The Idli Story: A Brief Insight Into Its Origin & History

The Idli Story: A Brief Insight Into Its Origin & History

A familiar staple savoured with relish in households, served on street sides as well as premium restaurants all alike, the infamous Idli has its own story to tell!

What’s surprising is that Idli was brought to India by Arab settlers. No, we’re not kidding!

According to livehistoryIndia, Food historian K.T. Achaya reckons that the Idli could have come to India around 800-1200 CE from present-day Indonesia – from a region ruled by the Hindu dynasties namely Shailendra, Isyana and Sanjaya. Our modern Idli is in fact eerily similar to their ‘Kedli’ which hints towards the Indian translation of the Indonesian dish.

Achaya also explains that several forms of Idli such as Iddalage or Iddarika are also mentioned in the Kannada language works such as Vaddaradhane by Shivakotiacharya (920 AD) and Sanskrit Manasollasa(1130AD) respectively.

However, his claims are disputed by modern-day food historians such as Elizabeth Collingham who claims that Arab traders in the southern belt brought in the Idli when they married and settled down in those parts.

The theories by western food historians delves into the Arab origins of the infamous Idli. We know what you’re thinking – how did that happen? The plausible answer to that might lie in the movement of Arab traders in the southern coast for trade long before the advent of Islam.

With a rigid dietary regimen, the Arabs came here when Muhammed was still alive (which was in the 7th century) and were all followers of Islam. Navigating their preference for halaal food and figuring out the Indian food palette ultimately led to them making flattened rice balls that were savoured with a side of bland coconut paste (now known as coconut chutney).

Many decades of improvisation later, here we are relishing the modern-day Idli that has many variants all across the country. Be it grand sized Thatte or mini Idlis, the Goan Sannas, Mangalorean Khotigge to muddle idlis — all shapes and sizes of the rice-based delicacy are eaten with an unequivocal amount of love and gusto.

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