Kalanamak rice

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The black husk of Kalanamk rice grain

Kalanamak is one of the finest quality scented rices of Nepal and India . It derives its name from black husk (kala = black; the suffix ‘namak’ means salt). This variety has been in cultivation since the Buddhist period (600 BC). It is quite popular in Himalayan Tarai of Nepal i.e., Kapilvastu, and eastern Uttar Pradesh of India, and is also known as the scented black pearl of Uttar Pradesh. It was also featured in the book 'Speciality rices of the world' by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

These days, however, acreage under this variety declined sharply, forcing it to near extinction, for various reasons, some of which are

  • outburst of Panicle blast epidemics during two consecutive years: 1998 and 1999
  • tall stature of the crop causing lodging
    Grains of Kalanamak rice
  • long duration of harvest (6 to 7 months)
  • non-availability of quality seeds and research support

Kalanamak was grown widely in Tarai belt of Uttar Pradesh, which comprised districts Siddharth Nagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Maharajganj, Basti, Gonda, and Gorakhpur. Until 30 years ago, the variety covered more than 10% of total rice cultivation area in Siddharthanagar. However, acreage growing this variety in this district declined to <0.5% of total rice area during 2002.


Picture of fossilized grain of Kalanamak rice found during the excavation of Aligarhwa, Siddharthnagar, Uttar Pradesh (believed to be a part of Kapilvastu). Image taken from book 'A Treatise On The Secented rices of India' by R.K. Singh and U.S. Singh page 425

[1] Kalanamak rice has been cultivated since the Buddhist period (600 BC). The kalanamak grains were found from excavation of Kapilvastu. Kapilvastu, the Kingdom of King Śuddhodana, father of Gautama Buddha is located in Terai of Nepal. During excavation of Aligarhwa carbonized rice grains resembling Kalanamak were recovered from one of the rooms, which was identified to be the kitchen store.

Faxian, the famous Chinese monk wrote that when Gautama Buddha (Buddha) visited Kapilvastu for the first time after attaining ‘enlightenment’, while passing through Bajha jungle, he was stopped at Mathla village by the people. The villagers asked Siddhartha to give them ‘prasad’. Siddhartha took the rice he had taken in alms and gave it to the people, asking them to sow it in a marshy place. The rice thus produced “will have typical aroma which will always remind people of me,” he said. Since then Bajha jungle has vanished and its place has been taken by Bajha village near Kapilvastu. Instead of Mathla, now Mudila village exists. The actual belt of Kalanamak rice is still believed to be the tract between Bajha and Aligarhwa. This variety, if sown elsewhere, loses its aroma and quality.

The first effort for the conservation of Kalanamak was made by the Englishmen William Pepe, J H Hemprey, and Edcan Walker (Jamindars of Alidapur, Birdpur, and Mohana) during the British Raj. They built four reservoirs at Bajha, Marthi, Moti, and Majhauli to produce Kalanamak in a large quantity. They not only produced this variety for their own consumption, but transported it to England from Uska-bazar mandi, passing through Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) via sea route. Due to its increasing demand, the British captured the land around Kapilvastu, and established Birdpur and Alidapur states. They produced Kalanamak through bonded labor and exported to Britain. When the shrewd Gujarati businessmen came to know about its business potential they formed a mandi at Uska-bazar to export Kalanamak. To counter them the British “shopkeepers” built a rail route to carry rice on the goods train. But after independence, Uska-bazar mandi became nonfunctional due to negligence, and reservoirs gathered silt. This led to a fall in production of Kalanamak.

All these evidences indicate that Kalanamak has been cultivated in Siddharthanagar area from or even before Buddhist period (600 BC). [2]

GI Tag[edit]

[3]Kalanamak Rice has been granted the Geographical Indication (GI) Tag in 2012 by the Government of India and a geographical area has been defined where the Kalanamak rice can be produced. Kalanamak rice grown in this defined area can only be labelled as Kalanamak rice.

Geographical area for Kalanamak rice lies between 26° 42′ North to 27° 75′ North Latitude and 81° 42′ to 83° 88′ East Longitude in the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Geographical Area of production of Kalanamak Rice is approved for 11 districts of Zone 7 of U. P. These 11 districts are located in the divisions of Gorakhpur (Deoria, Gorakhpur, Mahrajganj, Siddharth Nagar districts), Basti (Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Siddharth Nagar districts), and Devipatan (Bahraich, Balrampur, Gonda, Shravasti districts).

Kalanamak rice has been granted the Geographical Indication (GI) Tag which was applied to the Government of India by Kalanamak Scented Paddy Production & Conservation Society. The GI tag is an indication which is definite to a geographical territory. It is used for agricultural, natural and manufactured goods. The initial GI Tag expired in 2020 but was renewed until 2030 now.


Comparison of the grain length of cooked and uncooked kernel of Kalanamak rice grain. The Elongation after cooking is almost 2.2 times the grain length

Kalanamak rice is said to outshine even the most exclusive Basmati rice in all quality traits except grain length. Kalanamak rice is a non-basmati rice with medium slender grain length. There are 4 varieties of Kalanamak namely KN 3, Bauna Kalanamak 101, Bauna Kalanamak 102 and Kalanamak Kiran developed by Dr. R. C. Chaudhary and notified by Governmnet of India under cultivation. Aroma of Kalanamak rice, which is said to be the gift of Gautam Buddha, is stronger than all Basmati varieties. Elongation after cooking, which is one of the most important quality trait in the international rice market. [4]Cooked kalanamak is softer and fluffier that other rice varieties. Amylose content is close to 20% as compared to 24% and higher in Basmati. High amylose levels tend to make the rice cook firm and dry. Rice with a medium amylose content of between 16% and 22% usually cooks softer and the grains stick together more readily.

Health Benefits[edit]

Kalanamak rice is rich in micro-nutrients such as Iron and Zinc. Therefore, having this rice is said to prevent diseases borne out of Iron and Zinc deficiencies. It is said that regular intake of Kalanamak rice can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It has 11% protein which is almost double of common rice varieties. Besides it has low Glycemic Index (49% to 52%) making it "Sugar Free" and suitable for even diabetic people. Government of India came out with Nutri-Farm scheme in 2013, with the aim to promote food crops that have critical micro nutrients to fight malnutrition and improve nutrition status of the vulnerable section of society. Kalanamak rice was one of the nutri-crop selected for this scheme.


  1. ^ Rediscovering Scented Rice Cultivar Kalanamak; Reproduced from Asian Agri-History Vol. 9, No. 3, 2005 (211–219)
  2. ^ "Welcome to Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF)".
  4. ^ http://vcampus.uom.ac.mu/sugar/education/sugarnhealth/rice.htm

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