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    Food and Food Habits in Vijayanagara Times

    Interesting article below describing the food habits of people inhabiting the Vijayanagar empire in the 15th century and the riches in variety and quantity available. Unsurprisingly, many of the food habits in Southern India still haven't changed. The article is based on the accounts of contemporary Portugese travelers and ambassadors.

    Food and Food Habits in Vijayanagara Times

    Here an attempt is made to describe the food and food habits of the people of the Vijayanagara Empire (A.D. 1336-1565). The main sources of information for this study are accounts of contemporary foreign travelers, literary works and inscriptions.

    Abundance and cheapness of provisions: Domingos Paes and Fernao Nuniz, who visited the Vijayanagara Empire in the first half and the latter part of the 16th century respectively, describe in glowing terms the abundance and cheapness of provisions. Paes writes about the capital: " This is the best-provided city in the world and is stocked with provisions such as rice, wheat, grains, India corn and a certain amount of barley and beans, moong, pulses and horse-gram which grow in this country, and which are the food of the common people and there is a large store of these and very cheap [1]." Then, "to see limes that come each day such that those of Povos are of no account, and also loads of sweet and sour oranges, and wild brinjals, and other garden stuff, in such abundance as to stupefy one [2]". Paes was a widely travelled man. He had visited important cities of South Europe and might have come across many cities in the course of his travel from Portugal to Vijayanagara. Therefore his observation that the city of Vijayanagara was ' the best-provided city in the world' has great significance.

    Paes is supported by Nuniz, who says ".....The markets are overflowing with abundance of fruits, grapes and oranges, limes, pomegranates, jackfruit and mangoes and all very cheap [3]." Literary works also support this view [4]. The Vijayanagara Kings were very liberal in granting provisions to their guests. Abd-ur Razak, the Persian ambassador who came to Vijayanagara during the reign of Devaraya II (A.D. 1419-1446), received rich daily provisions, about which he writes: "the daily provisions forwarded to me comprised two sheep, four couples of fowls, five mans of rice, one man of butter, one man of sugar and two varahas in gold [5]". This ration was for one individual for one day!

    Staple food and dishes: Literary works of the period describe various kinds of dishes. Rice was the staple food amongst the upper classes, and the small variety of rice having a fine flavour was as popular then as it is to this day. Salyanna salyodana [6] is frequently mentioned. Other rice dishes were chitranna [7] (sesamum rice), pakvanna or paramanna [8] (sweet rice) and dadhyanna or mosaru butti [9] (curd rice).

    Anyone going through the literary works of this time will be surprised to see modern dishes, condiments and methods of eating. Pickles and salt were the first to be served at a dinner. There were various kinds of pickles prepared from tender mango, lemon, fresh ginger, green pepper, myrobalan (nelli), herile (a kind of lime), ambatekai and papatekai [10]. Ibn Battuta, who visited Vijayanagara in the reign of Harihara I (A.D. 1336-1357), describes a dinner he had with the Muslim chief of Hinawr (modern Honavar) at which a beautiful girl served pickles of "pepper, green ginger, or lemon and mangoes [11]". The pickles remained fresh and green at the stem even after many days. Happala (papadas) and sandige were the other important items of a dinner [12]. Plenty of green vegetables were used, and were usually fried in oil. The Bhujabalicharite or Panchabana (A.D. 1612) describes the preparation of Talida (cooked vegetables, or palya, of modern times) in such detail that it bears quotation.For seasoning, cumin seeds, black-gram dal, methi (Fenugreek), mustard, black sesame seeds and pepper were used along with ghee. The vegetables were (green) plantains, brinjals, tonde, pumpkin, Heere (sponge gourd), jackfruit, drumsticks and magge (a kind of cucumber).

    Raw dishes and salads such as krisara [14], paccadi [15] and kusambhari [16] were known. There were varieties of vegetable hotchpotch (Kalasogara) [17] spiced preparations (shaak, melogara) [18] and soups (kattogara, sargal) [19]. Sweetmeats and fruits formed the most important part of a dinner and were usually served in the middle. If we are to believe the description of dinners in contemporary poetry, a great variety of these were consumed. The material available relates to the dinners of kings, princes and nobles. Many of these dishes are well known even now. Payasa [20], resembling porridge of the West, was an important item. Kadubu (stuffed sweet) seems to have been very popular and had varieties like susala kadubu, hurana kadubu and alasande kadubu [21].

    Hurige was another sweet pancake and its varieties were bisurige, yannurige (prepared in oil) and gullorige (puffed) [22]. There was Sevige (vermicelli), roughly corresponding to macaroni with all its daintiness. Pheni was another much relished sweet dish prepared from wheat flour and sugar, similar to phenaka of North India and had varieties like sugar pheni, milk pheni and vermicelli pheni [23]. Sikarane (resembling the modern fruit salad) was prepared from ripe fruits, usually mango and plantains, and is frequently mentioned [24]. Dishes of black gram were prepared on certain occasions, and important among these were idlis (iddalige) [25], vade [26] and dose [27]. Fried dishes prepared from wheat flour, jaggery or sugar, coconut gratings and spices were karachikai (fried puff), mandige, malidi [28] and sakkere burude [29].

    Ladus (sweet balls) of different types were known. Ellunde [30] (known from the days of Panini, who calls them Palala) is mentioned. There was manoharadunde [31] and chinipalunde [32]. There were other sweetmeats, such as suruli holige, laddige and gharige [33].

    Poet Mangarasa, in his 'Supa Shastra', gives a number of recipes of dishes, of which gharivilangai, halagarige (fried cake prepared in milk) and savadu rotti [34] (pancake) may be specially mentioned.Juicy fruits were eaten as part of the middle course of a dinner, the most important being mangoes, grapes, pomegranates, plantains, jackfruit, figs, dates, apples (semb or sebu?), jambu (rose apple) and oranges [35]. The remarks of Paes and Nuniz have been already quoted relating to the abundance of fruit in the capital [36]. Kanakadasa, who lived in the first half of the 16th century [37], mentions the following fruits:Coconut, jackfruit, orange, mangoes, sweet citrus, guava, grapes, pomengranates, dates, varieties of banana, jamun, (Euginia jambolana), wood apple, inknut, berries, mangosteen, cyprus pertenuis (?) etc. For alliterations Kanakadasa has included many cultivated as well as wild grown fruits and berries offered to Lord Krishna. Some of these cannot be identified but fortunately Kanakadas has provided the wide range of fruit and berries which were found in North Karnataka during his times.

    Drinks: While describing the preparation himambu panaka (cold drink), Mangarasa writes that the juice of pomegranate and madala fruits should be added to water [39]. In Jaimini Bharata we find mention of fruit juice [40]. Varieties of milk and butter-milk drinks were common [41]. Mohanatarangini describes a scene in a toddy shop and gives a list of salted snacks which were eaten along with the liquor. Then follows the description of the way the people drank and babbled [42].

    contd. below
    Pagdi Sambhal Jatta..!

  2. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to swaich For This Useful Post:

    DrRajpalSingh (August 23rd, 2013), urmiladuhan (August 23rd, 2013)

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