The king who loved to cook

The king who loved to cook

Though history speaks of immense Mughal influence on North Indian dishes, it leaves out the influence of the South Indian king Mangarasa III on Karnataka’s medieval food culture.

King Mangarasa III loved to be a chef. He belonged to the Chengalva dynasty, who were subordinate to Hoysala kings in the 16th-century Karnataka. The king’s palace once stood in the present-day Kallahalli in Hunsur taluk, Mysuru district.

Soopa Shastra is his treatise in Sanskrit. It loosely means the science of cooking. The English word ‘soup’ may have arisen from here.

A good mix

Mangarasa III did not confine himself to the art of cooking but tried to trace the origin of food recipes. To that, he adds a dash of philosophy that ‘we are what we eat’ and ‘that seasons should dictate food choices to ensure good health’.

Soopa Shastra is a poetic work in the Vardhak Shatpadi metre, verses with six lines said late N P Bhat, who was the convener of Dharwad Chapter
of INTACH. He was instrumental in its prose translation from Kannada into English. The chapters are devoted to snacks, drinks, rice dishes, curries and dishes made of bamboo shoots.

For example, Bhat explained that Panakadhyaya, which deals with drinks, speaks of citron-infused curds, sweet bamboo-shoot soft drinks and juices derived from jaggery, sugarcane, coconut, banana, jack fruit, aloe and berries; wheat malt juice, raw as well as buttermilk, soups and so on.

Mangarasa III has also mentioned varieties of cooked rice and classified them as royal, pure, buttered, steamed, etc. And “the preparation of sweet dishes mentioned in the book have been practised in almost every household in South India during festivals and religious rituals,” added Bhat.