It is the perfect Sunday morning. The Cambay breeze wanders and cools the palace air…jiskiThe aroma of which pervades the air, A sight which adds to its flavour, Aesthetic and appetising is every morsel, With a taste unmatched and unique, Prepared just to please our guest is the meal, That we serve at our India table.

The Mir bakawal lays out creamy Gujarati khichdi prepared from satthi and yellow lentils. Satthi is so named because this coarse, mildly sweet rice takes 60-days to mature.  The Mir knows that though this grain does not enjoy the reputation of the exotic, musk-scented Mushkin, its texture is second to none for the khichdi experience. When freshly-harvested satthi is cooked for the right amount of time it releases a good amount of starch, resulting in a smooth, creamy finish, loved by the emperor.

On the side there is pungent pickle and some pure ghee. Emperor Akbar is about to begin when he is interrupted by a nervous Munsif who carries a message. It is from a distant ruler. It is from the ruler of a distant country, Elizabeth the first. She addresses him as the “the most invincible and mighty Prince … Invincible Emperor”. She seeks trade concessions from India.

Historically besieged at that point, the British monarch indeed must plead, for Akbar rules over an Empire at its apogee – economists looking back from later centuries will note that even the revenue of Akbar’s great grandson was ten times more than that of Louis XIV in 1638. Even in 1750, five years after Plassey, India would control 24.5 per cent of world trade, while the UK had only 1.0 per cent.

Akbar listens to the strange message while calmly helping himself to his favourite soul food – khichdi. 

  • From Midnight to Glorious Morning?: India Since Independence, Mihir Bose
  • Rice Research in South Asia through Ages, Y L Nene
  • Sweet and sticky, DowntoEarth, Sangeetha Khanna, December 2013