THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 25 February 2020 (A wider platter(Indian Express))

A wider platter(Indian Express)

Mains Paper 1:Art and Culture
Prelims level: Historical Gastronomica
Mains level: Key findings about food habits in Harappan Era


  • The National Museum in New Delhi has decided to keep meat out of the ‘Historical Gastronomica’ event that it is hosting on its premises until February 25, allegedly after “a couple of MPs” reacted to the menu posted online by the Ministry of Culture.

Food of Harappans:

  • The event, presented by the Museum along with One Station Million Stories (OSMS), claims to treat visitors to “The Indus dining experience” through a “specially crafted menu that strictly includes ingredients that were identified by archaeologists and researchers from sites of the Indus-Saraswati Civilisation”.
  • However, archaeological evidence from Indus Valley sites (c. 3300 BC to 1300 BC) in present-day India and Pakistan suggests that a purely vegetarian meal will not provide a complete picture of what the Harappan people ate.
  • Apart from meat, the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation grew and ate a variety of cereals and pulses. There is archaeological evidence for cultivation of pea (matar), chickpea (chana), pigeon pea (tur/arhar), horse gram (chana dal) and green gram (moong).
  • Several varieties of wheat have been found at Harappan sites, as well as barley of the two-rowed and six-rowed kinds. There is evidence that the Harappans cultivated Italian millet, ragi and amaranth, as well as sorghum and rice.
  • Food made with many of these ingredients finds a place in the menu curated by OSMS. There are rotis made of millet and saktu (barley meal), and dishes like boiled lentil stew, barley griddle cakes, fermented vine or spinach leaves stuffed with millet, chickpeas and moong, puffed rice tossed and flaxseed tossed with honey, barley bread, brown sesame seed and jaggery laddu, and a drink made of saktu.
  • Condiments use ingredients that have been identified at Indus Valley sites: chickpea and black pepper chutney, cucumber and cumin pickle with sesame oil, mustard greens and sesame oil chutney, and jaggery and cinnamon syrup.

A history of taste:

  • The menu at ‘Historical Gastronomica’ suggests that the food of the Indus Valley people would be familiar to many Indians today, even as it challenges the idea of an essentially “Indian” culinary culture.
  • Many of our staples today — potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, leavened bread, cheese, apples — came to India from other parts of the world.
  • The people of the Indus Valley, as well as those of ancient and most of medieval India, for example, would not have known what to with a potato or a tomato.
  • At the same time, much of what was once eaten by our ancestors has been taken off our plates over time, thanks to cultural and economic forces. Among these foods are a number of animals that were once hunted or reared in the subcontinent.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Neonatal Deaths, consider the following statements:
1. According to the National Health Mission (NHM), Odisha has recorded the highest percentage of newborn deaths in the past three years across the country.
2. The country’s average is 7%.

Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) None of the above

Ans: B
Mains Questions:

Q.1) What did the Harappan people really eat? Discuss.