Fruits-Sweets-Snacks of ancient India/South-India


Fruits were grown in abundance and were used by the rich and the poor alike. This has been observed by foreign travelers to India during this period. Abu Zaid found pomegranates in plenty. Friar Jordanus (1323-1330 A D.) had noticed lemons as sweet as sugar, grapes, pomegranates, jackfruit (chaqui) and mangoes. He was of opinion that mangoes were like plums and that they were indescribably sweet and delicious . Ibn Batuta, while describing different kinds of orange, says, ‘…then the sweet orange (narang) is very abundant in India. As for the sour orange, it is rare. There is a third species of the orange, which is half way between the sweet and the sour. This fruit is as large and sweet as lime. It is agreeable in taste’ .

The Somanatha Charitra mentions a typical fresh-fruit stall (navya phala vikrayada pasara) selling plantains, lemons, oranges, jackfruit, mangoes, pomegranates, jamuns (nerile), along with coconuts and sugarcane . The Parsvanatha Purana adds kembale or red plantains to the list .

The mango was considered the king of fruits . Nayasena’s Dharmamrita, describing a sumptuous dinner given to a greedy Brahmin Vasubhuti, lists a number of fruits, like plantains, dates, oranges, mangoes, guavas and citrons . The Manasollasa prescribes eating of fruit during dinner . Inscriptions also mention the jackfruit, mango, hog-plum, plantain, etc.

It is evident from the list of snacks in literature that the people of Karnataka had a sweet tooth. Payasam or khir was popular and it was a compulsory item of offering (naivedya) to a deity . The Manasollasa recommends milk of a buffalo which has calved long back (chiraprasuta) for preparing payasa of saraveshtika (saravalige) and sevaka (sevige) or a type of noodles. This was good for lapping up (lehane yogyam) . Saravalige payasa finds a glorious place in Kamalabhava’s Santisvara Purana, wherein it is compared to bright autumn moonlight in which the stars (noodle pieces) were faintly visible . Payasa formed an essential part of a feast .

The Manasollasa describes a preparation of condensed curd, sikharini. It is similar to srikhanda of Maharashtra. Water is removed from curds by straining through a cloth; sugar and powdered cardamom are added to the condensed mass . Chavundaraya recommends the adding of cloves, saffron (nagakesara), ginger, pepper, jaggery and honey to it, finally fumigating with camphor .

Mandage (mandaka) often finds mention in literature . The method of preparing it was elaborate: washed wheat was dried, ground and sieved; the flour was mixed with ghee and a pinch of salt; the dough was then rolled into balls, shaped into cakes on palms or by a rolling pin and roasted on a huge earthen pot kept upside-down and plaited fourfold, before the thin layers hardened . An inscription of 1192 A.D, refers to halumandage or mandage in milk, as an offering to a deity .

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