Haryana: Heritage & Cuisine

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The people in Haryana normally consume vegetarian food consisting of seasonal cereals, vegetables, fruits, pulses, milk and milk products.

Dr. Ashish Dahiya, Professor, IHTM, MDU Rohtak

Emerged as a separate State in the federal galaxy of the Indian Republic on November 1,1966, Haryana has 1.37% of the total geographical area and less than 2% of India’s population. Haryana has carved a place of distinction for itself during the past few decades, whether it is agriculture or industry, canal irrigation or rural electrification. In fact, the state has an amazing representation in Sports, Politics, Business, Cinema and national services like police and military, perhaps, the youth have performed fairly well in Civil Services. It would be apt to say that Haryana has marched towards modernity with leaps and bounds. The state has so much to offer in terms of  Heritage, Tourism & Food as well.

Haryana – The Vedic land has been a cradle of Indian culture and civilization. This region is also regarded by Indian traditions as the matrix of creation of northern altar’ where Brahma performed the pristine sacrifice and created the universe. The Vamana Purana states that King Kuru ploughed the field of Kurukshetra with a golden ploughshare drawn by the Nandi of Lord Shiva and reclaimed an area of seven Kosas. Replete with myths, legends and vedic references, Haryana’s past is steeped in glory. Saint Ved Vyas wrote Mahabharata on this soil. It was here, 5,000 long years ago that Lord Krishna preached the gospel of duty to Arjuna at the onset of the great battle of Mahabharata.

For a passionate of Hospitality & Tourism, there are many things associated with food from Mahabharata, Like, Offering of Kheer to Bhim by Syuodhan later known as Duryodhan.  What Bhim ate to become powerful? The legend has it, when Kunti cooked rice, one half of the rice was given to Bhima and the other half was divided equally between the other four Pandavas and their mother. Another interesting thing about food here is what Draupadi dished out for Pandavas while on exile? Here comes the discussion about Akshaya Patra, a vessel that would give unlimited food every day from Mahabharata.

Similarly in the Epic Mahabharata, when Krishna went to negotiate peace on behalf of the Pandavas with the Kauravas, he refused to eat in the house of Duryodhana. Instead he chose to eat in the house of Vidura, half-brother and advisor to Duryodhana’s father, Dhritrashtra. Vidura served Krishna green leafy vegetables, known since as ‘Vidura-saag’. Vidura too refused to eat food grown in the gardens and fields of the Kauravas. He maintained his autonomy and reflected it by growing green leafy vegetables in his garden. Food thus is not just about taste and nutrition. It is also a way of giving a message. 

Another interesting story in context of food from Mahabharata is during the war, who made arrangements of Food for the Royal and the Army?  The Udupi king did not join any side, but he undertook the job of feeding the soldiers on both the sides.

Haryana – The region being ‘A Gateway to North India and Way to Delhi‘ has witnessed many wars. As years rolled by, successive streams of the Huns, the Turks and the Tughlaqs invaded India and decisive battles were fought on this land. At the end of the 14 century, Tamur led an army through this area to Delhi. Later, the Mughals defeated the Lodhis in the historic battle of Panipat in the year 1526. Another decisive battle was fought in the year 1556 at this very site, establishing the supremacy of the Mughals for centuries to come. Interesting facet about food here is that in the Royal Mughal Kitchens, Ghee used to go from this region of Haryana now known as Hisar earlier known by the name of Hisare-Firoza.

Towards the middle of the 18th century, the Marathas had established their sway over Haryana. The intrusion of Ahmed Shah Durrani into India, culminating Maratha ascendancy and the rapid decline of the Mughal empire, leading ultimately to the advent of the British rule. It is pertinent to mention here that during the battle between Ahmed Shah Durrani & Maratha’s, food was also one of the key concerns in the battle.

Indeed, the history of Haryana is the saga of the struggle of a virile, righteous, forthright and proud people. From ancient times, the people of Haryana have borne the main brunt of invaders and foreign hordes with their known traits if bravery and valour. They have survived many an upheaval, upholding the traditional glory and greatness of the land to this day. With this backdrop, the food and eating habits of  the people here have been simple, wholesome & nutritive.  

