Explore historic cook books and a dictionary documenting India’s culinary tradition through the ages
Late Yeshwant Nene, founder of the Asian Agri-History Foundation, had often rued how, despite being one of the oldest civilisations, nothing much is documented about India’s agricultural history. The Foundation was his initiative to contribute to the documentation and dissemination of the vast agricultural knowledge in the country. The same argument goes for ancient Indian food. There is little information about what civilisations of yore ate. Recipe books from Mughal times are available, as are books on Indian cuisine from the British Raj, but when it comes to food from the kingdoms of Vijayanagar, Chola dynasty or Rajputana, the information is woefully inadequate.
Many references and works are present in Sanskrit, regional languages, Persian and Urdu, but there are no recipe books as such from these times.
One of the greatest sources of information is a compilation by KT Achaya. His book Indian Food – A Historical Companion is a source of immense information. He has documented what various kingdoms ate. He writes in depth of the Manasollasa (Abhilashitartha Chintamani) written around 1130 AD by King Someshvara III of Kalyana in Central India. It has a chapter titled ‘Annabhoga’, where 20 pages are devoted to the making of a variety of dishes.Read more