Biriyani is arguably one of the most popular dishes in most of the Indian sub-continent. Although, almost all food-loving human beings crave this delicacy with inhuman frequency, seldom do they delve into the origins of this dish which can be effectively treated as a crossroads of culture and taste and all share almost an individual special bond with biriyani.
Thus it is vital to attempt to trace the origins of biriyani. It is unanimously believed by historians that biriyani originated in central or west Asia. It was brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals invaded India and subsequently started the process of empire building in the sub-continent. They were able to create a cosmopolitan culture where the Mughal culture along with their food habits were accepted into the ‘Indian’ fold.
Many popular stories revolve around the origins of biriyani, the most widely accepted one is, when Mumtaz Mahal, favorite wife of Shah Jahan visited the Mughal army barracks. She noticed that many of the military men there were undernourished. Upon seeing this predicament of the Mughal soldiers, she aimed at correcting this situation and ordered the chef to conjure up a meal with rice and meat. To this was added various spices and saffron.
Gradually as time passed, the idea of biriyani dispersed throughout the country, that is, from north India to the western coast, lower Gangetic plain, Deccan and finally the extreme south. This diffusion explains the modern, regional variants of this dish like Bombay, Lucknawi, Kolkata, Hyderabadi, Bangalorean and the like. Each of these respective dishes comprises a locational speciality added to the main, ‘mother’ dish. For example, the addition of potatoe in the Kolkata Biriyani.
Thus, each time we enjoyably consume this marvellous delicacy which knows no race , religion or even economic status, the dish makes its way to our plates after passing the strands of a rich and interesting history of its own origin