The epoch-making events of yore, the martyrdom in the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the great sacrifices in the freedom struggle, and the display of outstanding valour, unflinching courage, and heroism in recent years are all in keeping with the character of this land of action. The royal people of land included the Nawabs of Jhajjar and Bahadurgarh, Raja of Ballabgarh and Rao Tula Ram of Rewari of the Haryana region. Later, their territories were either merged with the British territories or handed over to the rulers of Patiala, Nabha and Jind. Haryana thus became a part of the Punjab province. Bold in spirit and action, the people of Haryana have formed a bulwark against forces of aggression and anti-nationalism.

Haryana has always remained a rendezvous for diverse races, cultures and faiths. It is on this soil that they met, fused and crystallized into something truly Indian. Hindu Saints and Sikh Gurus have traversed the land of Haryana spreading their message of universal love and brotherhood. Sihi in Faridabad, the birth place of great Hindi poet Surdas, is another nucleus of culture in Haryana while the legend of Lord Krishna is very evident in the lives of the people. The love for cattle and the abundance of milk in the diet of Haryanavis persists to this day which gave to the region world-wide fame.

Traditional Food Items of Haryana:

The people in Haryana normally consume vegetarian food consisting of seasonal cereals, vegetables, fruits, pulses, milk and milk products. Chaudhary Hukam Singh Former Principal Jat College Rohtak & Historian in one of his ethnographic report has provided graphic details about the culture & seasonal food items captured in a folk song of the peasant community.

It contains details of their month wise traditional menu.

” Chait Piyari Kanak, Kakkari, Kohla, Kaddu,

Baisakh Piyara Messa, Thanda, Baingan Bharta,

Jeth Piyari Thandaee, Rabri, Sattu, Pyaaz, Nindra

Saadh Pyaara Neebu, Namak, Aam Tapka,

Saaman Piyari Swalhi, Parai, Gulgalati, Purai, Kheer

Bhadwa Pyaara Daliya, Shakkar, Cholaee, Bhindi, Tindai, Ghata,

Asoj Piyari Gheeya, Tori,

Katak Pyara Seet, Dahi, Mattha,

Mangsar Piyarri Kachri, Dakal, Gaajar, Bajra, Bathu, Gudari,

Poh Piyara Ganda, Gur, Aalu, Tilkuti aur Tiaotha,

Mah Piayri Goji Kichri,

Phagan Piyara Mazak, Malish, Thatha,

Teej Teohaar Piyari Halwa, Chillai Kheer

Mah Piyarai Ghee, Doodh, Dupalka, Mahal Pura, Prantha,

Biyah Piyarai, Ladu, Jalebi, Satpakawani

Ghee Bura, Mialai na, Janet Kar Le Tthatha.”

