Indian Food Names and some Sound Connections

Similarities across the states, borders and continents.. What’s in a name?

Sujatha R
7 min readAug 13, 2020

India is famous for its diverse and delicious cuisine. From sweets, savories to piping hot breakfasts and wholesome fresh meals, it offers a myriad options that have been hand crafted and passed generation to generation. cluster visualisation

It must have been an evolution of sorts.. Local and seasonal foods combined with the influence of neibhouring lands and far off migrations. The food names and connections reveal the magical dairies of travel.

If you are a foodie or have tasted cooked different cuisines of India or simply love classification or linguistics.. Welcome to the culinary aisles of India and let me know what you think of this classification. It is a thick maze over there and my attempt in clustering a few foods.

Rice stories around the world..

Anna literally refers to food. Annaprasanna marks the Baby’s Big Day of eating solid food for the first time. And Anna Daatha Sukhi Bhava the adage saying showing gratitude to the food providers.

Be it simply Anna or the tangy Chitra-anna rice of Karnataka.. The ever satiating curd rice called as Perugu annam in Andhra.. Anna is the primodial food in India and needs no introduction.

Interestingly Annam meaning rice, food also means ‘matter’ in Sanskrit.. The physical dimension of our existence is called as Annamaya Kosha in the Yoga Books.

After beginning with annam, lets us navigate to the baath series.

Bisi-bele-baath is an wholesome dish from Karnataka which translates to ‘hot lentil rice’ and is enjoyed with a savory mix of Chips or Mixture. It is said to have origins from the Mysore palace. Karnataka is has other dishes in this line..the brinjal rice Vangi-baath, kaara-baath and Bisi-bele-baath.

Interestingly, cooked rice is called batto in Orissa and baath in Kashmir. Seeing so many connections in cooked rice and baath, I digged in.. An expert shared.. Sanskrit भक्तं is cooked rice.

Bashp baap in Sanskrit is ‘steam’ and perhaps that explains Bengal’s bhaapa doi.. steamed yogurt

bisibelebath & korean bibim baap

Moving to the Eastern part of the world in Korea. They seem to enjoy rice just like Indians and it is seen in their kim-baap rolls and bibim-baap bowl.

A very popular dish, Bibim-baap steam rice bowl is topped with assorted vegetables, egg and meat. See the baap connection here? bibim sounded like vibinn meaning ‘medley’ and apparently that is the meaning.

In Telugu, rice grain is called vari. I was wondering what could be the connection with rice as its neiboring states were not using this word vari.

Vari is another name for water in Sanskrit. Aavari is steam.. Perhaps rice is a water crop and hence this name?

The famous Sanskrit researcher Nilesh Oak ji comments on this article on the rice connection.

vrIhi meaing rice can be seen as root for Tamil word for rice, vari as rice in Andhra and in Maharashtra vari is a special type of rice like grain that is used in lieu of rice on fasting days.

Navigating to the Indian Breads -Rotis & Pooris

North India goes by the humble Roti and Parata is the more layered, oiled and stuffed version of Roti. It is easy to connect to its Sanskrit versions rotika and pra-rotika. Karnataka dishes akki rotti, ragi rotti, jolada rotti are perhaps from this line.

Poori when deep fried is full of steam and puffs up. And same with Phulka when heated over the flame. And pulav RICE blooms up. These words instantly connect to the Sanskrit ‘Poorna’ ‘pulla’ meaning full, puffup

The Maharashtrian sweet Puran-poli with the sweet filling inside and pul-wadi fritters seem to be in this family of stuffing and puffing.

What do you think of ‘fal-a-fal’? Not what google tells but your intuition?

Let us indulge in some Fryed Stuff..

In Sanskrit, ‘barjan’ means to fry or roast.Seems like so many dishes have inherited this sound.

South India is known for its lip smacking Mirchi Bhajji where the chillies are stuffed, dipped in batter and deep fried. Pav Bhaji is a famous street food of Maharashtra where the roasted bhaji curry is paired with the pav bread. And the scrambled egg and scrambled paneer fry is called egg bhurji, paneer bhurji.

