The Real History of India Part 9 – One of Islam’s delectable contributions

Updated Apr 15,2008: Rachel Laudan was kind enough to respond to my email to say that she does not have much knowledge of Ethiopian to answer the question. She has however said she knows someone that might be able to answer. Stay tuned.


A key reason I started this series is to debunk ideas that threaten the very fabric of India’s great diverse culture. One of the ideas, that is oft repeated these days, is that the India of pre-moghul, pre-British time was pristine and rich. And that the British and Islamists have spoilt everything India had and have left an abjectly poor country in their wake.

I am 100% sure that the British and Islamist Kings did god-awful unspeakable things to India and its people. No one in their right mind will condone any type of invasion or oppression of this type. Not withstanding the fact that the India of today didn’t exist then. Therefore to speak of “Indian” as a valid term for the region pre-1947 is a historical flaw, but that is besides the point.

We, in India, do one of 2 things these days – either anything that the invaders brought is worthless or the idea is a Hindu idea. The Islamists and the British fall under the former category, whereas Buddha and Mahavira and Parsvanath fall under the latter category. This is how our history is being distorted for political reasons. I would not be this upset, if i didn’t realize that the youth of this country are being fed this poison and they are lapping it up. A culture that is known for its tolerance is quickly becoming bigoted and that is extremely scary.

Roots of North Indian Cuisine

Some background for non-Indian readers – most often, when we come across an Indian restaurant abroad, it serves North Indian cuisine. With the rise of the software industry which is dominated by South Indians, one does find South Indian fare these days. But they are still quite rare.

Myself and Priya Raju love Ethiopian cuisine. Anyone that has had both Indian and Ethiopian food will easily attest to the fact that the spices are quite similar. We used to wonder how this similarity came about, but we could not find the answer. We were also confused by how far Ethiopia is from India, both culturally and geographically.

Couple of days back, I came across this brilliant article by Rachel Laudan that traces the roots of the Mexican Mole. Again, the similarities of Mole to Indian curry is unmistakeable. But then how did this happen? Mexico is so far away from India that anyone connecting these 2 cuisines will be met with a loud snicker. Per Laudan, Octavia Paz, Nobel Laureate and erstwhile Ambassador to India from Mexico, tried to do just that.

Laudan continues on and proves that the Mexican Mole is indeed connected to Indian curry but the connection happened through Persia! When Babur came to India, he brought the cuisine with him which has mesmerized Indians since then. The sherbets, the pilafs (pulao) and the tandoor are all through this Babur connection. And it went to Mexico from Spain which had acquired the cuisine through the Islamic connection as well.

An excerpt from the article:

The influential Persian culinary tradition is yet to be studied in detail. When the Abbasid dynasty established its capital in Baghdad in the eighth century, the Islamic world was able to draw on a sophisticated Persian culinary tradition that stretched back a millennium. The ancient Greeks had been awed by the luxurious cuisine of the Persian emperors Darius and Cyrus. Successive dynasties had continued to refine the cuisine that became the model for fine dining throughout the Islamic world. After the Mongols destroyed Baghdad in the first half of the 13th century, the center of Persian culture and its cuisine shifted back to the Persian heartland. It was here that the Moghuls learned the style of cooking that they took with them to northern India.

If this is not a signal contribution of the Islamists, what is?

The Ethiopian Connection

As for Ethiopian, we still don’t know the answer. But my guess is that it is also from the same Islamic influence. Interestingly, the Ethiopians call their curry powder Berbere. Here is another excerpt from the same Laudan article:

One of the most important was the Iberian Peninsula, whose southern two-thirds came under Arab rule in the eighth century. Watered by five rivers and greener than either their arid homelands or the other lands they had conquered, al-Andalus, as Muslim Spain was called, held out to the Arab and Berber settlers the promise of being a culinary paradise on earth.

Notice the phrase Berber settlers in the last line? Maybe this is why the Ethiopians call it Berbere? Wonder if Rachel Laudan knows the answer. BTW, Rachel Laudan has a blog if you want to read more.


The next one we will tackle is the idea that the evil caste system is a creation of the British! One of the main citations that is used for this idea is, the Gandhian Scholar, Dharampal’s works. Are there any other reliable citations that prove that the caste system is a British creation? If any of you know, please let me know.


  1. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 26, 2008, 2:30 pm:

    It is the BJP that had been crowing about how well they administer and how well they prevent terrorism. Now they big time egg on their face – jaipur blasts happened first. To your point the bjp govt has been in power there for a while. So how come?

