[INDOLOGY] lighting lamps and cooking meat in north Indian tradition

palaniappa at aol.com palaniappa at aol.com
Sat Feb 22 10:10:41 EST 2014

Dear Indologists,

When one reads the glosses provided by traditional and modern commentators of Classical Tamil texts, one would come away with the impression that except in the coastal areas, people cooked meat in ghee, and lit lamps with ghee. Although in medieval times ghee from cow's milk and goat's milk were used to light lamps in temples, I do not think most people used ghee to light lamps. After all, in Tamil we call castor oil as viḷakkeṇṇai (lamp oil) and coconut oil as veḷicceṇṇai (brightness oil). Similarly, for frying and deep-frying meat items, the commentators leave the term 'ney' unexplained giving the impression that they were cooked in ghee. As expected translators of the poems, translate all these instances as meat items have been cooked in ghee!  (One would also see all the spears and arrows in the armory being smeared with ghee too!) According to a culinary expert, traditionally meat items are cooked in oil in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. 

I would appreciate if someone can provide information on what Indo-Aryan texts say about the different uses of ghee and oil for cooking and lighting.

Thanks in advance


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