical, oblong apperance with a light and dark green hue as shown in the picture. The other picture is a successful attempt to harvest a Mattu Brinjal grown at a friends place in Udupi in the nascent stage. Even to this date, the villagers come from Mattu to Udupi Krishna Math before sowing the seeds. Once the crop is done and the harvest is ready, the first harvest is offered to Udupi Krishna Math, Udupi and then sold in markets and commercial areas. The Gulla once immersed in water oozes a blackish liquid and hence the water turns black.

Recently, the Udupi Brinjal was in news for lot of reasons. Apparently, the genetic modification of the crop would result in loss of the original composition and makeup of the the famous Brinjal. I was sad to note this as I have been eating the delicious, rare, green Brinjals ever since I was a kid. Hope the centre takes a firm decision to abhor and stop the practice thereby giving the Brinjals their unique identity and status for which they are well known for.

We make lot of delicacies of Brinjal like Stuffed Brinjal (Gulla Puddi Sagley), Gulla Fritters (Gulla Bajey), Gulla Sambhar (Gulla Kolmbo). My granny awaits the Gulla season to arrive so that the enture family can sample a piece of this tradition which has a rich legacy and saga associated with it. She has one old lady Farmer who supplies us with Gulla straight from farm since last 25 years; every year when the harvest season completes, she first comes to our place because she knows half of her supply would dwindle in a minute. I hope and pray that the genetic modification battle ends on its own without hampering the originality and the genetic makeup of this great vegetable which we all adore in my family.

Update - [Further to this post getting published, a good samaritan send me a link on the whole debate of genetic modification of Matti Gulla. The need for Mattu Gulla to attain a GI Status, Geographical Indication is the crux of the debate. The sad part is the Brinjal would lose its essence should the GI status be opted for, owing to further propagation of the modified form of Brinjal which leads me to believe that the original taste and flavour of the Brinjal would be compromised for. I know that having eaten vegetables for ages this need not be a big issue but considering the various marvels of technology and the bane it brings along, this is just the beginning. The day is not far when most of the vegetables which we consume are genetically modified and revolutionised to a great degree beyond recognition. The taste would be a far cry from what you consumed as a child. My empathy goes to the hard working Farmers who would lose out a great share of the productivity pie if the move gets replicated to other vegetables leave alone the good old Brinjal. The article and subject matter details can be found on this article]


  1. Hey Ashwini,
    Do you know where the green eggplants that are found in the US-based Indian grocery stores (subzi mandi) come from? What variety of green eggplants are they? Have you used them to prepare 'Sagley' or 'Bajey'?

    regards, shenoy.

  2. @ GG -
    Thanks. In the Indian grocery here, we get the small green egglants; I make Talasane out of it. I have not tried making 'Sagley' or 'Bajey'. Since they are tiny you can't use them for Bajey.

  3. Hi Ashwini,
    My mother is from Udipi and father is from Kundapura. Reading your blog brought back so many memories of Udipi-Kundapur for me. Udipi eggpalant is my most favorite vegetable. I think that its the only variety of brinjal I used to eat as a kid without making any fuss. My mouth just started watering now thinking of its taste. I am going to search for Udipi eggplant in Bombay (some Kerala shops do have them during season) on my next visit to India.

    Also your blog is lovely. Will be trying out many recipes soon.

    Best Wishes,

  4. @ Rehana - Thanks for the encouraging words! Udupi holds a special place in my heart. Udupi Gulla is a special kind of Brinjal and I also believe its available on a seasonal basis. The taste is one of its kind and quite unique. It feels great to hear from my blog readers. :)


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