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Idli is not an authentic South Indian Cuisine, might have migrated from Indonesia!

The Sanskrit Manasollasa of 1130 AD has ‘iddarika’, but it is representative of being made from urad dhal flour only

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Idli. Image source: scdn.archanaskitchen.com
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  • In Tamil Maccapuranam, the ‘ itali’ made only a late appearance, in 17th century AD.
  • History credits that Arab traders often used to visit the southern coast for trade, even before the advent of Islam in the country
  • The Sanskrit Manasollasa of 1130 AD has ‘iddarika’, but it is again representative of being made from urad dhal flour only

In a shattering revelation to everyone who has believed Idli to be an authentic South Indian cuisine, the truth could be that the soft, fluffy rounds of rice might have migrated to India from Indonesia or have been brought along by Arab settlers.

According to K.T. Acharya’s (a prominent food historian) theory, idli’s are a relatively new introduction to Indian cuisine, quoted The Hindu.

He points out that the word idli might have been derived from ‘iddalige’, as mentioned in a 920 AD Kannada work, but the suggestions are that this was made from an urad dhal batter only, which was neither steamed for fluffiness, nor fermented.

The Sanskrit Manasollasa of 1130 AD has ‘iddarika’, but it is again representative of being made from urad dhal flour only.  A century later, in Karnataka, idli is described as being ‘light, like coins of high value.’

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In Tamil Maccapuranam, the ‘ itali’ made only a late appearance, in 17th century AD.

All these references point to these three facts:

  • Rice wasn’t used with urad dhal
  • There was no fermentation of the mixture initially
  • The batter wasn’t steamed for fluffiness

According to The Hindu, Acharya claims that it was only after 1250 AD that idli was made the way it is prepared today. He further points out that this absence of the present way of preparing idli could then possibly mean that idli is a migrated food item and most probably from Indonesia.

variety of idlis on display at Planet Fun in Vijayawada.Image source: www.thehindu.com
Variety of idlis on display at Planet Fun in Vijayawada.Image source: www.thehindu.com

The food is known to be an Indonesian dish because various Hindu kings from the country would often travel to India in search of a suitable bride. They often brought their cooks along, who in turn brought with them a technique that changed the nature of this breakfast delight forever.

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Indonesia also has a long tradition of fermented products, like tempeh (fermented soy cakes), kecap (the recipe we get ketchup from) or something called kedli, which Acharya explains, is like an idli.

However, other references available at the Al-Azhar University Library in Cairo suggest that Arab traders in the southern belt brought in the idli after they married and settled down in those parts.

History credits that Arab traders often used to visit the southern coast for trade, even before the advent of Islam in the country. The first mosque outside the Arab peninsula was built by Arab settlers who initially came as traders.

The Arab settlers were very particular about their diets. A majority of them migrated here when Mohammed was still alive when they were relatively new to Islam from Paganism.

They insisted on halaal food, and Indian food was quite strange to their taste. To avoid all such dilemma about what is halaal or haraam in food, they started making rice balls. Post making the rice balls, they would slightly flatten them and compliment it with bland coconut paste.

Later, it was improved upon, and from the 8th century onwards, the idli in its contemporary avatar came into being.

-prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_

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  • Akanksha Sharma

    There are so many cuisines that we think are Indian born but they are not. For example, samosa came from middle east and Indians added their spices and techniques to it. Above article is a great article . Great Information.

Next Story

Will prohibiting Burqa result in freedom from under house arrest or religious bias?

According to Islam, it is not necessary to cover the face.

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Due to Burqa women can go and vote multiple times. This increases corruption in the election. Wikimedia Commons
Due to Burqa women can go and vote multiple times. This increases corruption in the election. Wikimedia Commons

In recent years there have been several incidents involving the Burqa. In 2009, a state college in Karnataka told a student she was not allowed to attend classes wearing a Burqa. It was later reported that the young girl reached a “compromise arrangement” with the college but did not continue in the same college. Days later, violent protests sparked in Hyderabad after a college principal allegedly told students not to wear a Burqa.

But opposite episodes have also occurred. In July 2010, a teacher at Kolkata’s Aliah University, which has a focus on Islamic studies, was not allowed to teach without a Burqa. The report followed an official notice released in April 2010, in which the university dismissed suggestions it enforced a dress code, mentioning specifically the use of the Burqa within its campus.

There is steep rise in the cases related to crime against burqa clad women. Wikimedia Commons
There is a steep rise in the cases related to crime against Burqa-clad women. Wikimedia Commons

At some point imposing a ban on Burqa will be beneficial…
Point 1:
According to Islam, it is not necessary to cover the face. Hands and face can be uncovered. So banning won’t conflict freedom of practicing religion. And it will not be against any religion.
Point 2:
There are security issues. Imagine man/women under burqa leaves a bag in a public place which later blasts. Now, what do police have? CCTV cameras, forget face they cannot determine if is it male or female due to Burqa. It is the biggest security Loophole.
Point 3:
Many Muslim women do not have a bank account because they are not allowed to cover their face in bank premises. If you didn’t know then yes you cannot cover your face with bank premises and ATM.
Point 4:
It’s easy to have multiple voters ID. Due to Burqa women can go and vote multiple times. This increases corruption in the election.
Point 5:
Crimes under Burqa are on the rise. Murder, kidnapping, robbery are been carried out using Burqa. It’s the biggest advantage for criminals.

What Noorjehan Safia says…
Noorjehan Safia Niaz, a founding member of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a movement which works to improve the status of Muslim women in India, said security concerns have not been a major issue when it comes to dressing. “Muslim women in India comply with all the laws. They are active participants when it comes to elections and has their photos on their passports. So identification and security have never been an issue as such,” she said.
Discrimination, however, has sometimes caused problems, said Ms. Niaz. “There are cases when women are not considered for a particular job because they wear a Burqa. In such cases, women have negotiated. They do not wear Burqa while at work but before and after it they put it on.” Overall, Ms. Niaz said that women themselves – not the law – should decide what to wear. “Let each woman decide what she wants to wear. Neither can you enforce a ban on Burqa nor can you force women to wear it.”