chapter  14
22 Pages

Ghee, Vanaspati, and Special Fats in India

ByK. T. Achaya

This chapter discusses bakery fats, margarines, and fat spreads. The Indus Valley civilization of north India, spanning the millenium 2500–1500 BC, has yielded carbonized remains of three oilseeds—sesame, mustard, and linseed—and clay models of the coconut. Beautiful steatite seals depict fine breeds of dairy cattle that still flourish in that region and imply a knowledge of milk fat. The oldest Sanskrit text extant, the Rigveda of about 1500 BC, refers to a cake of cereal flour fried in ghrta (ghee), and indeed the Aryan culture would countenance no other cooking fat. Ghee was sold in bulk in the past by wholesale merchants in towns and cities. The origin of the term "vanaspati," from pati and vana, has been lost, but the name was almost certainly intended to emphasize its vegetable origin in contrast to the animal product ghee. Groundnut oil was for decades the single base stock for manufacture of vanaspati in India.