The journey of Roti: from mythological stories to Mughal and Harappan Culture
How about having “Ghee chupdi hui roti” (this is a general term for what we call chapati with butter). This sounds delicious and tempting na!! In fact, in India we can say no meal is complete without this daily cuisine. And when we talk about roti with ghee then no other thing can come in our way. Roti commonly called phulka is as much an Indian cuisine table essential as rice. But do you know although it sounds very easy to make roti, it actually needs thorough practice. It is yet one of the tricky dishes to make shape, cooking and softness wise.
But have you ever wondered how this food item originated? While we were kids we used to think our Mamma has learned it from her mamma and nani from her mamma. But this was only 1% that we know about roti. There is much more to know about this ultimate meal. As in really, there are several theories about the roti’s origin. It has some connection with our mythological stories as well. Yeah you guess it right, According to Tulsidas Ramcharitamanas in 1600 century AD, roti existed back then and it literally resembled the katori that we use to serve curry. Moreover, according to sixteenth-century’s medical text Bhavaprakasha, written by Bharata-mishra, the word roti is similar to a Sanskrit word, rotika, which means flat bread to eat curries with. In fact, according to Vaishnav old text, it speaks about the Jagannath or Krishna human avatar Madhavendra Puri. He was one who offered chapatis to Lord Gopala in the 15th century and made it a kitchen essential more like kheer and sweet rice. While if we talk about Ayurveda dates, it goes back to the Vedic period – where purodhashas, from where the word pataha or parota eventually came, was usually stuffed with dry lentils or vegetables.
Now if we go towards mughal time, the chapati is noted as one of the Great Emperor’s favourites in Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th-century document by Mughal Emperor Akbar’s vizier, Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak. In fact, some studies say Akbar, who liked to eat alone, had taken such a liking for this ‘thin, roasted flatbread made of wheat, that he would often eat it as a snack with ghee and sugar. A fondness that was later displayed by the last independent Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, who was vegetarian and had adapted to the greens because it made him agile and fit. It is said that during his reign, chapatis became popular. Also, it is said that roti was a staple when the Army of Tantiya Tope and Lakshmi Bai when they moved around. Kunwar Singh, the doyen of guerilla fighting, too would travel with a handful of soldiers and would only stop at hamlets to fill the sack with ghee laced rotis, gur and water.
Another story for origin of roti and also puri dates back to 1574 when Bikrmi Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji reached Manikaran with his two disciples Bala and Mardana. After days of walking, with no source to cook meals, Mardana began to starve, so Guru Nanak asked him to find a hot water spring underneath the stone. He then instructed him to roll out chapatis. But to Mardana’s despair the chapatis drowned. But after a few minutes the chapatis appeared on the surface, perfectly baked.
While these are some stories that state the origin. Some other stories say that the roti came from Persia while another version states that roti traveled all the way from East Africa. Some old texts suggest that chapati or roti existed in India in the Harappan Culture as well.
During the time you search more about roti on our blog, do have a bite of this quintessential flatbread with sides of your choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
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