Monday, September 8, 2008

What is common between Thai Yellow Curry and North Kerala Yellow Curry?

Or you could ask why the gorgeous looking air hostesses of Malaysian and Singapore airlines wear colorful Lungis. Ever since I ate Thai yellow curry from a neighborhood Thai house for the first time in 1999, I was perplexed by its likeness to North Kerala Thenga Curry and Thanjavur Kulambu (vegetables or sea foods cooked with coconut milk and spices to thick yellow or red gravy). I knew there was some material connection between the lungi clad waitress at the Thai house and the Lungi clad waitress at the local Tea shop in my home town in Northern Kerala, but couldn’t figure out what. After years of sitting on this, I finally decided to dig deep. The boring lessons from school on Chola, Chera and Pandya dynasties of ancient India started resurfacing.

Well, the answer to the mystery might be King Rajendra Chola of Chola dynasty who expanded the Chola kingdom’s influence to include most of South India, part of North India (Bihar and Bengal), Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malay Archipelago (Malay Archipelago constitutes the territories of Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, East Timor, and most of Papua New Guinea) and part of Burma and Thailand. Around 1130 AD (or CE to be politically correct), all these geographic entities were ruled by or under the subordination of the great expansionist and navigator Rajendra Chola.

After this new found information, I stopped wondering why people in Bangladesh wear colorful Lungis just like south Indians. I don’t wonder how Kerala Porotta (bread made of flour and forms circular flakes) is almost the same as the Malaysian porotta stacked next to it in an Indian store. Who would have thought of putting fish in Sambar? Well, I had the opportunity of trying it out during a Malaysian stop over! It is hard to guess if Malay people decided to put fish in Sambar or south Indians decided to replace fish with Brinjal and Okra!

Rajendra Chola expanded the trade route between South India all the way to China. Iron utensils were imported from China almost 1000 years before Walmart did it! Cheena Chatti (deep skillet made of iron) was used by my mother till it was replaced by the non-stick craze of the last 15 years. Trust me; the cheena chatti was the best non-stick ever after it aged a little. Cheena vala (shore operated lift net used for fishing) is part and parcel of every day portraits of Kochi, Kerala. Cheena/Cheeni means China if you don’t know that already. World has always been flat I guess! But the modernity didn’t know until Friedman told it that way. Well, never too late.

The map of Rajendra Chola ruled or subordinated territories. He had established active trade with Mainland China through Malay Archipelago.


Adengappa said...

Very informative posts in your blog :-) I liked most of your blog posts.
Keep writing and take your blogs to wider audience reach.

Sree said...

Thanks for the comments. I hope the blog will attract wider audience via popular search engines like google.