History of Basmati Rice

Origin History of Basmati Rice

Rice is regularly consumed as a meal or side dish across the globe. The rice varieties are usually categorized as long, medium, and short-grained. However, you can savour other types of rice, like Basmati, non-basmati, etc., available in the market.

In the massive Indian landscape, where agriculture is a deeply rooted part of the cultural heritage, there is a ‘Kohinoor’ among the rice varieties called Basmati. It is aromatic and fragrant rice, with its tantalising scent and exquisite flavour, and has gained popularity as the king of Indian rice. Moreover, this history of Basmati rice is an incredible journey that spans centuries, a tale of heritage, tradition, and the insights of ancient farmers.

The Beginning of Basmati Rice

India is known to be the world’s second-largest producer of rice, which is evident as the country is also its second-largest global consumer. The origins of Basmati rice are considered the northern areas of the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the fertile fields of the Himalayan foothills and the plains of Punjab.

The term ‘Basmati’ is taken from the Sanskrit word ‘Basmati,’ which means ‘fragrant’ or ‘aromatic.’ It refers to the aromatic qualities of Basmati rice, which sets it apart from other rice variants, hypnotizing your senses and winning your hearts.

For Basmati grain to fully mature its alluring aroma and distinct taste, it should be aged for long periods. Many rice producers age their Basmati for nine months, however, premium brands go as long as 18 months or more. Apart from its rank as a protected product, this ageing process is a key factor in why Basmati rice is more costly than various other rice variants available in the market today.

The Rich History of Basmati Rice

There are many historical references to Basmati, tracking back to ancient texts and writings. It is believed that the Indian emperor Shershah Suri, who ruled in the 16th century, was so infatuated with the magnificent taste of Basmati that he announced it the ‘king of grain.’ Moreover, the Mughal emperors, popularly known for their elite tastes and appreciation of excellent cuisine, also held Basmati in high regard, further boosting its status.

Most importantly, the early mention of Basmati grain in 1766 is mentioned in the history books. The prime producers of Basmati grain in Asia are India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Indian traders introduced Basmati rice to the Middle East through cultural exchange, and since that time, it has become a vital part of cuisine in Persian, Arab, and other cuisines as well.

Basmati Rice Varieties

There are various rice varieties, each with its distinctive qualities. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Traditional Basmati Rice: It is the original variant of Basmati rice, which is currently widely cultivated in the Indian subcontinent. This type has a long-grain with a nutty aroma and exquisite flavour.
  • Super Basmati Rice: It is a premium variant of Basmati rice that is popular for its extra slender and long grain with unique aroma.
  • Pusa Basmati Rice: This Basmati rice variant was first introduced in the 1960s in India. It is a hybrid variant that is more disease-resistant and has a minor growing season compared to the traditional ones.
  • Dehradun Basmati Rice: This rice is widely grown in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is popular for its strong scent and unique flavour.

Trade & Global Spread

History of Basmati rice Since ancient times, Basmati has had an aroma, flavour, and taste that transcends borders, satisfying the taste buds of numerous people worldwide. As many Indian merchants travelled beyond the subcontinent, the fragrant Basmati rice made its way to different regions of the world through trade routes. Moreover, after Basmati reached the Middle East, it gained huge popularity and made its way to other parts of the world, like Europe and North America.

Cultural Significance

Undoubtedly, Basmati grain holds extensive importance in Indian households, particularly during weddings, gatherings, festivals, and other celebrations. From Holi to Diwali, Eid to Pongal, Durga puja to Navratri, Basmati rice brings the ultimate flavour, joy, and tradition to every home in India. Moreover, it is not merely a food staple but a fundamental part of rituals and traditions. The fragrant grain takes the spotlight in preparing dishes, ranging from delightful pulaos to savoury biryanis and scrumptious rice puddings, appealing palates and bringing people together through the love for the jewel of grain.

Biodiversity and Environmental Harmony

In Indian cuisine, Basmati rice is prized for its sweet fragrance and delectable taste. However, its connection to the environment and biodiversity makes a lot of difference in the quality of the grain. Moreover, traditional Basmati farming is deeply rooted in nature, as most farmers follow sustainable agricultural practices handed down through generations. 

Most importantly, the exclusive ecosystem of the areas where Basmati flourishes is important for cultivating the extraordinary rice variant. From the freshwater of the Himalayan rivers to the fertile soil of the plains, all these factors directly contribute to the unique flavour and aroma of Basmati grains.

Challenges and Opportunities

Regardless of the efforts to preserve the Basmati’s heritage, its maintenance has some challenges. Factors like climate sensitivity, water management, urbanization, pests and diseases, market demands and shifts in agricultural practice pose threats to the exquisite ecosystem necessary for cultivating Basmati. However, with such challenges come opportunities. Technology advancements and sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices paired with export potential can help guarantee the continuation of the Basmati rice variety for years to come. With such advancements, it is possible to grow Basmati and enjoy its excellence even after so many years.


All in all, this history of Basmati rice is as old as the tales of Indian cultures and traditions. From its origins in the fertile lands of the Himalayas to its global acceptance, Basmati rice has created a remarkable mark in the grain industry. So, when you savour this aromatic grain, you celebrate the experience of ancient farmers and their dedication to protecting this jewel of Indian rice.

More Info:- Indian Rice Exporters Federation