World Environment Day 2023: 10 Ancient Grains Of India
Image Credit: Unsplash

If you are all about celebrating World Environment Day 2023 by taking a pledge to do your best for Mother Nature and the planet, then preserving the ancient grains of India should be a priority for you. In fact, as a sustainable and eco-conscious goal, this one is very easily done in a country like India. India has forever been the land of diversity, especially where food is concerned—and this is proved by the presence of ancient grains that are revered even today. 

In case you are unaware, ancient grains refer to traditional, heritage, or heirloom varieties of grains that have been cultivated for thousands of years. These grains have been grown and consumed by ancient civilizations and indigenous cultures, forming the basis of their diets. Preserving and cultivating these grains helps maintain genetic diversity in our food system, which is essential for long-term sustainability and adaptation to changing climates. 

But that’s not the only reason why you should preserve ancient Indian grains. Ancient grains are often more nutrient-dense compared to modern, highly processed grains. They can be rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Preserving these grains allows us to access their nutritional benefits and diversify our diets with wholesome, nutrient-rich options. So, preserving ancient grains not only benefits the plant but also your health and wellbeing.  

In India, another aspect is also added to this preservation of ancient grains. Our nation is one that has forever supported agriculture and farmers, especially small-scale farmers from rural India. And farming of ancient grains is something Indian farmers have been doing for centuries now. Ancient grains are typically grown using traditional, low-input farming methods, requiring fewer synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. So, ancient grains are deeply tied to the cultural heritage agricultural legacy and culinary history of India. 

Wondering which Indian grains you should be including in your diet and preserving for posterity? Here is a comprehensive list of ancient Indian grains.  

Video Credit: YouTube/Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana


Bajra, also known as pearl millet, is a widely cultivated millet in India, known for its high nutritional value and versatility. It is used to make rotis, khichdi, and dalia or porridge, especially in North and Western Indian states. Today, you can even try bread and snacks like Khakhra which are made with Bajra. 


Jowar, also known as sorghum, is another popular millet in India, particularly in the Western and Central regions. Like most millets, Jowar flour is also used as a gluten-free alternative. Traditionally used to make rotis and other flatbreads, Jowar is also used as an ingredient in gluten-free baking nowadays. 


Ragi, also known as finger millets, is a nutritious millet that is predominantly grown in the southern regions of India. Ragi is also very popular in parts of North India, like Bihar, where its flour is used during ritual fasts. This millet is a rich source of calcium and iron and is used to make rotis, dosas, idlis, porridge, and even desserts. 


Samai, also known as Samak and Little Millets, is a small, gluten-free millet with a mild flavor. Grown across North and Central India, this little grain is used as a sattvik ingredient during ritual Hindu fasts. It is used in the preparation of kheer, pulao, khichdi, and as a substitute for rice in various recipes. 

Kodo Millet 

Kodo millet is a highly nutritious grain that has gained popularity in recent years due to its health benefits. Mostly grown in the Deccan region as well as the foothills of the Himalayas, this one is a favourite among indigenous tribes of India. It is used in the preparation of khichdi, upma and a variety of other dishes. 

Foxtail Millet 

Foxtail millet, colloquially known as Kangani, is one of the oldest cultivated millets in the world. In India, it is grown mainly in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and in a small extent in the northeast states of India. It is used in the preparation of a wide range of savoury and sweet dishes. 

Barnyard Millet

Barnyard millet, also known as Khalihan Bajra, is a gluten-free grain that is widely consumed in India. A lighter version of pearl millets, the flour and grains of this one are also widely used to make dishes like khichdi, porridge, and even kheer. 


Although technically a pseudocereal, amaranth has been a part of Indian cuisine for centuries. Celebrated as Rajgira, a sattvik grain, amaranth is used extensively during and beyond Hindu festivals. It is rich in protein and is used to make rotis, porridge, and even laddoos. 

Proso Millet

Proso millet, also known as common millet or Punarva Bajra, is an ancient grain that has been grown in India since ancient times. Though not as widely grown or used as before, this nutritious millet is making a comeback these days. It is a versatile grain that can be used in a variety of dishes, including khichdi, pulao, and even as a rice substitute. 

Wild Rice

Wild rice is a group of grass species that grow in wetland areas, particularly in the Northeastern region of India. It is known for its distinct flavor and is used in traditional dishes like Joha rice in Assam. Dark brown or black in colour, this one can be used to make vibrant rice dishes like pulao.