Making pickles has been considered as one of the oldest methods of preservation of essential foods in the world designed especially for seasons of scarcity. Pickles of different types are quite popular all over the world since ancient days. Archeologists have suggested that the ancient Mesopotamians pickled as early as 2400 BC. It has been considered that around the year 2030 BC, cucumbers were brought from India and were pickled in the Tigris Valley. The event fostered a tradition and technique of pickling in Mid-East which gradually spread to Europe and eventually to the West.
There are reports that United States of America alone consumes some 5.2 million pounds (about 235 Tonnes) of pickle per year. Pickles of cucumber are quite popular now in Europe and the West. Marinated pickles of gherkin (a variety of dwarf cucumber) are popular in the list of exports from India.
However in India pickles of raw Mango are most popular followed by lemon, chilly and many other varieties of vegetables and greens. Pickled raw mango with chilly-mustard-spice paste is quite popular in India. The pickle is known as “Achar” in Hindi areas. We find similar and related word “Achat” in South East Asian countries. In India currently, spicy pickles made of chilly, spices, mustard and oil are quite popular. In Karnataka the pickle is known as Uppinakāyi and in coastal Tulu areas it is known as Uppad (‘d’ pronounced as in dog). Other varieties like Avakai in Andhra Pradesh, Tokku in Tamilnadu,
Incidentally, the English word “pickle” was derived from the Dutch word ‘pekel ‘ or northern German “pókel,” meaning salt (or brine). The salt or the brine (salt solution) is an important component in the pickling process. Hence, the pickling or the process of preserving perishable items (vegetables, fish etc) appear to have been invented in coastal areas that are proximity with sea which contains rich repository of the brine solution. Further popularity of pickles also led to the use of vinegar (Acetic acid) and other sour solutions for the preservation instead of plain brine (Sodium chloride) solution.
Origin and evolution of UppaD
It can be visualized that in the ancient days in Tulunadu, the pickles were originally made in a solution of sea water (brine) and as the time progressed the common salt dissolved in water was used as a medium of pickling. It was and is known as UppaD ( D pronounced as in English word dog).
In ancient India, only the pepper was a common ingredient to make dishes ‘hot’ (“khara” as we call in native languages) in taste. (It is unfortunate that the English language does not have an equivalent word exactly to convey the “khara” taste !) It is an interesting to note that the green and red chillies which are quite ubiquitous in our Indian dishes were introduced and imported into India only after 15th Century CE after the advent of Portuguese. Thus the “khara” version of Uppad which we are familiar now is among us only since last five centuries.
Ancient versions of Uppad
The Tulu language has preserved specific ancient words for older version of pickles without chilly. The traditional words existing in rural Tulunadu such as “UppaD-(p)acchir” and “NeeruppaD” clearly identifies the ancient varieties of pickles in Tulunadu and other regions in the country.
Uppad-achhir (normally marinated pickle of jack fruit avrils/lobes) and Neer-uppad (watery pickle) of raw mango and a variety of vegetables were quite popular in rural areas. The Jack fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.) considered to be the worlds’ largest edible compound fruit, was a favorite ancient fruit in India.
The “Uppadacchir” is a pickle of unripe or moderately ripe jack fruits in brine solution (normally without the addition of chilly and spices). The suffix “acchir” in this usage is the short form of “pacchir” which stands for the avrils (individual fruity lobes) inside the of jack fruit.
Etymology of Tulu Uppad
In Tulu language “Uppađ” (đ as in English word ‘dog’) is the equivalent world for the pickle. It would be interesting to explore the possible origin of the word Uppad especially for the sake of linguistic entertainment. The term Uppad can be analysed in two ways: (1) Uppu + ad (2) Uppu + pad.
In the first case ‘ad’ is a known morpheme of Dravidian heritage, which essentially means to cook or a dish. In the second case ‘pad’ is clearly a word of South East Asian origin or usage which again means a kind of dish. Since in Southern India (including coastal Karnataka) there are tangible evidences for imprints of ancient influence of both Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic cultures it is difficult to conclude at the outset whether it was Upp-ad or Upp-pad.
Morphemes ad and pād
The word upp+ad signifies a dish (‘ađ’) made of salt (‘uppu’). The Dravidian morpheme “ad” means to cook, as we find ”adpini” (Tulu) for to cook ; adpil for kitchen; “ad-til” ( atil) for cooking; adya or adde for cooked dish. Similarly, in Kannada “aduge” or “adige” for cookery etc. On the basis of sheer preponderance of words containing ad as a component, we can conclude that the etymology of Uppad is : Upp(u)+ad.
However there is another possible take in this word: Upp+pad. The ‘pād’ again means a dish in South East Asian languages. For example Pad Thai is a popular dish of Thailand which is a sort of stir fried rice with eggs shrimp etc. Similarly, “Nasi padang” is a rice dish of Western Sumatra, wherein the native word “nasi “means the rice and “padang” a dish.
In Tulu Nighantu (Tulu Lexicon) we can find at least five shades of meaning for the word pād. Such as (1)to keep or put (2) to sing or song (3) a state or condition (4) equality or impartiality and (5) the time interval between the arrival of two successive waves in the beach.
Tulu being an ancient language it has absorbed words from different tribal languages during the course of its evolution. As a result of this absorption process phonetically similar sounding words but with different meanings, originally from different languages have survived and remained in Tulu.
Incidentally, there is a Tulu word known as pāda which means an oil bearing vessel. This particular usage apparently has some relation to the Thai word pad which means a stir fried dish. The process of stir frying basically needs oil.
There is special word possibly connected with this discussion. The Padya refers to the first day of the lunar fortnight or the day following a new moon or a full moon day. However, the etymology or origin of this particular word is not clear.
The day of Padya is normally associated with celebration or festivity as can be seen in the idiom padya parba. (For example: Bali-padya). Thus we can assume that pādya traditionally has been a designated day for preparing special dishes on account of recurring festivities.