Food, culture, language, geography and politics have always been closely intertwined, and there are as many examples of how these factors influence each other, as there can be permutations and combinations. Marathi cuisine is no exception, and has been influenced by neighbouring states, the politics of successive rulers, climatic and geographic conditions that transcend political borders and migratory patterns of people.
I was born in a family that had settled down in Hyderabad for over five generations, so I will explore some examples closer to home in this essay:
Marathwada was a part of the former Nizam’s Hyderabad state until 1948, as were areas of Karnataka such as Bidar, Gulbarga and Raichur. This made for a very multicultural city with migrants influencing the local Hyderabadi populace, and being influenced in turn by the people and culture of their new home of choice. This ‘give and take’ of influences has led to the evolution of what is known as Hyderabadi or ‘Deccani’ cuisine, and also contributed to the eclectic culinary repertoire of these migrants.
The cuisine of any region is closely linked to what is grown locally on the soil and under the regional climatic conditions. The cuisine of the Marathwada region was based on their local produce like the seed and nut triumvirate – sesame seeds, dry coconut and peanuts. These ingredients are integral parts of dishes such as panchamrut or kayaras and bharli vaangi, and one can see this Marathi influence in the evolution of Hyderabadi or Deccani cuisine, in dishes like mirchi ka salan and bagharey baingan , characterised by the key flavours of coconut, tamarind, peanuts, sesame seeds and chillies.
Conversely, the language spoken by Marathi people in Hyderabad also picked up local flavour. To this day, the Marathi people in Hyderabad refer to aloo or colocasia leaves as chamakoora or the tender leaves of the tamarind tree chintachigur, retaining their Telugu names. The shendad or valaka (yellow cucumber) of Marathwada assumes the local names gudmakai or dosakai from the Telugu lexicon.
Living in Hyderabad, the Marathi speaking denizens were also exposed to several dishes from their Kannada compatriots. The chitranna is a rice dish laced by sour lemons or grated raw mango, and studded with nuts and dals. It’s as much a part of Hyderabadi Marathi cuisine, as the kadabu (a calzone with a sweet Bengal gram and jaggery filling) or a huggi (wheat berry kheer with jaggery and coconut and poppy seeds).
These names have also seamlessly integrated into the lexis of the people. The Kannada sukkurunde (batter fried puran balls) may have possibly joined forces with the Andhra purnam boorelu to morph into the Marathi shakununde, a dish that has almost been forgotten.
These are but some examples of how a cuisine’s dynamics results in adaption, incorporation, innovation and ultimately – enrichment. Going by this, and given that cuisines evolve continually, it is unavoidable that Marathi cuisine changes. This is the very reason for Angat Pangat’s endeavours to showcase our rich culinary heritage to the world preserve it for posterity.
Shruti Nargundkar is an Admin member of the Angat Pangat Facebook group, and is a writer, linguistics trainer, and chronicler of traditions.