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Biryani, an extremely delectable Indian cuisine, is a blend of aromatic spices, flavors, and a rich history. This iconic dish has graced tables worldwide, and every true food lover finds it a treat for their eyes and palates.

Biryani has a rich history spanning across centuries and various cultures and civilizations. From the royal courts of Mughal emperors to your kitchen tables, this culinary item has stood the test of time and will continue to do so for its unmatched flavor and presentation.

In this blog, we are going to embark on a journey into the history of this masterpiece. We will look at how biryani got to where it is today and how different cultures and regions celebrate it in their way so stay with us till the end.

  • The History and Origins of Biryani
  • Biryani and the Mughal Courts: A Royal Connection
  • Some Popular Regional Variations of Biryani: A Rich Tapestry of Flavors
  • Kolkata Biryani
  • Hyderabadi Biryani
  • Sindhi Biryani
  • Ambur Biryani
  • Vegetarian and Fusion Varieties
  • Biryani Meets the World

The History and Origins of Biryani

Looking at the etymology we find that the word Biryani might have originated from the Persian words birinj, biryan, or beriyan which means rice, to fry, and roast respectively.

Another account states that the word might have been a derivative of bereshtan (Persian) which means “to roast”. 

In ancient Persia, a similar dish to biryani called “the birinj biryan” was a popular cuisine. The basic ingredients for this dish were rice, meat, and an array of flavorful spices. The modern biryani also contains all of these ingredients.

Dum Biryani

This dish is believed to have found its way into Central Asia and the Middle East after the Persian invasions and the introduction of the Islamic Empire in the region around the 7th century. 

Another theory suggests that the biryani may have its roots in the nomadic and pastoral cultures of Central Asia. The people in the region relied heavily on rice and meat for their sustenance and this dish might have served as an easy and efficient way of preparing a hearty, delicious, and exquisite meal.

Biryani and the Mughal Courts: A Royal Connection

Mughals ruled the Indian subcontinent from the early 16th to the mid-19th century and this was the period in which Biryani got its current reputation of being a luxury and exquisite culinary item.  

The association of Biryani to the Mughal courts played a key role in popularizing this cuisine in the entire Indian subcontinent.

The main feat of the Mughals in this regard was combining Persian culinary traditions with Indian Ingredients to create the most sumptuous and delectable recipes that are known even today.

Biryani in a steel container

The existence of Biryani in Mughal courts is evident from the historical chronicles of the Mughal King Babur who was also the founder of this dynasty in 1526. In one of his memoirs, he mentions a big feast where a dish made from rice, meat, and spices which closely resembles the Biryani was served.

Another account is found in Ain-e-Akbari which states in detail the administration style and the culture of the Mughal courts. This document describes several Biryani-like dishes that were served at imperial banquets.  

Some Popular Regional Variations of Biryani: A Rich Tapestry of Flavors

Ever since it arrived in the subcontinent of India, the biryani has absorbed the flavors and culinary traditions of different regions each adding a unique element to the recipe making it even more rich in texture and flavor.

The diversity of this region’s geography and its social, cultural, and regional variations have all influenced this delectable recipe each giving its own distinct taste and appearance to Biryani.

Following are just a few examples of regional Biryanis that show how this recipe can take on any culture and region and blend right into it

Kolkata Biryani

This cherished variant of Biryani originated from the city of Kolkata formerly known as West Bengal. It is believed that when the last Nawab of Awadh was exiled to this city in the 19th century, he brought his royal chefs with him who masterfully adapted this dish to local ingredients and tastes leading to the formation of this signature dish.

This Biryani is less spicy and it has a mild flavor profile which sets it apart from its southern counterparts. The key ingredient in the recipe is meat from chicken or mutton which is marinated in yogurt, ginger-garlic, and a special biryani masala mixture.

Kolkata Biryani

Another unique element of Kolkata Biryani is the use of potatoes and eggs that are marinated in the same spices as meat. The dish is served with raita and it is a treat both for the eyes and senses. 

This distinct flavor, unique cooking style, and the perfect balance of spices set Kolkata Biryani apart and reflect the city’s rich culinary history.

Hyderabadi Biryani

Originating from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, this special biryani is made from basmati rice, meat, and a unique blend of spices like cloves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, coriander, mint, etc.

This biryani features fried onion or Birista which gives it a sweet caramelized depth. The dish is prepared using the “Dum” technique which involves sealing the rice tightly and cooking over slow fire. This leads to a consistent blend of aromatic spices with the rice.

Hyderabadi Biryani

Usually served with mirchi ka salan and raita this biryani recipe is the epitome of taste richness and flavor.

Sindhi Biryani

Found in the Sindh region of Pakistan, this biryani is known for its unique taste, flavorful ingredients, and distinct preparation technique. This biriyani features a very spicy flavor profile that stimulates your palate leaving a very pleasant taste behind.

This biryani features ingredients like meat, yogurt, garam masala, coriander, red chili powder, and turmeric. The addition of Alu Bukhara in this recipe sets it apart from the rest.

Sindhi Biryani

This biryani is garnished with thinly sliced red potatoes and boiled eggs along with a squeeze of lemon that adds a unique flavor and kick to it. Served with a side of raita or a simple salad of onions and tomatoes, every bite of this recipe brings you a world of flavor and bliss.

Ambur Biryani

Ambor otherwise known as Arcot Biryani originated from the town of Ambur in Tamil Nadu, India. This biryani stands out for its use of short-grained fragrant rice known as Seeraga Samba.

The main ingredients are meat, curd, red chili powder, and turmeric. The unique method of meat preparation gives this biryani a unique tangy aroma and flavor.

The spice-infused oil or ghee used in the recipe imparts it a unique texture. First, spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. are fried in Oil which then provides the base for the rice and meat.

The partially cooked rice and meat are layered in a pot, sealed, and cooked at low flame. This biryani is served with raita, brinjal curry, or ennai kathirikai. Less oily and moderately spicy, this recipe is deeply satisfying to people with a wide range of tastes. 

Vegetarian and Fusion Varieties

The rich culinary landscape of India has also led to the formation of vegetarian biryani recipes. These features include cooking a mixture of any vegetables of your liking separately and then putting layers of partially cooked rice and the vegetable mixture in a sealed container.

Recently, the worldwide popularity of Biryani has resulted in the preparation of fusion recipes that take inspiration from international flavors and ingredients.

Biryani Meets the World

As locals from India migrated to various parts of the world, they carried this recipe with them which contributed to making this dish a global sensation. From the Middle East to Europe, and from Southeast Asia to the Caribbean, and the rest of the world this dish has made its mark and the future looks even more promising for this delicious cuisine.


The history of biryani is ripe with cross-cultural exchanges and culinary ingenuity. From being a staple in the Mughal courts to adopting the culture and culinary traditions of every region it was introduced to, biryani has a legacy of endurance, innovation, and diversity.

The next time you see a delectable plate of biryani in front of you, make sure to take a second to admire the rich history and cultural significance it has. The journey of this dish from the royal courts to every global kitchen is very remarkable and it stands as a testament to its unparalleled popularity and culinary uniqueness.     

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