Sambar is one of the popular dishes amongst the SouthIndian dishes. It is almost incomplete when you have a SouthIndian meal without sambar in it,especially in thali’s and breakfast space where it is accompanied by almost all the dishes you can ever think of.
As curiosity increases with popularity of this product, we tried to trace the roots and origin as to how sambar was born. It turns out that there has been quiet a bit of speculations in this area..
Some say that the word ‘sambar’ is originated from the word ‘Champaaram’ meaning ‘Spicy Condiments” found from the evidences from a tamil inscription dating 1530 CE showing that Champaaram was used as a dish accompanying rice. Another theory says that it actually originated from Karnataka, where the word Sambaru padartha in Kannada means “mix of spices and condiments”. Though these above speculations are true to its justification, the following theory proposed seems to be an interesting one.
The story dates back to the period 1684 to 1711 CE, when the city of Thanjavur (also called Tanjore) was ruled by the Maratha Kingdom. It is said that Sambar originated from the Kitchen of Shahaji Bhonsle, Son of Ekoji, founder of the Maratha rule of Thanjavur and Chhatrapati’s step-brother. Shahaji’s greatest contribution was to architecture and literature, especially in Telugu, but he enjoyed dabbing in cooking too. On one occasion he wanted to eat “amti daal” (Maharashtrian daal), which has kokum as one of it main ingredients. Kokum is a plant belonging to the mangosteen family from the western ghats coastline. 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. Hence one of his cooks or Shahaji himself experimented by substituting kokum with tamarind with the combinations of lentils, vegetables and spices, which turned out to be a great success. It was first served to his Shahaji’s cousin Sambha or Shambhaji, son of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s during his visit to Thanjavur. It was then named as “Sambhache ahar” (Sambha’s food) or “Sambar” and became a royal dish at the Thanjavur palace.
(This story was narrated by Nanditha Krishnan(Author) by Pandit Bhim Rao, The late Marathi pandit of the Sarasvati Mahal Library, who referred to a manuscript written in “Modi Script” in which it was recorded.) (SOURCE: NADNDITHA KRISHNAN, THANJAVUR UNIVERSITY LIBRARY).
Conclusion: From the above version and deep thoughts… Sambar is a SouthIndian dish with a Maharashtrian Twist!!