Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chakla Baran - Notes and references so far

'Chakla' is a small round platform usually made of marble or wood, the 'belan' is a wooden rolling pin; the two are used to roll out the dough to make various Indian breads such as chapattis, paratha, bhatura, poori and roti.
The above dough based staples make the chakla belan indispensible in an Indian kitchen. Modern electronic versions are available, one known as a Roti Maker, which combine the chakla, belan and tava (used to cook the breads). However most households still use the traditional utensils of chakla and baran.

When doing this research (so far) the lack of information is rather strange. Past a basic definition there is hardly any publicly accessible information on the origins of these kitchen utensils. So below is a compilation of notes and further references to continue with.

History of related food types:
Chapatti is so common throughout South Asia and parts of Africa that in first internet searching I can filter very little useful information, except that they are related to many languages (Hindi, local dialects and Urdu; Urdu suggests the ancient origins of the utensils).
"The paratha was conceived in ancient north India but it is unclear which particular north Indian cuisines actually inspired it. Its origin is likely to have been a result of several influences (Sindhi, Punjabi, Garhwali, Bihari, Bengali and so on)." []

Origins of Chakla Baran
Within history ( state utensils fall into a category of "important and virtually unknown archaeological remains of the Indus Valley civilization (2600-1900 B.C.). The ancient technologies of Harrapan culture are different to other civilisations of the time(Egypt etc). "These differences can be attributed to the fact that each civilization evolved from local cultures which have roots extending back to the earliest Neolithic farming and pastoral communities, dating in Pakistan and India to around 6500B.C." [].

According to the Infinity Foundation the chakla belan originated in the Harrapan era, or even before. Harrappa existed around 3300BC lasting until 1600BC within what now is Punjab and was part of the Indus Valley and Cemetery H civilisations [wikipedia]. This civilisations were highly organised and were centred in regional cities and towns around crossroads and rich agricultural areas. Farmers were cultivating wheat and barley as early as 6500BC which suggests that these were staple food items and would have had to be prepared in some manner that may have included early forms of the Chakla Baran. The spread of the technology would have been helped by the large trade networks within the Indus Valley civilisation and later with Aryans (to the rest of India).

Problems of History
The Infitinity Foundation are a group who are looking to create an encyclopedia of Indian Science & Technology in response to a belief that "intellectual repositioning has not yet been achieved for India, which is still depicted based on the “caste, cows and curry” images too often. Indian culture is frequently depicted as being mystical in the sense of being irrational, and in lacking a sense of advancement in the material plane of society." []
This lack of a formulated history of culture, objects, methods, changes and consistencies really does present a problem within this project. The greater implications are the impact on identity and culture today, particularly in the age of globalisation and a rapidly changing face of India.

Further references to look up are:
Kenoyer, J.M., 1997, Trade and Technology of the Indus Valley: New insights from Harrappa Pakistan, World Archaeology, 29(2), pp. 260-280, High definition archaeology
Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark (1991). "The Indus Valley tradition of Pakistan and Western India". Journal of World Prehistory 5: 1–64. doi:10.1007/BF00978474.
Library of Congress: Country Studies. 1995. Harrappan Culture. Retrieved 13 January 2006.
Rau, Santha Rama and the Editors of Time-Life Books. 1969. The Cooking of India. Time-Life Books, New York. TIME-LIFE BOOKS, New York.
Barer-Stein, Thelma. 1999. You EatWhat You Are. A FireFly Book, [GT 2850 .B371 1999]

1 comment:

Suchitra said...

Philippa, like I said to the 'oven group' above, you have made a start. You have also rightly identified the lack of a formulated history - this is why we are doing this exercise because as a group we hope to work towards a formulated history where, apparently, none exists. Why it does not exist is also a question.

I think it might help to actually interview people because published material is scarce. Talk to older people on campus for a start. Interview hotel owners and shopkeepers selling things like the 'roti maker'.Try to identify the time at which these devices started appearing and what 'need' they were responding to. My guess is that they started appearing in the late 70s - early 80s when women started going out to work and needed mechanisation to get the job over with quickly. Also retaurants which needed to make large quantities of rotis. With human labour being cheap in India, such devices have been late inventions and not very successful. Also people are finicky about their rotis!

Also look at who were the entrpreneurs who developed these devices. Shop keepers selling kitchen appliances would be able to help.

You might want to visit Akshay Patra (they have a website) which supplies lunches to government schools they have a machine to make rotis. This place is in Gandhinagar and I will try to get a contact number when we meet on Wednesday morning.

Look at Achaya's book on the history of Indian food - you might get some clues. I have put it out in the library along with a pile of books for this course. Look at the bibliography of the book for more references.