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Samosa…

As I finished my lecture at India Habitat Centre, a person approached me and congratulated me for the way I presented the history of Delhi. He gave me many points and asked if I would like to dive deeper into the history and try to find out the history of every single locality of Delhi. While we were talking, he gave many pointers to work on, one of which caught my immediate attention. This person, named Nataranjan Bohidar (Roni) wrote me this:

Pythagoras_in_Thomas_Stanley_History_of_PhilosophyThe Greek influence in India is to be sought in the fact that the greatest mathematician of 3-d triangles, the father and inventor of TRIGONOMETRY, was Pythagoras…and he comes form the Greek town of Samos, which is the name that we still call the Samosa by …and the
samosa by shape must be  a  tribute to this 3-dimensional genius, PYTHAGORAS ! What are the chances it came to India from Greece …what
are the chances Pythagoras born 150 years in Samos before Alexander, was well known to the military commander and his Generals introduced samosa to Alexandrias all over the world  and so too to Sikanderpur?

Note: India-Pakistan has multiple towns with name Sikanderpur. These are the territories given to nobles of Alexander (locally known as Sikander) after Alexander’s alleged victory over India, who established townships and named after him.

This made me thinking, is really my favourite snack an instrument to learn the 3-Dimensional triangle.

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A quick search on Wikipedia revealed that the word Samosa can be traced to Persian word sanbosag. In Arab countries, the name changed to Sanbusak or Sanbusaj. Afghanis call it Sambosa and Tajakistan knows it by name Samboosa. Turkic speaking nations call it Samsa and Portuguese speakers call it chamuça.

Samosa is a triangular fried pastry with savory filling within a finely milled wheat flour. In its initial days, Samosa was filled with ground lamb, beef or chicken. However in India, Potatoes cooked with onion, peas and spices is filled. It got associated with Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Period (16th century). It has been an important snack prepared in the royal kitchen. Interestingly, there is also a building in Akbar’s capital Fatehpur Sikir, which goes by the name “Samosa Mahal”. It got its name due to its 3 sides. This triangular palace with multiple rooms and a small gusal-khana was built for one of the nobles of Akbar’s court. Name of this noble is no longer known. The landscape of this building has changed slightly with time.

Pythagoras-MünzOldest written reference of Samosa is by Abolfazl Beyhaqi (995 AD – 1077 AD), an Iranian historian, who mentioned about it in his work Tarikh-e-Beyhaghi. This work is the most authentic account of Ghaznavid empire, which was spread from Iran to Afghanistan (including parts of Pakistan and India). Based on this account, researchers deduced that the Samosa originated somewhere in Middle East before 10th century. It should be noted that this land was part of Ancient Greece till 7th-8th Century. The island of Samos, from where Pythagoras came is situated to the immediate west of this mainland Abolfazi talked about. We know that Pythagoras was very famous in this region because we get his image and work depicted on coins from 3rd century.

Some claim that Samosa was introduced in India by traders from Middle East in 13th or 14th century. Hazrat Amir Khusrow, the famous sufi mystic, poet and disciple of Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya (ra), who also worked as the royal poet in the court of Slave emperors wrote in 14th century about Samosa, prepared with meat, ghee and onion. Ibn-i-Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveller, who visited India during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq wrote about a small triangular patty, which he calls Sambusak (the name Samosa is known by in Arabia, from where Battuta came). He says that Sambusak is stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachio, walnuts and spices, was served before the third course, of pulao.

In 16th century, Akbar’s minister Abu’l Fazl ibn Mubarak wrote a complete account of Akbar’s administration, known as Ain-i-Akbari (Constitution of Akbar). He mentions the recipe for Qutab, which he says, the people of Hindustan call Sanbusah.

While samosa originally started with a filling of minced meat and became popular as a potato filled pastry, there have always been experiments with it. These days shops across the globe serve samosas filled with various items like macroni, pasta, noodles, cottage cheese, cauliflower, meat, mushroom, peas, and almost everything else that can be eaten. Interestingly, the most popular filling of Samosa, Potato is also not from India. It originated in Peru somewhere between 8000 and 5000 BC. Like potato, many other common food items that we consume in India were traded into the subcontinent.

I will now stop writing and head to my nearest Samosa shop. Time to pay tribute to Pythagoras.

Bon Appetite!!!

