Ever wondered how those delicious orange rings that you hungrily devour every Diwali came into being? Yes, we are talking about the Jalebi, which is one of India’s favourite sweet delicacies. However, neither does the Jalebi have its origins in India, nor is the word Jalebi originally Indian. We know that this is difficult to digest, but here’s the story:
The word Jalebi is derived from the Arabic word zulabiya. This sweet is said to have been brought to Medieval India as a part of the Muslim trade by the Persian-speaking invaders, much like a lot of other Indian food. In fact, a great deal has been written about Turkish, Persian, Arabic and Central Asian influences on Indian food and the Jalebi too is one such Indian dish that boasts of these influences. One of the earliest mentions of this delicacy dates back to 1450 AD in a Jain work by the name Jinasura. This work has been cited in cookery books of the following centuries as well.
Another noteworthy mention of the Jalebi is in a Sanskrit work titled Gunyagunabodhini, written in 1600 AD. This work elaborates the ingredients and the recipe of the modern Jalebi that we’re all familiar with today. A seminal work by Indologist P.K. Gode in the year 1943 revealed these historical references.
Thus, with substantiating evidence of its presence in the Indian subcontinent for around 500 years, this delightful sweet has captured every Indian’s heart and taste buds, and has been given several names such as jilbi, zelapi, jahangiri, jilapir pak, zoolbia and jeri. Relished as it is, or along with rabri or curd, this sweetmeat is the ruling delicacy of the Middle East and South Asia, and will always remain so.
So, feast on some delicious Jalebis and enjoy your Diwali!