The Origin Of Idli Sambhar

No! This is neither the story of any struggler nor the story of our website. It is not anything that you are thinking right now, not even the start of blogs. This is something different, very diverse yet specific. Can you make a guess what this write-up is all about?

Well, you got it! This is actually a journey of our favorite food item (even in Sri Lanka). Almost everybody’s favorite, it has curry (daal) with it and is a breakfast item.

The blog specifically talks about the origin of the dearest Idli Sambhar. Idli Sambhar is best loved by all age groups, be it children or adults. A healthy dish with world-famous recognition, you must know how and from where this dish became so popular.

The Origin of Idli Sambhar

the origin of idli sambhar
Source: Vaya.in

Idli is awarded as the most preferred breakfast, at all places for all seasons. It was introduced by the state of Karnataka, but not particularly by the South Indians. First time made in around 900 CE, it is said that Karnataka was ruled by Maharashtrians, and so Chhatrapati Shivaji’s son Sambhaji (mentioned in 17th century) is the real reason for this discovery. He ordered to make a dish called amti; the experiment was done in absence of mung beans and kokum juice.

It is believed that Sambhaji, the then ruler of Karnataka, wanted to eat amti for lunch, but the necessary ingredients such as mung beans and kokum juice were not available at that point of time. So the chefs experimented with everything they had on that day (tamarind and Toor Daal), hence a different taste was developed and it was named Sambhar.

This is an interesting story most of the historians tell when the origin of Sambhar is mentioned. While some hold the opinion that it came from Indonesia, between 800–1200 CE, with the name “Kedli.” Because of the relationship between south Indian rulers and Indonesian rulers, a link was set up which influenced both the cultures. Indonesians do have steamed rice cake on their part. Moreover, the cultural cuisines had a great impact on both the regions. The relations between them is the reason somewhere that has introduced us to the present Idli Sambhar.

Another story that has been heard and told by historians is from the Arab. The traders that came to India from Arab were the ones who introduced Idli to the Indians. Called as Idli, the same as today, they were said to have a strict diet with almost no comprises. They ate rice balls with coconut paste as the Indian food did not have much of what they wanted – halal. Idlis are considered to be very healthy and easily digestible. 

In the book, “The Story of Our Food,” the late K.T. Acharya (a famous historian) showed that the very first reference to Idli is given in “Vaddaradhane” an old work of Shivakoti Acharya, as “Iddalige” in Kannada, thousand years ago. The next reference was found in a Sanskrit text, “Manasollasa” (Delights of the Mind). Idli is termed as “Iddarika,” written more than 800 years ago during the reign of King Bhulokamalla Someshvara III in the Western Chalukya dynasty.

In Tamil references, Idli is seen as “Ittali” in “Macca Puranam” a literary work from around 400 years ago. There are conflicts when it comes to tracing the origin of Idli Sambhar. Even the Gujaratis claim that Idli is an outgrowth of “Dhokla” – a famous Gujarati dish which evolved when it was sent to the South by the Saurashtrian textile merchants. There is so much to read if you start finding out its origin. But what we can comprehend by all this information is that:

Source: Food Historia

The late K.T. Acharya had the opinion that Idli was presumably brought by the Indonesians to India, but how did it reach the South then from the North?

When we researched again, the result came that the Indonesian leaders who came to India, for having Indian brides or for any business reason, as some historians argue, they used to bring their cook along with them and consequently the steam cooking was introduced to Indians, which included the steamed rice cake too. It is to be made clear that there is still no proper evidence about the origin of Idli Sambhar. Different people have different opinions, and it is difficult to find out where it all started.

On that account, it has been found that Idli is fermented and steamed, which had only been done when both things were already introduced in the country. Currently, Indians have modified it in so many new versions accordingly. The reason for it being the favorite is because it’s healthy, tasty, and easy to make. A breakfast item, people claim that they become happy when they eat it! It is a gift given by the outsiders to India; we have maintained, experimented, and respected the taste quite well!

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