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12 thoughts on “Samosa…

  1. manvinder kaur on said:

    we paid tribute to Pythagoras in the afternoon..great article!
    And what was your lecture on..just inquisitive..

  2. fantastic writing and research…

  3. Awsome post with so much of research…..samosas are my fav…keep posting with more….

  4. nataranjan "roni" bohidar on said:

    don’t get taken in by arab & persian traders…they were the go-between india and the west/europe for a very very long time…contributing to the mysterious orient in the minds of the west/europeans and the unfathomable west/europeans in the minds of the orient…this mystification kept prices up on both sides and helped the middle to make a neat profit…this is how commerce works …you sing songs about commodities…it’s called advertising in the modern world…give new names..turn them into brands…and no consumer can get into the intricacies of the package…so, the various names given to the “samosa package” are just that… names modified to mystify…because this helped to mark-up prices…and you couldn’t get to the source/bottom of it… this was suspected by the europeans for very very long…they knew they were paying very high prices for the spices and incense and myrrh from the east/orient…so, they tried very very hard to control the trade routes..and get to the source …to keep prices down…alexander’s land route conquer and domination was one such attempt..before the sea routes opened …and the europeans got to india rounding the cape of good hope…once that was discovered there were huge wars fought by the europeans to control that route..until the suez canal broke the power of trading around the southern tip of africa…more coming you way…what are the chances that the city/town/village of samos was already making 3-d (for delicious,too) packages before pythags was born …and he learnt/discovered his theorem from the local inhabitants of his loving town that he later left to go live somewhere in italy? what chances? let’s explore, vikramjit!

  5. nataranjan 'roni' bohidar on said:

    it’s called “informational asymmetricity” : it is difficult for buyer/government to acquire correct information on the reliability/cost of new products/
    technologies even though it is well known that informational asymmetricity exists (some economists have a Nobel Prize for this !)! this can apply to histories and heritage where entrenchment in one bias/prejudice or the other can cause the asymmetricity to perpetuate and fester for thousands of years …without any attempt at correction…because of another reason : the cohort effect, gene-rationally engendered and passed on generation to generation, such that forgetfulness becomes an internalized habit ! more about that later…but the idea here is to think outside the given paradigm, which Vikramjit is trying to do, without knowing it perhaps, urging us to demand out-of-the-box strategies of historical research & civilizational record keeping !keep it up, folks & HAPPY NEW YEAR of questions, queries, discussions,investigations,insights on HERITAGE IN A DEMOCRACY WITHIN A CONTINUUM, that is India !

  6. NATARANJAN 'RONI' BOHIDAR on said:

    I’M GLAD I WAS PRESENT AT PUSHPY’S DELHI FOOD PIECE ORGANISED BY YOU TO CURIO-QUIZ HIM ABOUT THE “DNA OF THE SAMOSA” ! HE WAS ONCE, BEFORE HE BECAME A FOODIE, THE EXTERNAL CONDUCTOR OF THE NIE (NEWSPAPER IN EDUCATION PROGRAMME IN SCHOOLS )THAT I RE-LAUNCHED, ACTUALLY RE-POSITIONED , AT THE TOI AKA TIMES OF INDIA IN THE LATE 80’S…

    BUT MY FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS OF THE ORIGINS, TRAVELS AND TRAVAILS OF THE SAMOSA ,PENDING STUDY OF DURIS THE TYRANT OF SAMOS (BCE 350 – 281 ) AND THE ONE WORK OF ATHENAEUS OF NAUCRATIS ( BCE 200) THE ‘DEIPNOSOPHISTS’ THAT TRANSLATES AS ‘THE GASTRONOMES’ AND CHATS ABOUT FOOD , DRINKS, CABBAGES AND KINGS OF THE GREEK ERA, HERE IS WHAT I FIND THAT SHOWS OUR HUGE CONNECTION WITH ANCIENT GREECE…

    WHAT IS AMAZING IS THAT IN INDIA IT IS BELIEVED THE SAMOSA CAME FROM THE PERSIANS AND IS CALLED “SAMBHUKA”…AS PUSHPY ALSO BELIEVES…

    WELL, THIS IS MOST INTERESTING…BECAUSE, SAMBHUKA IS THE NAME OF TWO GREEK GREATS…IT IS A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT IN GREECE … STRINGED MUSICAL INSTRUMENT… AND IF PYTHAGORAS’ TRIGONOMETRY MAY HAVE BEEN TRIGGERED BY THE SAMOSA BEING MADE BY ALL AND SUNDRY IN SAMOS AT HOME AND OUTSIDE, WAGERA WAGERA…WELL, HIS MUSICAL GENIUS MAY HAVE BEEN TRIGGERED BY THE SAMBHUKA…OR STRINGED INSTRUMENTS PLAYED ALL AROUND IN AND OUT .

    PYTHAGS AS YOU ALL KNOW ALSO CAME UP WITH THE GENIUS IDEA OF FREQUENCY RATIOS (STRING LENGTH RATIOS WITH EQUAL TENSION) HAVE MATHEMATICAL RELATIONSHIP. .

    NOW , SAMBHUKA IS ALSO THE NAME FOR A GREEK DRINK THAT IS SIMILAR TO OUZO … WHITE CLEAR LIQUID … MADE FROM ANEES…ANISEED… SAUNF…

    SO, SAMBHUKA,
    FOR {1.} MUSIC ,
    FOR [2.] DRINK AND
    FOR [{3.}] FOOD, SAMOSAS…WOW!

    THAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT COMBO FOR FUN AND JOY OF LIVING ..WHICH THE GREEKS WERE KNOWN FOR (DIONYSUS = BACCHUS = BACCHANALIA) …THEY WERE ALSO SERIOUS SCIENTISTS…THINKERS…YOU CAN’T DO ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER! I CAN HEAR THE GREEK PHILOSOPHERS HAVING A REAL LAUGH AT THIS ONE!

    BUT HERE IS WHAT I FOUND MORE AS I EXPLORED AS ABOVE: THE GREEKS ALSO LOVED RICE…A BASIC FOOD AND INGREDIENT AS IT IS IN ODISHA … WHERE WE CALL IT “BHATA”… ‘BHA’ AS IN ‘VAA’ …AND ‘TA’ AS IN ‘THAW’ …COOKED RICE , THAT IS …WHEREAS WHAT WE CALL IT IN NORTH INDIA , CHAWAL, IS ACTUALLY UNCOOKED RICED IN ODISHA …

    NOW, THE CAPITAL OF SAMOS IS VATHA! HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT!!

    FOOD SAMBHUKA/SAMOSA, DRINK SAMBHUKA/OUZO, MUSIC SAMBHUKA/LYRE… POTATO WRAP SAMOSA, KEEMA SAMOSA, POTATO WRAP DOSA, KEEMA DOSA, DOSA WRAP MADE OF RICE / VAATHA & LENTILS, WITH OUZO, AND GUITAR, ANYONE? SAMBHUKA, SAMBHUKA, SAMBHUKA!

    HOPE PUSHPY IS READING THIS ….

  7. NATARANJAN RONI BOHIDAR on said:

    ODE TO A GRECIAN EARN!

    THE GREEKS HAVE ACTUALLY VOTED ‘NO’ TO AUSTERITY AND SINGLED-OUT DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST THEM BUT THAT JUST COULD MEAN THEY HAVE VOTED ‘YES’ FOR ISOLATION AND , WELL, MORE PERNICIOUS AUSTERITY, PERHAPS SANCTIONS!

    NEVER HAS THERE BEEN A CONUNDRUM INDULGING SO HEAVILY IN ARGUMENTS ON BOTH SIDES RELYING ON MULTIPLE SIGNIFICATIONS OF A SINGLE WORD, ‘NO’ AND ITS COMPANION OPPOSITE ‘NO’; RARELY EXPERIENCED THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA MORE SHARPLY PIERCING ; A SCYLLA & CHARYBDIS MORE CONSTRICTING, AND A MORE DEADLY COMBO OF IRONY AND OXYMORON TO SPELL THIS GREEK TRAGEDY OF MODERN TIMES… ALL THESE OF GREEK ORIGIN…APPLIED BACK TO GREECE …

    A STUNNING LINGUISTIC BOOMERANG…A VOCAMBULATION, IF YOU LIKE …THAT MUST WARN US ALL THAT THE LANGUAGE WE ORIGINATE, THE MYTHS WE PERPETUATE WILL COME BACK TO US …NAY, ARE WITHIN US AND WE KEEP ON PLAYING OUT THE SAME STORIES THAT WE TEL, OURSELVES AND THE WORLD !

