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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.


๐€ ๐๐ซ๐ข๐ž๐Ÿ ๐จ๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ˆ๐ง๐๐ข๐š๐ง ๐‚๐ฎ๐ข๐ฌ๐ข๐ง๐ž

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 โ€” including the Mughals and the British in the 16th and 18th centuries respectivelyโ€” who brought with them their own styles of cookery.


๐Š๐ก๐ข๐œ๐ก๐๐ข ๐ข๐ง ๐๐ซ๐ž๐ก๐ข๐ฌ๐ญ๐จ๐ซ๐ข๐œ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐€๐ง๐œ๐ข๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐ˆ๐ง๐๐ข๐š

The term khichdi is derived from Sanskrit ๐‘˜โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘๐‘๐‘Žฬ„ 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 Pandavasโ€™ retreat. Another legend narrates how Krishnaโ€™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, ๐‘˜๐‘œ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘–โ€“ made with rice, lentils and macaroni.


๐Š๐ก๐ข๐œ๐ก๐๐ข ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐Œ๐ฎ๐ ๐ก๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ

Khichdi has captured the imagination of various foreign visitors including the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta who mentioned it as ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ณ๐˜ช 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 ๐˜Ž๐˜ถ๐˜ซ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ช ๐˜’๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช into the Mughal repertoire. Jahangir pronounced that this khichdi "๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ" and "๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด".

During the reign of Shahjahan, Sebastian Manrique was served a "๐˜ง๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜‰๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ช ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ช" 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 ๐ต๐‘Ž๐‘‘๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘Žโ„Ž ๐‘ƒ๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘.


๐Š๐ก๐ข๐œ๐ก๐๐ข ๐จ๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐๐ซ๐ข๐ญ๐ข๐ฌ๐ก ๐“๐š๐›๐ฅ๐ž

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 dishโ€” ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ โ€” 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 ๐‘€๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘–๐‘˜๐‘Ž ๐‘€๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ.


๐Š๐ก๐ข๐œ๐ก๐๐ข ๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ซ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ˆ๐ง๐๐ข๐š๐ง ๐Š๐ข๐ญ๐œ๐ก๐ž๐ง๐ฌ

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 ๐˜‰๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช ๐˜‰๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜‰๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฉ.

In the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, a rice and lentil dish called ๐˜•๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ ๐˜’๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ซ๐˜ชa is very popular.

In West Bengal, ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜จโ€™๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ช 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 preparationsโ€” 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.


References:

1. Collingham, L (2006): ๐ถ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ-๐ด ๐‘‡๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐ถ๐‘œ๐‘œ๐‘˜๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐ถ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ž๐‘ข๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ , Oxford University Press.

2. ๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐ป๐‘–๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘ข, November 2017.

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