‘Buddha’s gift’ : The Buddha Rice

The Buddha Rice or the ‘Buddha ka Mahaprasad’ (an offering to Lord Buddha) or the Kala Namak Rice has been rebranded as ‘Buddha Rice’, presenting it as an offering made to the Buddhist monks. The packaging of the rice carries a popular quote of Mahatma Buddha saying ‘The unique aroma of the rice will remind people about me’. In order to promote the production, processing, packaging, and branding of Kala Namak Rice, the UP Government has declared it as the One District One Product (ODOP) of Siddharth Nagar whereas the Central Government has announced it as the ODOP of Basti, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj and Sant Kabir Nagar as well.

Historically Kala Namak Rice was grown at Bajaha Village in Siddharth Nagar district during the period of Mahatma Buddha.  It is said that Lord Buddha broke his fast on the Hiranyavati bank with pudding made of the same rice and had distributed it as offering among devotees.

Story behind the Buddha Rice

The story goes back to the Buddha. He was on his way to Kapilavastu after attaining enlightenment. He crossed the Bajha jungle in the Terai region and came to a place called Mathla. Here, the villagers stopped him, asking for blessings. The Buddha took the rice he had taken in alms and gave it to them: a short grain with unusual black husk. “Sow it,” he said. “It will have a special aroma. And that will always remind people of me.” It is not easy tracing history’s footsteps. Nearly 3,000 years later, the Bajha jungle has disappeared. There is a Bajha village somewhere in southern Nepal near Kapilavastu district.

Instead of Mathla, there is a Mudila village in the Siddharth Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh—considered to be the heart of ancient Kapilavastu. But the rice continues to be sown in a handful of villages, in the Terai region. Colloquially the “kalanamak” for its black-salty husk, it is the hidden “black pearl” of Uttar Pradesh.

Nutrients

Professor U.S. Singh of the Gobind Ballav Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUAT),Uttaranchal, explains how the Buddha rice outclasses the Dehradun basmati, and not just in aroma. Compare the two on nutrition content: for every 100 g of the Buddha rice you get about 390 kcal of energy (for basmati it is 130). Every 100 g of Buddha rice provides over 9% protein (2.4 g for basmati), nearly 90% carbohydrates, about 2% of dietary fibre, rich supply of iron, zinc, copper and magnesium, zero sugar and fat.

It is much more resistant to rice diseases, bacterial blight and droughts. Water requirement is quite low, as compared to basmati. With it all, the cost of cultivating this rice—including seed, fertiliser, manure, pesticides, power for land preparation, irrigation—is exactly half that of basmati, shows Singh.

Comparison with Basmati

Kalanamak rice is said to outshine even the most exclusive Basmati rice in all quality traits except grain length. Kalanamak rice is a non-basmati rice with short to medium grain length. Aroma of Kalanamak rice, which is said to be the gift of Gautam Buddha, is stronger than all Basmati varieties. Elongation after cooking, which is one of the most important quality trait in the international rice market, is 40% greater than Basmati rice. Cooked kalanamak is softer and fluffier that other rice varieties. Amylose content is close to 20% as compared to 24% and higher in Basmati. High amylose levels tend to make the rice cook firm and dry. Rice with a medium amylose content of between 16% and 22% usually cooks softer and the grains stick together more readily

Due to so many benefits and quality the Buddha Rice is regarded as a “gift from Lord Buddha” to the Sravasti people when he visited the area after enlightenment.

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