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Pea ( Pisum sativum )


It is generally believed that the pea is indigenous to Southern Europe. We find one of the earliest references to pea in the dictionary (Amarkosa) of Amarsimha (c. 200 BC), who names pea as satina, khandika, or harenu in Sanskrit. In the later literature, the word kalaya (chickpea) was also used for pea, possibly from the Arabic khalaj for pea, since medieval India borrowed many words from Persian and Arabic. In the Brhat Samhita (6th century AD), Varahamihira used the name vatala ( Bhat, 1981), which might connote the flatulence ( vata ) causing property of pea. The Bhavaprakash (16th century AD) used names such as vartula, satina, and hareneku. In Marathi, Kannada, and Telugu, pea is called vatana or vatani, which is similar to vatala of Varahamihira. Patani in Tamil could be a corrupt form of vatani. In North India, the pea is known as matar, which might be related to the Sanskrit word matachi or matati meaning hail.

It is not easy to trace how pea was introduced into India. The Arabs or Persians did not introduce it, as the names for pea in the respective languages bear no resemblance to the Sanskrit names. Also, peas did not find a niche in Kashmir, which has a temperate climate (Lawrence, 1996).

Pea has been a postrainy season crop. Descriptions of crop cultivation are missing in old literature. Watt (1889) gives yield data such as 1100 kg ha-1 in Oudh (eastern Uttar Pradesh) and 925 kg ha-1 in the rest of Uttar Pradesh, both under irrigation. The non-irrigated crop gave 650 kg ha-1. We find a description of possibly an endemic soilborne disease of pea in Kashmir in the memoirs of Jahangir (1605–1622) (Rogers and Beveridge, 1909; 1914). Watt (1889) mentions substantial damage due to a pod borer as also due to bruchid in storage.