The History Of Ladoos, India’s Favourite Celebratory Sweet
Image Credit: Pixabay. The evolution of ladoos began with the spice route and continued through temples, which found it an easy way of distributing prasadam equally.

Whether it’s a baby’s birth or someone celebrating a promotion at work, distributing ladoos has been a practice deeply entrenched in Indian culture. Happy and auspicious occasions are marked by eating and sharing the sweet that has been the country’s go-to treat for everything joyful. 

The origin of ladoos can be traced back to the 4th century BC when an ancient Indian physician named Susruta used the sweet as a medium to feed Ayurvedic medicines to his patients. Susruta used seeds, herbs and other ingredients with medicinal properties in his ladoos. Being sweet, these spherical sweets made it easier for the patients to consume their respective medicines. Some types of ladoos, like those made with sesame seeds and jaggery, were used as a medicine themselves. Both sesame seeds and jaggery are considered healthy as per Ayurvedic principles. They help regulate blood pressure, indigestion and cure common colds. Pregnant women and new mothers in rural areas are fed ladoos to boost their immunity. It is also believed that ladoos were given to teenage girls to help regulate their hormones. Earlier, ladoos were associated with health and not indulgence, and this is what led to the inception of popular ladoos varieties like sonth, methi and makhana.

In his book A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, food historian KT Achaya details the ladoo's importance in regional literature. According to Eastern folklore, an Ayurvedic practitioner’s assistant accidentally dropped ghee in a medicinal concoction and made tiny medallions with the mixture, which was later used as medicine. It is also believed that warriors in the Chola Empire carried ladoos with them as a symbol of good luck. The long shelf-life of ladoos was a bonus since these journeys were long. 

The evolution of ladoos began with the spice route and continued through temples, which found it an easy way of distributing prasadam equally. Gradually, people from different communities started experimenting with ingredients and used whatever was easily available in their region. Thaggu Ke Ladoo, a sweet shop in Kanpur, started selling ladoos of the same name to make people aware of the side-effects of eating sugar during the British Raj. In these ladoos, sesame seeds were swapped for suji, khoya and gond (gond is a type of natural resin that is extracted from the Babul tree). The peculiar name, which translates to ‘cheat’s ladoo’, garnered a lot of attention and the place later became a popular spot. 

A supporter of Gandhi, who believed that sugar was ‘white poison’, the founder of Thaggu Ke Ladoo named them so because he felt betrayed after realising that the sugar he used was introduced by the British and was very unhealthy. Since the sugar could not be replaced, he decided to educate people about the truth by calling his creation ‘Thaggu Ke Ladoo’. However, this creation went on to become the norm and sugar began to be used in the preparation of the sweet across the country. People realised that using sugar instead of jaggery could up the sweetness by three times and there has been no looking back.