Buddha Rice is a rare, ancient, aromatic rice variety from the Land of Buddha- Kapilvastu (currently Siddharthnagar, Uttar Pradesh). This rice variety has been under cultivation for more than 3000 years and its aroma is said to be a gift of Lord Buddha to his people in Kapilvastu. This rice if grown anywhere else loses its quality and aroma.
Popularly known as Kalanamak rice in eastern Uttar Pradesh, this rice was awarded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag by Govt. of India in 2013 to mark its limited area of origin (which is a stretch of 65 km along the Indo-Nepal border).
This rice variety has a unique black husk from which it derives its name. The rice grains are white and medium sized.
Kalanamak is traditionally grown without the use of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides which makes it suitable for organic cultivation and results in it being more palatable and digestible. The Glycemic Index (GI), which is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels, is 52 for Kalanamak, making it a Diabetes friendly rice. Foods with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised, causing a lower and slower rise in blood glucose.
Kalanamak’s cultivation dates back to 600 BC and grains similar to Kalanamak have been excavated at Aligarhwa, Siddhartnagar - identified as the territory of Buddha's father, King Shuddodhan. Fa-Hsein, a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled to Ancient India to acquire Buddhist texts during the 5th Century BC, notes in his travelogues that when Gautama Buddha visited Kapilvastu for the first time after attaining ‘enlightenment’,he was stopped by villagers who asked him for 'prasad'. Lord Buddha blessed the villagers of Kapilvastu with grains of Kalanamak, asking them to sow it in a marshy place. “The rice will have typical aroma which will always remind people of me," he said. This rice variety, if sown elsewhere, loses its aroma and quality. Kalanamak was so coveted by the British East India Company, that they built four reservoirs at Bajha, Marthi, Moti, and Majhauli to produce Kalanamak in a large quantity and transported it to England from Uska-bazar mandi, passing through Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) via sea route Due to increasing demand of Kalanamak rice they later captured the land around Kapilvastu, and established Birdpur and Alidapur states for Kalanamak production. After independence, Uska-bazar mandi became nonfunctional due to negligence. This led to a fall in production of Kalanamak and it became the famous lost rice of India.