How Mughlai Cuisine Evolved in India

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Mughlai Cuisine can play an important role in promoting India as a country with affluent culinary history making it a food tourism destination. Therefore, it is necessary to know the impact of events on how Mughlai Cuisine developed in Northern parts of India. Here we give a brief introduction of Mughlai Cuisine, an account of its past, and the etiquettes of Mughal Emperors. Arab raiders established their supremacy in India particularly Sindh in AD713. The advent of Islam in the region can be traced to the times when Muhammad of Ghazni landed in AD1000. The first Muslim rule in Dehli was recognized in AD1206. Muslims ruled over India for 300 years and in 1526, Mughal Emperor Babar came and his period is acknowledged to be the beginning of the Mughal Dynasty in India. He was followed by other Emperors including Humayun, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Akbar, and Aurengzeb. Undoubtedly, this period was well renowned and we can read the entire history in hundreds of books written on the subject. Mughal Emperors Jahangir and Babar had superb writing skills and they used to write diaries regularly. Akbar had an employee Abu Fazal to write his life happenings and the book he wrote is known as Ain-e-Akbari. Since Jahangir’s period, a number of historians visited India and have written impressionistic accounts of the life style of Mughals. Before the arrival of Islam, the Hindus had somewhat abstinent dining ambience. Muslims introduced courteous manners to individual and group dining and encouraged the sharing and equal distribution of food with the fellows and slaves. Native Indian food was already rich with aromatic spices, ghee, nuts, and flavors. Muslims introduced new methods of cooking as well as new recipes to the already rich cuisine. These include rice (Pulav and Biryani), stuffed vegetables and grounded meat recipes (Kababs and Koftay), stuffed snacks (Samosa), ghee based desserts (Halwa), sweetened drinks (Rooh Afza and Falooda), a combination of finely grounded meat with dried pulses (Harisa and Haleem), a nut rich ice cream (Khoya Kulfi), and a spiral sweetened snack (Jalebi). No doubt, Muslims had a great impact on the technique and substance of Indian food. The Etiquettes of Mughal Emperors Mughal Darbar is the book written by Mubarak Ali who describes dining customs of Mughal Emperors in detail. The book highlights the formalities that were considered while the lunch or dinner had been served. Before the serving, the Chamberlain while standing close to the dinner carpet performed the bow towards the Emperor and all the invitees did the same. This gesture was formerly known as Khidmat and it was basically performed bowing down to the knees as we usually do in prayers. Following this, everyone would sit down to eat. Before the meal began, everyone was served with sweetened rose water in silver and gold plated glasses. After the drinks were served, the Chamberlain recited ‘Bismillah’, verses from the Holy Book of Muslims ‘Quran’. Then everyone had dinner and it was followed by Barley drinks and at the end, nuts raisins, betel leaves, and cardamoms were served. At the end of every meal, Chamberlain recited Bismillah once again and then everyone performed Khidmat and then left the place. There were two kinds of dinners typically served to Mughal Emperors i.e. private and public dinners. Private Dinner This type of dinner was attended by the Emperor along with those who were present at that moment, or whom he invited purposely. These guests included the Emperor’s cousins, the Chamberlain Head, and master of ceremonies also known as Ameer-e-Majlis. Occasionally when someone comes to the hall and he is not officially invited to the dinner, the Emperor didn’t return him empty handed. He used to offer him something from the dinner and the receiver accepted it bowing down to perform Khidmat. And there was also a custom to send food items from the served meal to the ones who were invited but didn’t attend the dinner due to some reason. The number of attendants usually didn’t exceed than twenty. Public Dinner The public dinners were served straight through the royal kitchens and were supervised by officers appointed to perform this task. The ritual of performing bow and reciting Bismillah was the same for public dinners also. The difference was that the palace officer held a sword of state made of gold. There was an assistant of the officer holding a silver mace and he followed him. As soon as their voice was heard by the attendants in the council hall, everyone stood except the Emperor. Meal was served on floor over a piece of cloth embellished with gold and silver thread. While the public dinner was served, the palace officers sang the praises of the Emperor and after the discourse, everyone bowed to the King. The aim of the discourse was to stop everyone from talking, until it was over. Following this, everyone took their seats and the King was informed that the meal was served despite he already knew that. This was done through a drafted report and the meal started once the Emperor gave an approval. Seating The orators, jurists, and judges sat on the first row of the carpet, then the relatives of the Emperor, then appointed commanders (Amirs), and last rows were filled with the rest of the invitees. No one ever seated on a place other than his appointed seat, so there was no disturbance. Every single man had his plate and glass served to him so no one needed to share the plate with someone else. The meal was served twice a day. The Mughal Cuisine is the result of these affluent rituals and courteous manners carried out by Mughal Emperors. The etiquettes introduced by the Royal Emperors had been overwhelming hence had a great impact on the culinary culture of India. The rich foods and pleasant servings noticeable in Indian celebrations and festivals take their traces back to Mughlai Cuisine since the richness of foods contributed a lot towards making India an attractive food destination for tourists.