    The answer is simple. Terrorism is a complex phenomenon something without a proper solution. No govt can claim immunity against it.

    BJP for its part has to abandon its minority bashing and hopefully engage everyone in a constructive conversation.

    Anyway, what do you think is the solution? As Priya said, why don’t you write on your blog a potential solution.

  2. Quote

    The BJP had proved now.. they are not just crowing.. but had proved in real.. In the last five years, this is the first bomb blasts, which has been cracked in short time..

    The BJP had also cracked parliament attack case earlier.. Only a true nationalist can do that..

    Pls show me any congress governments which had shown this strong commitment in solving any of the bomblasts in the past.. they deliberate muslim/minority appeasement has never let them catch the real criminals..

  3. Quote

    Very good job by the Gujarat government. Also thanks to the collective effort of *all* central intelligence agencies for providing all the necessary data in the right time.

  4. Quote

    Senthil – “Only a true nationalist can do that”?? What a non-sequitur. Competence, not nationalism, helped them solve the case. In your haste to beat up the Congress, you seem to be ignoring logic. Jayalalitha is tough on terrorism, too. In your haste to heap plaudits on BJP, you forgot her it seems.

    No one disputes the capability of Modi. You are simply beating a dead snake. Only the Congress & the Left parties refuse to accept Modi’s accomplishments – and we all know that’s just politics. The real issue is BJP’s (& Modi’s) approach towards the minorities. Their minority baiting.

    “Minority Appeasement”? What about “Majority Blindness”? That’s what I accuse you of. And in Tamil Nadu, the attacks were pre-empted by the police. You conveniently ignored that – maybe because TN is led by a “minority appeasing” DMK govt?

  5. Quote

    Priya.. There were around half-a-dozen mumbai bomb blasts earlier.. Most of them is not yet solved.. except for 1992 bomb blast, that too after 10 years later..

    The mumbai train bombings that happened two years ago.. there is no news till now, whether investigation is going on or not.. what is the reason? Is it because mumbai police is incompetent?? Never Its because of the cowardice & minority appeasement of the congress, that this worst crime is ignored..

    While competence is a key factor, unquestioned nationalism is the most important thing that shapes the mindset of the rulers.. for the BJP, there is no need for minority appeasement.. so they wholeheartedly went with their investigation and finally nabbed the terrorists..

    Conviction, unquestionable loyalty, love towards motherland, .. all are traits of a nationalists.. Not the one seen among the crowd of unscrupulous & spineless power mongers, who mortgaged our nation to an italian lady..

    In such sense, even jayalalitha is a nationalist.. any one who cares for the nation is a nationalist.. Even you are a nationalist, if you care for this nation.. 🙂

  6. Quote

    Regarding your accusations on Modi, i should say, its baseless. the facts speak a lot..

    the gujarat riot happened within few months he took over.. and after that, there was no riots, no bomb blasts, not even a single strike.. Rapid development, and prosperity is the hall mark of his rule.. And he did not exclude muslims from this development.. As much as hindus prospered, muslims also prospered equally out of this gujarat boom..

    Modi did not drive away muslims out of gujarat, just like the kashmiris drove away the 4 lakh pundits ..

    Nor he says, Hindus has the first priority over national resources..

    In one of the recent speech by L.K Advani, among the group of Muslim women in Delhi, he declared, that BJP will work for uplifting muslims, irrespective of whether they vote for BJP or not..

    What else they should do for you to abandon this baseless allegations?

    Will you accept only if they fall at the feet of minorities and appease them just as the congress do.. or will you accept only if they say “Muslims have the first priority over National resources” ?

    Today, the perpetuators of the kashmiri genocide, like geelani, and the other hurriyat leaders are still roaming in the country.. one of such perpetuators is a central minister too.. and still they are not hesitant to hoist pakistani flag in kashmir.. Still, they are not ready to allow the kashmiri pundits to return to kashmir.. and still they claim, kashmir is only for muslims..

    yet, no one points a single finger at them.. Is it what you term justice..

  7. Quote

    The below link is a documentary evidences detailing the brutal invasion, this country has seen from islamic and later britishers..

    and when i read it, i only remembered this post.. its time that we question our own conscience, where when so much of destruction took place out of islamic invasion, we are cherishing persian food as a contribution of islam..

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