Sugar, Shakkar and Cheeni– Did you know?

 

various types of sugar on wooden table

Sugar or sarkara शर्करा (sanskrit) or shakkar शक्कर (hindi) (gravel or ground sugar) was originally produced from sugarcane in the Indian subcontinent around 800 BC. Prior to that there was only the crude guda (sanskrit) or gud or jaggery which is the raw concentrated sugarcane juice which is very delicious and still used in India. 

The chinese learned  about sugarcane cultivation and the technology of producing sugar from India in the 600s BC.  They didn’t like the brown variety and invented cheeni or chini, what is now known in India as the refined white variety. Hence cheeni. By the way, Cheeni means Porcelain (white) not China. 

Timeline:

4000 BC- sugarcane juice extracted from Sugarcane plants. 

800BC (between 1500- 500BC) invention of crystal sugar (granulated sugar) in India

600-650 BC sugarcane and technology for production of sugar reached China. It was actually smuggled from the court of King Harsha by the Chinese ambassador during the Tang dynasty.  

300-500BC Persians and medieval Arabs discovered from India the “reeds that produce honey without bees” which was initially only used for medicinal purposes. 

1700– the spread of sugarcane cultivation and manufacture of sugar spread to West Indies and America then the rest of the world. 

As mistakenly thought among most Indians sugar is not a gift of the Chinese, it is India’s gift to the world! Proud of being Indian and ashamed I wasn’t taught this in school. 

Hence Cheeni Kum, Shakkar zyada! (reduce Cheeni, increase Shakkar). 

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