Month/ Occasion Indian CalendarEnglish CalendarLocal Term Used for Regional HeritageRemarks
ChaitMarch – AprilPiyari Kanak,  Kakkari,  Kohla,  KadduAdorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Wheat A type of Vegetable Buffalo Pumpkin
BaisakhApril – MayPiyara Messa, Thanda,  Baingan Bharta,Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Amalgamation (Two Cereals) Bearable heat Brinjal Meshed Preparation
JethMay – JunePiyari Thandaee,  Rabri,  Sattu,  Pyaaz, NindraAdorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Chilled Milk Preparation Fermented Wheat Flour Dish Jon or gram Flour preparation Onion Sleep
SaadhJune – JulyPyaara Neebu, Namak,  Aam TapkaAdorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Lemon Salt Tree Ripened Mangoes
SaamanJuly – AugustPiyari Swalhi,  Parai, Gulgalati,  Purai,  KheerAdorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Fried Sweet Wheat Bread Fried Salted Wheat Preparations Fried Sweet Soft Wheat Bread Deep Fried Wheat Breads Rice & Milk Dessert
BhadwaAugust – SeptemberPyaara Daliya, Shakkar, Cholaee, Bhindi, Tindai, Ghata,Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Wheat Porridge Powdered Jaggery Regional Leafy Vegetable Okra Vegetable Rain Showers
Asoj  September – OctoberPiyari Gheeya, Tori,Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Gourd Regional Vegetable
KatakOctober – NovemberPyara Seet,  Dahi,  Mattha,Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Butter Milk Curd Butter Milk
MangsarNovember – DecemberPiyarri Kachri, Dakal, Gaajar, Bajra,  Bathu, GudariAdorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Seasonal Vegetable Stems of Sarson Carrots Grain Seasonal Leafy Vegetable Jaggery
PohDecember – JanuaryPiyara Ganda, Gur, Aalu, Tilkuti aur Tiaotha,Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Sugarcane Jaggery Potato Sesame Seeds sweet preparation Peanut & Jaggery  preparation
MahJanuary -FebruaryPiayri Goji KichriAdorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Buttermilk tossed with fresh milk Kichri
PhaganFebruary – MarchPiyara Mazak, Malish, Thatha,Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Laughter Massage Naughty Laughter
Teej TeohaarFestive Occasions Piyari Halwa, Chillai Kheer  Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Sweet Kheer Preparation with Chillai Grains
MahJanuary -FebruaryPiyarai Ghee, Doodh,  Dupalka,  Mahal Pura, Prantha,  Adorable, Lovely, Enjoyable Clarified ButterMilk Two Layer Chapatti joined with ghee Wheat Flour deep fried sweet Shallow Fried Indian Bread
Traditional Menu.

It is important to mention here, that Ayurveda recognizes six tastes, each of which has a vital role to play in our physiology, health, and wellbeing. The sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Thus, these tastes (also known as ‘Rasas’  in Sanskrit) have relevance with Seasons (Ritus) and our life. The sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes combine in countless ways to create the incredible diversity of flavors we encounter throughout our lives. These tastes also have close association with their predominant elements like  Sweet (Madhura) – Earth & Water, Sour (Amla) – Earth & Fire, Salty (Lavana) – Water & Fire, Pungent (Katu) – Fire & Air, Bitter (Tikta) – Air & Ether,  Astringent (Kashaya) – Air & Earth

Thus, the right tastes, with right elements in right season are also amazingly captured in the folk song of the peasant community of Haryana emphasising on relishing seasonal delights with change in menu as per seasons for valid reasons.

Interestingly, peasants in Haryana still prefer Daliya or Khichri in the evening which provides relief to the digestive system. It is also interesting to mention here that now days the present generation has taken fancy to consume non – vegetarian food, along with fast foods such as Pizzas, Burgers, Sizzlers and even in countryside areas pasta, momos, noodles and local versions of Chinese, Italian and Mexican Food are popularly consumed at lawries along with Tea, Coffee, Colas and Alcoholic Drinks on various occasions. Sweets, desserts and drinks are purchased from the market rather than the homemade traditional food items. The people are also very fond of smoking Hukka, Beedis & Cigarettes. It also interesting to notice that under the impact of globalization the traditional cuisine of Haryana is being replaced by above said items and other popular regional cuisines of India such as South Indian, Guajarati and Food from other states.

Thus, the food delicacies that has been discussed in respect of culinary delights is a sharp pointer to the fact that the traditional cuisines which were confined to the domestic consumption of the peasant community in early 19th & 20th century may become a cultural heritage in an era of globalisation when the world is increasingly becoming a global village. The rapid pace with which industrialisation and development of consumption pattern of people in Haryana has changed simply goes to suggest that the traditional recipes of Haryana as a  part of cultural heritage needs to be documented so that in course of development the earlier food recipes do not become extinct cultural food heritage to be recorded only in folk songs and folk tales.

“the cuisine of a land is its landscape inside a casserole”Josep Pla

Watch Video on Haryana: Culture, Cuisine & Tourism

from Dekho Apna Desh Series of Incredible India

About the Writer: Dr. Ashish Dahiya is Professor at Institute of Hotel and Tourism Management, Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak. He can be contacted at email: ashish@mdurohtak.ac.in

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6 thoughts on “Haryana: Heritage & Cuisine

  1. Gorgious Guru ji.

    You have awakesome information to guide us so keep going to share these type of useful information.

    Thank u so much
    Warms regards,

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