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Horse gram ( Dolichos uniflorus )


Horse gram is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. Archaeological investigations have revealed the use of horse gram as food around 2000 BC (Mehra, 2000). The Brahadaranyaka (c. 5500 BC), a commentary on the Rigveda (c. 8000 BC) mentions khatakula, which is the original Sanskrit name for horse gram. The Yajurveda (c. 7000 BC) mentions the Sanskrit kulattha ( Achaya, 1998 ) as the name for horse gram. Subsequently, Buddhist and Jain literature, and Kautilya’s Arthasastra, all mention kulattha. Susruta (c. 400 BC) mentioned vanyakulattha, obviously a wild species. Kulattha is mentioned in the Sangam literature of the Tamils (100 BC–300 AD) as kollu, which seems to be a derivative of kulattha. The original Latin name for horse gram was Dolichos biflorus, which was later changed to D. uniflorus.

Watt (1889) mentions two varieties of seeds, red and white. Kautilya (321–296 BC) mentions its sowing time as the postrainy season, while, according to Watt (1889), the seed could be sown in any season. Kashyapa (800 AD) mentions broadcast sowing after moistening the seed (Ayachit, 2002). The crop is drought tolerant. It requires one weeding (Kashyapa, 800 AD; Ayachit, 2002), but no manuring is mentioned. The Sangam literature of the Tamils mentions intercropping horse gram with Paspalum scrobiculatum (Achaya, 1998). In Satara (Maharashtra), horse gram was sown in June with pearl millet in separate rows (Watt, 1889). Horse gram fodder has been fed to horses for centuries and is a good cattle fodder as well (Watt, 1889).

Horse gram has been used as a food item for millennia. The soup extract from kulattha, called yusa, was consumed commonly during the Sutra period (c. 1500–800 BC). These soups are the rasams of today (Achaya, 1998). The vadas (cakes) made from horse gram were listed in the Varanaka Samuchaya (1520 AD) in the Gujarati language (Achaya, 1998). Horse gram was used as medicine to treat calculus afflictions, corpulence, hiccups, and worms (Chunekar and Pandey, 1998). Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda (Sadhale, 1996) mentions interesting uses of horse gram in horticulture. Horse gram decoction was used for flower and fruit drop. The Ain-i-Akbari (1590 AD) does not mention horse gram as an item sold in the markets (Blochmann, 1873).