The beginnings of this humble dish are deep-rooted in ancient history yet continue to strike the right chord with us till date. Khichdi is like comfort food for me. A plate of this simple rice daal combination with a side of curd and I’m sorted for lunch. This reminds me that Gujaratis too enjoy their khichdi with either curd or a bowl of kadhi. The preparation at my home is generally of a thick yet moist rice dish while there are times when you need to have the semi-liquid version to keep it light for your upset stomach.  Oh yes, another interesting companion for my khichdi, which I have discovered in the last few years is schezwan chutney. A tinge of the chutney mixed with the rice gives a kick, on days when I want to have something spicy but quick to make. 

The hassle-free one pot dish has existed in the foodscape for times immemorial. Wondering why I say that? Well, the earliest mentions of khichdi can be found in several ancient literatures where dishes like krusaranna are quite closely connected to the khichdi recipe. In fact, Indian mythology has featured the khichdi time again and again. Mahabharata describes the food cooked by Draupadi during the exile of Pandavas, which is exactly like khichdi. This takes us back to the 8th and 9th century around which even Lord Krishna had an encounter with khichdi when his friend, Sudama brought potlis of this rice dish to offer to him. 

Deriving its origins from khicca in Sanskrit, it loosely translates into a combination of rice and pulses. There are several references that pop into my head when I think of khichdi. One is the saying, “Kya khichdi pak rahi hai?” which means “What are you planning/upto?” and often, the comedy-drama Khichdi. Then there is moral folklore from the huge collection Akbar Birbal tales which features khichdi too. Legend has it that Birbal used the excuse of making a khichdi in order to make Akbar realize his mistake. Who knew a simple dish like khichdi could actually hold so many meanings?

From travelers like Ibn Batuta to Mughal emperors like Jahangir and Aurangzeb, there was a khichdi to suit every palate. While Jahangir popularized the khichdi as lazeezan, made with green lentils, rice and ghee, it found a place in accounts of Russian and French travelers too, who visited India. Akbar’s Ain-e-Akbari also sheds light on the rich khichdi, flavoured with saffron and spices and loads of nuts. The Nawabs of Awadh were not far behind in sprucing up their rice dal combination by giving it a royal touch. 

Khichdi is largely a vegetarian dish but boiled eggs and fish were a part of Aurangzeb’s royal kitchen’s concoction. Tamil Nadu’s bisi bele bath, Hyderabad’s keema khichdi, Bengal’s bhuni khichuri, Uttarkhand’s Garhwali khichdi and the list is endless. A plethora of renditions are served to us whenever we travel a 100 km. in any direction within the country. The mellow dish has undergone several adaptations, from mild to moderate, and spicy but what remains constant is the comfort of eating a hot bowl of khichdi and feel at home, from anywhere in the world.