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The rich history of food in the Sangam Era

31 December 2018 , 0 comments / 0 likes
The term ‘Sangam’ literally means ‘Confluence’. Sangam Era, from 300 BC to 200 CE, is marked as an important period for Tamil History. The era gives a glimpse of the food, culture, topography, people and various other gamuts of human evolution. Come, experience this beautiful journey with food history researcher and popular Home Chef Shri Bala, as she guides us through the nuances of this important era of evolution.


Rise of Millets
Talking about the type of food, in the Sangam era, non-vegetarian food was widely consumed. As agriculture was the primary source of revenue for the state, the kings in the Sangam era took great measures for the development of agriculture. That is when the production of millets flourished. Known to thrive on minimal consumption of water, millets, became the staple diet of the common man while the kings feasted on rice. Hospitality was considered virtue and both the rich and the poor delighted in serving their guests. While the poor were on millets, kings had Samba variety rice as the delicacy.

Geography matters
With varied topography, came into picture the variety in food consumption. The herdsmen of mullai (forest) region enjoyed maize, beans, thinai rice (millet), milk, yoghurt, and ghee made from buffalo milk. Farmers of the marutham (cropland) region cultivated rice, sugarcane, mango, jackfruit and plantains for food. They were familiar with irrigation methods and used water stored in reservoirs in their fields. They ate their white rice and rice gruel with roasted flesh of fowl. Fishermen of the neithal (coastal) region ate fish and drank a potage of rice and warm toddy kept in wide-mouthed jars. In the Kurunji (mountainous) region people ate millet, the flesh of rams, honey, and drank rice toddy. They also cultivated fruits and vegetables and gathered honey. In the Palai (dry land) region hunters lived on red rice and animals they hunted.

What was consumed
Rice was the staple food in the era and was consumed with the meats of rams, deer, fowl, iguana, fish, crabs and pigs cooked with ghee and spices. Three millets namely Thinai, Samai and Varagu were used as substitutes to rice. Mangoes, jackfruit, sugarcane and honey provided the sweet component to their meals. Their foods also included edible roots, buffalo curd preserved in bamboo pipes, Sweetcakes resembling honeycombs, pasties made of coconut and sugar and pickled fruits. Toddy was in abundant supply and consumed widely.

Shri Bala gave us a glimpse of some popular food recipes consumed during the Sangam Era; watch the video to know more:

Know something more about the Sangam Era? Share with us in the comments below, we would love to hear it from you.