𝗞𝗛𝗜𝗖𝗛𝗗𝗜— 𝗧ʜᴇ 𝗨ʙɪQᴜɪᴛᴏᴜ𝘀 𝗗ᴇʟɪᴄᴀᴄʏ
Khichdi is perhaps the most wholesome dish in every Indian kitchen. This fragrant potpourri of rice, lentils and spices is not confined to being a simple peasant dish but often tends to reflect the history and culture of the subcontinent.
𝐀 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐟 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐂𝐮𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐞
Before going into the history of Indian Cuisine one needs to understand that the differences in regional tastes are so pronounced in the country that the food from one state is often unrecognizable to a person from another. Food-habits are different for various religious communities as well. But the population from Kashmir to Kanyakumari believes that the local qualities of the soil are absorbed in the grain crop and consuming it imparts these values to the people. Thus the staple food of each locality still ties people to their land.
Although Ayurvedic medicine provided a culinary foundation of Indian food, over the time the subcontinent has accommodated a great variety of immigrants — including the Mughals and the British in the 16th and 18th centuries respectively— who brought with them their own styles of cookery.
𝐊𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐝𝐢 𝐢𝐧 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐜 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐀𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐚
The term khichdi is derived from Sanskrit 𝑘ℎ𝑖𝑐𝑐𝑎̄ meaning a dish of rice and legumes.
The history of khichdi can be traced back to the Mahabharata where Lord Krishna is often associated with the dish. Draupadi is said to have fed a rice from the Khichdi to Krishna that made a hungry and irate Rishi Durvasha lose his appetite when he and his disciples dropped in suddenly at the Pandavas’ retreat. Another legend narrates how Krishna’s friend Sudama went to meet him from Brindavan to Dwarka with khichdi and roasted gram.
According to Colleen Taylor Sen, archaeological records suggest people on the subcontinent were eating rice and legumes as far back as 1200 B.C.
Alexander's general Seleucus, during his campaign in India (4th century BC), mentioned that rice with pulses is very popular among the natives. It could also possibly be an ancient version of Egypt's national dish, 𝑘𝑜𝑠ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑖– made with rice, lentils and macaroni.
𝐊𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐝𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐬
Khichdi has captured the imagination of various foreign visitors including the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta who mentioned it as 𝘬𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘳𝘪 when he visited the country in the 14th century. However, the Mughal invasion of India in the 16th century, apart from its unimaginable contributions to several other fields, had a lasting impact on the country's culinary culture.
Abul Fazl, the Grand vizier of Emperor Akbar, used to get 30 maunds (about 1200 kg) of khichdi cooked every day!
A frugal eater, Akbar himself relished khichdi boiled in Ganga water.
Under Akbar's successor, Jahangir huge sums were spent on the imperial kitchens. Jahangir's Persian wife, Nur Jahan, is credited with having introduced some very fine dishes like 𝘎𝘶𝘫𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪 𝘒𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘥𝘪 into the Mughal repertoire. Jahangir pronounced that this khichdi "𝘴𝘶𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭" and "𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴".
During the reign of Shahjahan, Sebastian Manrique was served a "𝘧𝘢𝘳 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘉𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘭𝘪 𝘬𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪" flavoured with almonds, raisins, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom.
Among the other Mughal emperors, Aurangzeb was quite fond of khichdi and Bahadur Shah Zafar enjoyed eating moong-ki-dal khichdi so much that the dal came to be known as 𝐵𝑎𝑑𝑠ℎ𝑎ℎ 𝑃𝑎𝑠𝑎𝑛𝑑.
𝐊𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐝𝐢 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐓𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞
The Englishmen were not particularly fond of spicy Indian chats and chutneys, but khichdi could nonetheless win their hearts. They liked it so much that they took it back home and created a popular breakfast dish— 𝘬𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘦 — made with rice, boiled egg and haddock.
Queen Victoria got a taste of khichdi when her munshi Abdul Karim offered her some. But she was fonder of "masoor-ki-dal mixed in rice", whose soup was served to her often. No wonder the dal came to be known as 𝑀𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑎 𝑀𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑜𝑟.
𝐊𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐝𝐢 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐫𝐮𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐊𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐧𝐬
When it comes to cooking something "healthy and tasty", khichdi is what every Indian household turns to! The dish is served in different forms in different parts of the country. In North India and Gujarat a bland version of Khichdi, with no vegetables or fragrant spices, exists.
The Kannada people enjoy its spicier version which they call 𝘉𝘪𝘴𝘪 𝘉𝘦𝘭𝘦 𝘉𝘢𝘵𝘩.
In the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, a rice and lentil dish called 𝘕𝘰𝘮𝘣𝘶 𝘒𝘢𝘯𝘫𝘪a is very popular.
In West Bengal, 𝘣𝘩𝘰𝘨’𝘦𝘳 𝘬𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘶𝘳𝘪 is a staple at Durga Puja pandals and is served with a mishmash of leafy greens and vegetables (called labra).
The beauty of the dish lies in its varied preparations— it can be as basic as the moong-dal khichdi or as elaborate as the Awadhi one. The one-pot rice & lentil dish remains a national favourite. It is there through poverty and wealth, in sickness and health.
1. Collingham, L (2006): 𝐶𝑢𝑟𝑟𝑦-𝐴 𝑇𝑎𝑙𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝐶𝑜𝑜𝑘𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑞𝑢𝑒𝑟𝑜𝑟𝑠, Oxford University Press.
2. 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝐻𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑢, November 2017.