In whichever part of the subcontinent you are living, once you hear ‘Ladoo’ there will be a myriad of images popping in your mind. Admit it, you are already craving for it. Ladoo has become an integral part of our culture, whenever there is an auspicious news, we always buy these dainty sweet treats to celebrate the occasion and distribute them among our family and friends. This unofficial national sweet treat of India has various avatars across the country- Motichur Ladoo or Motichoor Ladoo from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, coconut ladoo from South, Til Ladoo from Assam and iconic Maharashtrian Dinkache Ladoo, are some of the popular variations.

Savouring ladoo in today’s world is quite different from the time it was initially created. As per popular legends, ladoo can be traced back to 300-500 BCE. Interestingly, back in the day, ladoo was consumed as medicine. It is said that Sushruta, ancient Indian physician used to give sweets to his patients as a part of Ayurvedic healing. These dainty sweet balls were easy to keep track of the dose and it also made the patients consume them without much hassle. He used a concoction of medicinal ingredients with rich nutritional benefits like sesame seeds, peanuts and jaggery to make ladoos that we today fondly call ‘Til Ladoo’. Even now this nutritional kind of ladoo is savoured in winters, and also given to new mothers and pregnant women as a means to boost immunity.

The size of the ladoo also made them easy to carry everywhere. For instance, Coconut Ladoo which hails from Southern parts of India is said to have come into existence during chola period. It is believed that these sweet treats came in handy when the kings and soldiers had to travel to far distant lands. That time they used to carry ladoo with them as a part of their diet.

Ladoo’s origin is also connected to our Hindu mythological scriptures, which dates back to Dvapara Yuga (around 3102 BCE).  According to legends, ladoo was a successor of modak, owing to its shape and nectarous taste. Lord Ganesh was said to be so heavily fond of modak that whenever his mother Goddess Parvati used to make them, he'd steal one or two from the plate.

In one of the scriptures, it was mentioned that Lord Krishna’s mother Yashoda, who was Ganesha’s devotee, made her own version of Modak or Ladoo. The sweetmeat was prepared using steamed rice flour dumpling, stuffed with jaggery and coconut shavings. And as per the lore, she often used to tie Lord Krishna’s arms to keep him from stealing these sweet treats.

The roots of modern-day ladoo can also be traced to British Raj. The sugar was introduced into the traditional ladoo mix in the form of crystallization or sugar syrup, and this experiment resulted in the popularity of the sweet. Once it was introduced in the market, it spread like wildfire and masses lapped it up due to its peculiar sweetness. And as they say, the rest is history.