Travelling to the eastern part, In orissa bhojja is stir fried vegetables. In the Northern land of Kashmir, bazz-baath is fried rice. See the barj connection in these dishes?

Let us look at the popular dish Biriyani. Biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian, which means ‘fried before cooking’ and Birinj, the Persian word for rice.

Interestingly in North Karnataka, Biriyani is still referred as Birinj. And it seems to be related the Sanskrit root ‘Barj’ which means to fry.

After hearing about Kashmiri bazz-baath, makes me feel bisi of bisi-bele-bath could be remotely related to bazz and hence meaning hot..

The Fine Stuff

In Sanskrit, ‘chinn’ is to cut and split and and ‘churna’ is powder.

Orissa is famous for its traditionally baked chenna-poda cakes and the caramelised slow cooked chenna-goja. Both the sweets are made with the broken paticulated milk called chenna in orissa and paneer otherwise. Cheese from here?

The kitchen is incomplete without its tools and knives that help in slicing out the veggies. In Hindi, the kitchen knife is is choori, the peel of vegetables is chilka and mango powder is called amchoor. And filtering is chann.

Chilas are the dosa like crepes from the North. Perhaphs thin like chilka peel. See the ch connection here?

The Essence & Purity

Ayurveda celebrates Kichdi as the comfort food. Called as kechari in Sanskrit and Kashmiri which literally translates to elixir.

Rasa means essence or juice. While Rasagolla is a juicy sweet from Bengal, the South Indian Rasam is a piping hot stew made with the rasa of tomatoes.

And Chaaru or Saaru of karnataka and Andhra meaning saar or essence is a tangy broth tempered with spices.

‘Pak’ means purity and cooking. While pakoda is a fried fritter, paakwaans are cooked food.. Mysore pak is a honey comb like porous structure made with besan, sugar syrup and decadant pouring of ghee. Could Bak-lava be in this line?


And the names that perhaps do not tie in to Sanskrit Roots

Fried Nipattu

Arisi in Tamil for rice, Arisilu a telugu sweet cake made with rice and rice seem to have a connection. Nileshji quotes..

This same root of Vari is seen at the base of Arros in Spanish, Rice in English and so on. Riso in Italian, (as in risotto) and oryza in latin.

To my naked ears, it sounds little close and not very close.. vari and arisi.. Is the compass of Sanskrit and Tamil spinning here??

While wada is a popular fritter deep fried in oil, wadiyalu are sun dried mini cakes in Andhra. Bakarwadi foolwadi and maaswadi are small savories in Maharashtra.

While Dosa is the global dish and perhaps a tamil name, it is called as attu in Telugu. Nipattu are mini fried dosa like snacks.

The buttery Davangiri benna dosa is venna in Telugu. There seems some connection in appadalu of telugu, appalam in tamil and pappad of North.

I was thinking about connections in Brinjal names in different languages..

Vaangi Vankaya Vang Vaangan in Marathi Kannada, Telugu, Kashmiri..

Baingan in Oriya Hindi

Badingan, Badnekaaya in Persian Kannada.

Persian badingan, Arabic Albadingan, Spanish Albarangena, French Albergine to the current Aubergine..all come from the Sanskrit root..

Vatingan, vaangan, vaang that which causes vaatha dosha..

Groundnuts in senagakaaya in telugu and shenga podi is groundnut powder in kannada and marathi.

Lentils are called pappu in Telugu and parupu in Tamil. Kattu is water of dal in Telugu.. And called as kat in Kannada and Marathi. UKkinchidam is steam cooking in Telugu Kannada Marathi

It is amazing to see the name connections across the globe. A linguistic globe trotter indeed.. Food, Customs and Languages are like living fossils having a lot of stories to share..

Makes me feel sesame could be connected to sasyam.. Sasya shyaamala of VandeMataram..

In Kathopanishad, Nachiketha tells this after seeing the fallacy of his father..

sasyamiva martyaḥ pacyate sasyamivājāyate punaḥ

Mortal man withers like the fruits of the field and like the fruits of the field he is born again



Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns