The words spices and India always ring together at any point of use. This is not just because India being the top spice-producing country in the world (around 10% of total production), but one can relate to the history of most spices as well as the cultural embodiment. Out of 109 recognized spices grown in different parts of the world, 63 of those are originated from India, another reason why India is known as the “Land of Spices”.
Apart from the physiological, medicinal, and taste-enhancing features of these spices, they carry a wide range of other properties in terms of cosmetic, aroma, color, and, even, Hindu religious rituals. One can find the relation of Indian spices to excavations in the Harappan sites, such as turmeric, pepper used as flavors. No historian can skip the role of Indian spices in influencing the shaping up of ancient international relations. Indian spices have been one of the top reasons for many explorations throughout history to lead expeditions to the East. In the present times, one can find the significance and influences of Indian spices on global cuisines in any part of the world. A great mention would be the most used in Indian dishes called garam masala. This is a supreme blend of multiple spices and has many blends based on the region.
When it comes to India and its culture, spices have a significant role that goes way beyond just cooking. Ayurveda, one of the earliest medicine systems, has substantially prescribed the pharmaceutical benefits, both curative and therapeutic, of spices. Most being turmeric, cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, and ginger. Ayurvedic principles, in high and huge regard, compliments the usage of spices to nourish both the body and mind.
For instance, turmeric has numerous uses, such as healing wounds, gastrointestinal causes, for improving detoxifying enzymes, and deworming. The anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial properties make turmeric a mandatory spice to have for home remedies, as it expedites the healing process. Recently, during the pandemic, many have been drinking milk mixed with turmeric to enhance their immunity strength.
Now, if you consider the same spice, turmeric, it is widely used for the preservation of food and in dishes to add flavor as well as color. Most Indian dishes will have a pinch of turmeric in it, even if you cannot see or taste, or smell it. It has reached into few savory and sweet dishes too. Hinduism, owing to its tradition, is referred to as “the kitchen religion” in the aspects of food, and turmeric ranks at the top for the must-have spices in any food preparation. No Indian kitchen, be it a home or a commercial outlet, can be found not having turmeric.
The same goes for other spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and fennel seeds. These are considered the most important spices in Ayurveda. Even stronger fact, there is a saying in Ayurveda, that, ‘no tonics can be made without dry ginger as an ingredient. All these spices are a regular and common kitchen ingredient in any Indian household. It has been habituated as such that most of us don’t know which spices go into any dishes or why we add spices in dishes.
The pertinence of spices goes wide into cosmetics and aroma as well. The cosmetic industry delightfully uses numerous spices in the form of oils and powders. It is not just because of the health and medicinal properties of these spices, such as antioxidant, anti-aging effects, also due to aroma properties that these spices invigorate into our personality. Turmeric for oil control and its anti-aging effects in our skin, cinnamon mostly for perfume and revitalizing dull skin, ginger for blemishes, scarring, and skin toning, black pepper for pigmentation, massage oils, and skincare creams, are most of the spices that can be found in many cosmetic and aroma products.
Turmeric, the orange-yellow powder, when grounded, is used as a coloring agent not only in food but as a yellow dye for textiles. A great natural fabric dye with a vibrant yellow color can be seen commonly in Indian saris and few fabrics. Recently, a trend towards natural dyes for fabrics has been witnessed as a shift towards more eco-friendly, non-toxic materials and processes than those hazardous synthetic chemicals and dyes.
Apart from all these listed out significance in terms of consumption as food, medicine, and color, Indian spices have unique importance in their culture, especially in the Hindu religion. Kumkuma is a powder made from turmeric through a process that turns it into red color. This is mainly used for social and religious features. For instance, all married women can be found applied in their foreheads. From worshipping gods using many spices to the famous Holi celebrations spices and their varieties are used extensively. Many beliefs and faiths are attached with spices, for casting away bad omen, generate positive energy, and so on. Hindu religion is one of the prevalent religions in India and has shaped the culture and lifestyle of all Indians, the relevance of spices can be found across all of them.
Spices compliments three basic senses of any person: tongue with their taste, smell with their unique and energizing aroma, and eyes with their vibrant and lively colors. It is safe to say that India will always dominate in the production of spices as the environment is ideal with humidity, rainfall, hot and dry seasons, which advocates for the growth of many different spices. The spices are so integrated into Indian’s life, that you can find movies categorized with a term like ‘masala movie’. This mention is for its feeling that provides. With the current pandemic turning folks into adapt their life with more immunity-boosting stuff, the spices due to their related significance will become an important part of everybody’s life.