Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Marathi sambar, but from Thanjavur

Sambar originated in the kitchen of Shahji Bhonsle (1684 to 1711 CE), son of Ekoji, founder of the Maratha rule of Thanjavur and Chhatrapati Shivaji's step-brother.Shahji's greatest contribution was to architecture and literature, especially in Telugu, but he enjoyed dabbling in cooking too. On one occasion, he wanted to eat amti dhal (Maharashtrian dhal), which has kokum as one of its main ingredients. Kokum is a plant belonging to the mangosteen family from the western ghatscoastline. Its outer cover is dried and powdered and used as a slightly sour spice in Maharashtrian cooking.But kokum was out of supply at that time. We don't know whether it was the cooks or Shahji himself who experimented by substituting it with tamarind, but the combination of lentils, vegetables, spices and tamarind was a great success and was first served when Shahji's cousin Sambha or Sambhaji (1657-1689), son of Chhatrapati Shivaji, visited Thanjavur. It was named “Sambhache ahar“ (Sambha's food) or “sambhar“ and became a royal dish at the Thanjavur palace. Thus it was invented in Thanjavur, not in Maharashtra. This story was narrated to me by Pandit Bhim Rao, the late Marathi pandit of the Sarasvati Mahal Library, who referred to a manuscript written in Modi script in which this was recorded. -  Nanditha Krishna | Chennai


Oct 06 2014 : The Times of India (Chennai)