Food is an important part of our identity and our culture. We are known by what we eat. It reflects the geography we belong to and the locally available resources used in our cooking.
Adivasi food systems are deeply rooted in local culture and traditions, as the way of life of these indigenous peoples is so closely tied to nature and its resources.
Jharkhand is a natural abode and home to many Adivasi communities constituting just over 25% of the total population.
These communities, in addition to their rich social and cultural traditions, practice extremely diverse food practices that are based on locally available resources and techniques. These Adivasi food systems have been instrumental in maintaining the sovereignty and self-reliance of these communities. They consumed many varieties of vegetables and tubers, wild or cultivated, to enrich their diet, but also to meet their calcium, iron, mineral and vitamin needs. Studies reveal that Adivasi food provides a high level of immunity against diseases and deformities.
The field of medicinal plants and herbal products is even broader. According to the All India Coordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology, the tribal communities know the use of more than 9,000 species of plants including food plants while for healing purposes they know the use of approximately 7,500 species of plants.
Adivasi food in Jharkhand can be defined in terms of a few characteristic traits: food is influenced by physiological needs and geographical conditions and habit is closely associated with habitat. This means that eating habits are guided by locally available resources. The Adivasis eat boiled foods like rice, pulses, herbs or ‘saag’ and meat and on some occasions animal or bird meat is roasted over a fire. Due to these constant eating habits based on locally available resources, cases of serious illnesses are considerably less among the Adivasis.
Nutritional value : The ingredients used in Adivasi foods are an excellent source of nutrition in addition to taste. Studies have revealed that Adivasi food provides high immunity against diseases and protection against deformities. Foods like tubers, sprouts, berries, nuts, etc. are a good source of protein and fat. Consumption of meat, fish, eggs, shellfish, etc., provides good quality protein in addition to important vitamins and minerals. Widely consumed wild or cultivated tubers enrich their dietary needs in calcium, iron, mineral elements and vitamins.
Medicinal Value: Besides providing essential nutritional support, Adivasi foods have healing medicinal properties. The Adivasis have a vast repository of traditional knowledge regarding the use of different herbs and plants to cure ailments.
Food heritage of the Adivasi of Jharkhand
A characteristic feature of the Adivasi food of Jharkhand is its simplicity and wide variety which includes many green leafy vegetables, most of which are uncultivated and only harvested from the forests. A typical Adivasi platter in Jharkhand would include boiled rice, marh jhor or urad daal, mash, chutney and all non-vegetarian items ranging from large to small meat, local fish, crabs , etc.
On festive occasions, different kinds of peethas are added to the plate. Peethas are dumplings made from rice flour and served with legumes, vegetable or meat fillings.
Cooking method and equipment
As food is simple, so are the cooking methods and equipment used in food/raw material processing, helping to preserve the nutritional quality of food. Cooking processes involve slow cooking at low temperatures and shallow frying involving very little oil. Boiling and steaming are common methods, and many dishes are simply produced by mashing them by hand or stone-grinding them.
Common food processing equipment includes a wooden pestle used to break up rice or millet, a round double-stone (janta) grinder used to break up pulses, etc., a stone slab with a mortar (most often used to make chutneys) and a wooden mortar (samat) to grind spices. It should be mentioned here that using this traditional equipment helps minimize nutrient loss as they do not produce the unnecessary extra heat or pressure created by mechanized equipment.
Dhuska is undeniably the most popular all-weather ‘Jharkhandi’ snack. A fried ball made from a rice-based batter, it can simply be nibbled on as is or served with a chutney or ghugni. But it tastes better with mutton or desi chicken curry.
Coming from the Munda and Khadia communities (for whom it is Ayo Roti or Dubhni Roti), it is always served during wedding rituals, especially during the bride’s farewell ceremony. From there, dhuska gradually evolved into a popular snack in urban areas of Jharkhand as well.
The ingredients vary a bit in how the dough is made by Adivasis and non-Adivasis. Adivasis only use a combination of rice and urad dal while non-Adivasis also add chana dal.
burra is another popular snack that has found its way from Adivasi cuisine to mass adoption in society. Made from urad dal batter, the little balls are fried and go well with any chutney.
Apart from the regular snacks like dhuska and burra, there are snacks based on the seasons. Popular among these, which are regularly eaten in an Adivasi household, include boiled peanuts, boiled sweet potato, and dry chuda or flattened rice, something that can be chewed while you work, talk, or do other things. thing.
Foods of all times
chilka rotis are pancakes made from rice flour or madua.
peetha is a delicacy that can be enjoyed at different times, including festivities. They are rice/madua/gondli based with vegetarian or non-vegetarian stuffing inside. Steaming and roasting methods are used to cook peethas. Santhali patra or jil peetha are usually meat-based, while kholge or holong peetha (made by Oraons and Mundas) are normally stuffed with gur (jaggery) or dal.
malpuas are made of rice, while in non-Adivasi communities they are made of unhealthy refined wheat (maida).
Marh Jhor/Shukti Jhor is a soup made from fresh or dried herbs/green leafy vegetables (GLV), cooked in starch (preferably red rice) with some spices. It is a year-round adivasi dish and a tasty source of nutrition, eaten in place of dal. The leaves are also sun-dried and ground into a powder and stored for consumption throughout the year.
Popular GLVs used in making Marh Jhor include chakod (Cassia tora), phutkal (Ficus geneculata), kanda saag, katei or sarla saag (Vangueria spinosus).
Chutneys are regular accompaniments on any Adivasi platter. They are made from dried leaves, fresh green leaves, small local crabs or small fish ground on a stone slab along with some spices.
Bharta are mashed items prepared from local fish, dried leaves and fresh GLV and regularly consumed in any Adivasi household.
The Adivasis non-vegetarian food basket is equally diverse. These include micro-food sources like ant eggs, small game as well as large meat. Also on the menu is a wide variety of local fish available in different seasons, usually prepared as a curry or mash. Within the meat category, pork is an important option that is locally available, affordable, and can be raised in tribal habitation.
Bothal Bhaat is a kind of watery rice. It is prepared with freshly cooked rice where portions of starch and water are mixed in equal proportions. It tastes best with traditionally processed red rice. It has a soothing effect on the body and provides all-day energy, even for heavy work in the strong summer sun. It is best eaten with dry saag fries, with potatoes or with bharta, chench bhaji and phutkal chutney.
Doubki Tiyan is a typical Oraon dish where small balls made from urad dal paste are poured into a bubbling curry. Since urad dal is grown locally by the Adivasis, it is the popular choice impulse. Dried leaves cooked with urad dal, for example munga saag prepared with urad dal, is a complete meal. It goes better with pork.
Leto Adivasi cuisine includes a dish called Leto or mixed porridge which is a complete meal in itself. A typical Leto dish in hilly areas consists of mahua cooked with dal and various beans. In different Adivasi communities, several variations of Leto are found.
Handia is a popular alcoholic beverage among the Adivasis of Jharkhand, it is made by
either fermenting rice or madua or both, served with a local herb. It is also called rice beer or rice wine.
It is called Diang in the Kolhan region and, unlike other parts of Jharkhand, here the fermented rice is completely mixed with water, thus serving as a complete meal. It is a stimulant and coolant to help brave the summer sun. The drink is also used in different Adivasi rituals and functions.
Mahua tea is another popular local alcoholic drink, which is made at home from the
flowers from the mahua tree and is eaten as something special during ceremonies, rituals and other family celebrations.
Traditionally, mahua liquor is given to women after giving birth, which keeps them warm, in addition to giving them strength due to the extra iron present in mahua.