History of Idli

A Treasure of South Indian Cuisine

21 May '24
3 min read


History of Idli: A Treasure of South Indian Cuisine

The popular steamed rice cake **idli** has become a staple of South Indian cooking. Served with spicy sambar or coconut chutney, idli is a popular morning dish that has won over people's hearts and stomachs all over the world. However, where did this delicious cuisine come from? Now let's explore the fascinating "birth story" of idli.


 Ancient Roots and Mysterious Beginnings

1. **Indonesia's Influence**: **Indonesia** is where idli originated between the **seventh and twelfth centuries**, according to noted nutritionist, culinary historian, and scientist **K. T. Achaya**. Hindu rulers controlled Indonesia at this time, and they regularly travelled to India for religious celebrations and other special occasions. During these royal travels, the food **"kedli"** or **"kedari"** may have been introduced to India. It's interesting how the Indonesian link raises questions about the origins of idli.

2. **Arab Influence**: According to a different belief, **Arabs** may have contributed to the introduction of idli to India. After arriving in India, the Arabs mostly ate **Halal dishes** and a rice ball with chutney made from coconut. This idea emphasises the various cultural contacts that shaped Indian food, even if it lacks conclusive proof.


# Historical Allusions and Development

1. **Early Mentions**: Hints of idli can be found in ancient literature. **"iddalige"**, a forerunner to idli, is mentioned in the Kannada prose work **"Vaddaradhane"** from the seventh century. It is made exclusively with a batter made of black grammes. In the same way, idli is mentioned in the Tamil work **"Periya Puranam"** from the tenth century.

2. **Traders and Temples** : It is said that in the **tenth century**, **traders from Saurashtra** brought idli to South India. Amid the chaos following **Muhammad of Ghazni's attack on the renowned Somnath temple**These traders delivered the dish. Trying to give the Gods something different and tasty, the temple cooks came up with what is today known as **Kanchipuram Idli**. **Kanchipuram** in Tamil Nadu is the name of this historical variant, which had its start in the famous **Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal temple.


World Idli Day: Honoring a Universal Delight

Idli continues to be the most popular South Indian cuisine in the world despite having several different origin myths. We celebrate **World Idli Day** on **March 30th**, a day that was started by well-known idli caterers in Chennai. Eniyavan, a food aficionado, paid homage to this tasty and nourishing breakfast staple in 2015 by cooking an incredible **1,328 types of idli**. He even made an enormous **44-kg idli**, which was ceremoniously cut by a government official, ensuring that March 30 would always be remembered as a day to celebrate the legacy of idli.

Thus, keep in mind the intriguing journey of idli—from ancient Indonesia to your breakfast plate—the next time you relish a light, fluffy dish. Idli is certainly a global delight that knows no geographical bounds!

Ah, idli, vada, and sambar – a delightful South Indian breakfast combination!

  • Idli: Soft, fluffy rice cakes made from fermented rice and lentil batter. They’re steamed to perfection and served with coconut chutney or sambar.
  • Vada: Crispy, savory doughnuts made from urad dal (black gram) batter. They’re deep-fried and often enjoyed with coconut chutney or sambar.
  • Sambar: A flavorful lentil-based stew with vegetables, tamarind, and aromatic spices. It’s the perfect accompaniment for idli and vada.



1. World Idli Day: Is the most popular South Indian dish. (Onmanorama Food)

2. Idli - Wikipedia

3. All About Kanchipuram Idli: The Historic Dish From Tamil Nadu (Times Now News)

4. Picture source  Microsoft bing


Category:Food and Cooking


Written by Kumaraswamy S