100 years of Chapati in Kerala: Know the rich history of this popular 'roti'

Chapati with dal and vegetable curries. Photo: Shutterstock/asmiphotoshop

Earlier this week, an event unfolded at Mavelikkara in Kerala's Alappuzha district to honour the centenary of 'chapati' making its debut in Kerala, affectionately referred to as 'roti' in the northern regions of India.

The historical introduction of chapatis to Kerala traces back to April 29, 1924, during the pivotal Vaikom Satyagraha. This significant culinary milestone occurred when a team, led by Lala Lal Singh and Kripal Singh from Punjab, prepared chapatis served alongside 'dal'. The flavours captivated the palates of Keralites, marking the inception of a cherished dish in the state's culinary heritage.

During the Vaikom Satyagraha, which coincided with Akalis' struggle for Sikh places of worship reform, the Punjab Prabandh Shiromani Committee initiated a noble gesture. They established a free eatery at the Vaikom Satyagraha venue, expressing solidarity with the cause.

Arriving on April 28, 1924, a dedicated team of 10 individuals from Punjab commenced serving chapatis until June 25, offering over 30,000 free meals. Historical archives reveal an expenditure of Rs 4,000 for this purpose, as documented in the news bulletin released on May 9, 1924. The Punjabi-operated kitchen ceased its operations on June 25, upon exhausting wheat stocks.

The commemorative event held on Sunday, April 28, marking 100 years of chapati in Kerala, unfolded at the birthplace of T K Madhavan, a prominent leader of the Vaikom Satyagraha. Organized by the literary group 'Katha,' the ceremony was graced by Havildar Major Rajvinder Singh of NCC Kerala-8 battalion, hailing from Ludhiana, Punjab, symbolizing Punjab's involvement.

Chapati. Image Credit: jirkaejc/Istock

The program was inaugurated by M S Arunkumar MLA, with Katha president K K Sudhakaran presiding over. History researcher George Thazhakkara presented on the topic, alongside addresses by Rajvinder Singh, Havildar Nilesh Rinde, Katha secretary Reji Parapurath, T N Devi Prasad, Usha Kumari, and Sarojini Unnithan.

A poignant addition to the occasion was the unveiling of the painting 'Chapati in Kerala' by artist Doraiswamy, immortalizing this historic culinary moment.

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