Rice, Barley, Sesame

Gauthama Maharshi grew rice and barley on Brahmagiri mountain, even before Sri Rama’s birth (Siva Purana) and Bharadwaja Maharshi served rice, barley and sesame seeds to Bharata and Sri Rama. (Valmiki Ramayana)

A majority of the wild species of the genus Sesamum are native to sub-saharan Africa. Bedigian proved that sesame was first domesticated in India. It was cultivated at Harappa in the Indus Valley between 2250 and 1750 BC. More Details.

When and where did farmers first start growing rice? The first rice may have been grown in East and South Asia as long as 15,000 years ago, when people began to settle in river deltas and domesticated wild rice.

Certainly people were growing rice in India in the Harappan period (about 2500 BC) and in China in the late Stone Age (about 3000 BC). Rice may have been brought to West Asia and Greece about 300 BC by the armies of Alexander the Great. By the time of the Roman Empire, people were growing some rice around the Mediterranean Sea, in southern Europe and North Africa including Egypt (but not as much as in China or India). By 800 AD, thanks to trade with India and Indonesia, people in East Africa were also growing rice.

Barley was first discovered growing as a wild grass throughout Asia thousands of years ago.

Barley was one of the earliest cereals to be cultivated, about 5000 BC in Egypt.

Both Hindu and Budhist scriptures make frequent reference to rice, and in both religions the grain is used as a major offering to the gods. In contrast, there is no correspondingly early reference to rice in Jewish scriptures of the Old Testament, and no references exist in early Egyptian records. Archeologists have found evidence that rice was an important food in Mohenjo-Daro as early as 2500 B.C. The earliest and most convincing archeological evidence for domestication of rice in Southeast Asia was discovered by Wilhelm G. Solheim II in 1966. Pottery shards bearing the imprint of both grains and husks of O. sativa were discovered at Non Nok Tha in the Korat area of Thailand. These remains have been confirmed by 14C and thermoluminescence testing as dating from at least 4000 B.C. This evidence not only pushed back the documented origin of cultivated rice but, when viewed in conjunction with plant remains from 10,000 B.C. discovered in Spirit Cave on the Thailand-Myanmar border, suggests that agriculture itself may be older than was previously thought. No parallel evidence has been uncovered in Egyptian tombs or from Chaldean excavations.

Rice Legends:

In Bali, it is believed that the Lord Vishnu caused the Earth to give birth to rice, and the God Indra taught the people how to raise it. In both tales, rice is considered a gift of the gods, and even today in both places, rice is treated with reverence, and its cultivation is tied to elaborate rituals.

Chinese myth, by contrast, tells of rice being a gift of animals rather than of gods. China had been visited by an especially severe period of floods. When the land had finally drained, people came down from the hills where they had taken refuge, only to discover that all the plants had been destroyed and there was little to eat. They survived through hunting, but it was very difficult, because animals were scarce. One day the people saw a dog coming across a field, and hanging on the dog’s tail were bunches of long, yellow seeds. The people planted these seeds, rice grew, and hunger disappeared. Throughout China today, tradition holds that “the precious things are not pearls and jade but the five grains”, of which rice is first.

According to Shinto belief, the Emperor of Japan is the living embodiment of Ninigo-no-mikoto, the god of the ripened rice plant. While most modern Japanese may intellectually dismiss this supernatural role, they cannot deny the enormous cultural importance of rice on life in their country – and so it is in much of the rice world. “