    SO, WHAT WILL BE THE DENOUEMENT?

    WHO IN THE END WILL BE DISMEMBERED? WHOSE BODY BLOOD BONES SCATTERED ACROSS THE GREEK NATION? TO REJUVENATE THIS ANCIENT CIVILIZATION, BRING HEALTH BACK TO A SCORCHED AND VEXED POPULATION? THERE IS NOT A MONARCH IN SIGHT…NO KING IN A DEMOCRACY! THE PAIN IS POISED TO BE EVENLY DISTRIBUTED…BRACE UP, WORLD…HERE’S ANOTHER LESSON THE GREAT TEACHERS PHILOSOPHERS SCIENTISTS WARRIORS WRITERS DRAMATISTS OF GREECE ARE PLANNING TO TEACH THE WORLD….

    THE CYCLICAL ANTI-NATURE OF A GLOBAL ECONOMY WHERE YOU MUST CONSUME MORE THAN YOU CAN PAY FOR…THIS THAT GOES ROUND MUST SURELY COME BACK ! TIME & AGAIN & TIME & AGAIN …..SO YOU MUST RUN & RUN BEFORE IT CATCHES UP WITH YOU … OLYMPICS, ANYONE? ECONOMICS OF THE ‘CUT TO THE CHASE’!

    AND YET MANY BELIEVE THIS IS ALL ABOUT DEBT CANCELLATION…
    THE GREEK CASE IS THAT THE EUROPEAN UNION-EURO-EURO BANKS HAVE BEEN PERFORMING POORLY OTHERWISE AND SO THEY HAVE PILED LOAN ON LOAN ON INTEREST ON LOAN ON GREECE TO SHOW EARNINGS AND A HEALTHY BALANCE SHEET…

    SO, THEY CANNOT LET GREECE GO … THEY CANNOT LET GREECE DEFAULT…. THEY WILL HAVE TO COME TO A COMPROMISE TO CONTINUE TO LOAN TO GREECE AND HAVE GREECE AGREE IN PRINCIPLE TO PAY BACK! EVEN IF THEY DON’T, EVEN IF THEY CANT! AS ONE FINANCE MINISTER BIKE-RIDES OUT INTO THE SUNSET WITH HIS WIFE IN TOW AND ANOTHER ONE STRUTS IN…

    VERY INTERESTING SITUATION! TO BELIEVE THAT THE LENDERS, PARTICULARLY THE GERMANS, MUST PAUPERISE GREECE TO APPEAR PROSPEROUS…LEST THEY HAVE TO PAUPERISE A SECTION OF THEMSELVES TO KEEP AT LEAST SOME OF THEMSELVES IN PROSPERITY! BETTER A STORY OF TWO EUROPES THAN A TALE OF TWO CITIES …

    THUS, THE LENDER AND THE BORROWER MUST CO-EXIST WITHIN SAFE DISTANCE OF EACH OTHER WITHOUT CONTAMINATING ONE ANOTHER! BIDDING GOODBYE TO THE SHAKESPEARIAN POLONIUS AND USHERING IN KEATSIAN ROMANTICISM…

    NEO-CLASSICISM MUST CONNECT WITH NEO-COLONIALISM IN A NEW PARADIGM OF NEO-HYGIENE…EACH MUST PLAY IT’S PART IN THE GAME AND SOME RULES MUST BE BENT FOR THE SHOW TO GO ON TO KEEP THE EURO/ EU TOGETHER. SO , WHAT MANNER OF PERNICIOUS DEBT RESTRUCTURING WILL WE BE WITNESS TO?

    OF COURSE, I’M OK IF YOU ARE OK WITH OUR RBI GUV’S ASSURANCE MY SAMOSA ISN’T GOING TO COST ME ONE DRACHMA MORE …

    “The Greeks invented democracy and, let’s not forget, tragedy,” writes Chris Allbritton in The Daily Beast. And the fact that the country invented the democracy had a very important role to play in it being accepted into the Eurozone in the first…

    Firstpost – 06 July 2015

    http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAcBfry?a=1&m=EN-IN

  8. Vikramjit, you write really well and I am sure you are great at presenting too! Enjoyed reading this post.

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