Ayurveda defines churna as powdered herbs or minerals. The herbs are cleaned, dried and powdered for churna.
If you’ve grown up in India, chances are that you’ve grown up eating Fatafat, anardana goli and ram laddu. These tiny, tangy, sometimes spicy balls can be described as Indian candy. Churan is meant for a palate that likes spice and the flavour that Indians call ‘chatpata’.
The word churan comes from ‘churna’, which is a Sanskrit word that means powder. Ayurveda defines churna as powdered herbs or minerals. The herbs are cleaned, dried and powdered for churna. Triphala is a great example of a healing churna and is made with the fruits of medicinal plants like bibhitaki, haritaki and amla. It is used to treat everything from a bad stomach to dental cavities. Bibhitaki has anti-inflammatory properties, haritaki (called ‘the king of medicines’ in Ayurveda) has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and amla is high in vitamin C.
Ayurvedic principles believe that humans have a particular personality type based on their doshas or inner life energies. Prakriti is the human make-up at the time of birth and vikruti is what exists now because of life experiences, stresses, imbalances and external influences. Churnas are usually used to treat these imbalances and include all six of the Ayurvedic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. They can even be added to food. Churnas are known to improve the taste of dishes and also add nutritional value, bringing out the medicinal qualities of food. To be able to reap maximum benefit, it is recommended that Ayurvedic churnas be sauteed in ghee. Brands like Baidyanath produce Ayurvedic churna for everything from immunity to cardiac care.
While churnas like Triphala are eaten for its health benefits, most people eat other churan like anardana goli and ram laddu for taste. Fatafat is an Ayurvedic preparation too, meant to aid digestion, but is eaten more like a candy because it’s so tasty. Those who grew up in the 80s and 90s might remember going to their local kirana store just to buy packets of Fatafat. Stashed along with chocolates and packets of chips, the orange and black packets stood out amongst everything else. Marketed as ‘Ayurvedic digestive pills’, the black balls are salty, sweet and sour. They contain salt, sugar, ajwain, cumin and amchoor are high in nostalgic value.
Other brands like Alka Foods also make tasty churan like Chatar Matar and Aam Chaska tablets. Established by Pritam Dass Gera, who was born in Multan and then migrated to India during partition, the company also makes candy and lollipops.
Some schools in India even had vendors selling churan and students looked forward to the end of their classes so they could buy packets of these addictive balls. Churan is something to look forward to after a meal, or even something to munch on whilst watching a favourite TV show. India’s love for churan hasn’t died despite the fact that imported candy now dominates the market. It’s a reminder of the days that have gone by, and also of the country’s culture.