Origin and History of Rice in India

Origin and History of Rice in India

India is an important center of rice cultivation. The rice harvesting area in India is the world's largest.

The two major rice varieties grown worldwide today are Oryza sativa indica and Oryza sativa japonica. According to research studies, they owe their origins to two independent events of domestication thousands of years ago.

Historians believe that while the indica variety of rice was first domesticated in the area covering the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas (i.e. north-eastern India), stretching through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Southern China, the japonica variety was domesticated from wild rice in southern China which was introduced to India before the time of the Greeks. Chinese records of rice cultivation go back 4000 years.

The earliest remains of cultivated rice in the sub-continent have been found in the north and west and date from around 2000 BC. Perennial wild rices still grow in Assam and Nepal. It seems to have appeared around 1400 BC in southern India after its domestication in the northern plains. It then spread to all the fertile alluvial plains watered by rivers. Cultivation and cooking methods are thought to have spread to the west rapidly and by medieval times, southern Europe saw the introduction of rice as a hearty grain. Some says that the word rice is derived from the Tamil word arisi.

Rice is first mentioned in the Yajur Veda (c. 1500-800 BC) and then is frequently referred to in Sanskrit texts. In India there is a saying that grains of rice should be like two brothers, close but not stuck together. Rice is often directly associated with prosperity and fertility, hence there is the custom of throwing rice at newlyweds. In India, rice is always the first food offered to the babies when they start eating solids or to husband by his new bride, to ensure they will have children. .