Skip to content
Exploring Our Roots: A Brief Look At The History Of Milk In India

Exploring Our Roots: A Brief Look At The History Of Milk In India

Throughout much of India's history, milk and milk products have become a normal part of our diets and culture. From the time that we are young children, we are influenced by stories of gods and goddesses drinking and using milk. In many of these stories, the purpose of drinking milk is to gain good health. 

Apart from that, regional cuisines from all across India use milk to create a variety of dishes for all sorts of occasions. Chai and coffee are integral parts of our morning and evening routines, many curries and sweets can’t seem to be made without milk, and milk is used to make other dairy products like curd and paneer. 

So how did we come to consume something like milk in such large quantities? Why is it such a large industry today? Read on to learn more!

1700 BCE

The first use of dairy can be traced back to Rigveda, the first written mention of milk and milk products.

The entry counted foods that are still prominent in the Indian diet today, such as: curd, butter, buttermilk, and ghee.

In India, the presence of cows and goats in excavation sites suggests that dairy may have been in use since at least the Harappan Civilization (3300-1300 BCE). 

1000–1500 CE

Dairy-production was still in its nascent stages around this time as the distribution was restricted by socioeconomic status, geographical availability, and cultural preferences. For example, records show that some tribal folk considered dairy to be bad for their bodies; their consumption of dairy was nil. However, it was still very popular among the ruling classes in kingdoms, as something of a luxury drink.

In the mediaeval period (1000–1500 CE), traveller accounts such as the Chinese monk Huan Tsang mention milk and milk products playing a prominent role during feasts thrown by royalty. 

While it likely started out as a product for the wealthy, it grew into a food item that was consumed across social classes (just think of all the dishes associated with different festivals across different communities and how dairy is used as an ingredient in nearly all of them).

1600–20th Century

Around the time the British arrived to begin their colonial rule, dairy production had become less sporadic and instead spread across the nation. Local unorganised cottage industries emerged across towns and villages. We were introduced to a beverage that would arguably change our daily-routines forever. 

Tea has never been the beverage that it is now. It was consumed for medicinal purposes by tribes in north-east India. The East India Company, hoping to overcome the monopoly on tea-trade held by the Chinese, pushed tea-production in India as much as they could. The advent of tea had begun. 

Today, chai is something that cuts across communities as the one thing to have in the morning and evening, or whenever your heart desires it. This, along with coffee, made the consumption of milk in different beverages even more common throughout the country. 

1970

This year marked the beginning of a government program that would change the face of dairy production in India and our dependence on it. 

‘Operation Flood’ or the ‘White Revolution’ created a system of dairy production that included dairy farmers all across the country. The government saw the dairy industry as a means of both boosting employment opportunities and improving people’s access to nutrition. The programme saw a bridging of the gap between urban areas that might have higher demand but lower supply, and rural family-owned dairy producers. 

2000s

Plant-based mylks began emerging to cater to a growing demand due to those who could not consume dairy. In recent years a new concern has been added to the list—the sustainability of the dairy industry. 

The push to provide dairy to every member of society has placed enormous stress on sections of the supply chain that are routinely overlooked to enhance growth. The lives of cows who produce milk have declined due to inexperience and lack of knowledge, and the poor quality of life provided to these animals causes illness (to the non-human animal and us in the form of cross-species transmission) and low quality milk production. 

These are surely unhappy things to dwell on. However, by reducing the amount of dairy we consume, or quitting it completely, we can help the situation just a little bit. 

2017

One Good establishes itself within this historical timeline as a brand dedicated to helping people make a partial or complete switch to a plant-based diet by being affordable, accessible, and providing free resources and literature for people to make better, more informed choices.

Writing The Future Of Dairy

Our goal isn’t to get rid of dairy and its cultural significance. In fact, we believe that the future of dairy is plant-based! Why?

It’s healthier: Plant-based milks are low in saturated fat, free of cholesterol, and they’re easier to digest. 

It’s more sustainable: Plant-based milks are better for the environment because they require less water and land than traditional dairy. 

It's more humane: Many dairy farms abuse their cows, which is why we’re proud to be a cruelty-free brand. 

If you liked this blog, share with a friend and check out some of our other recent blog posts on dairy:



Previous article Why is vegan milk more expensive than cow's milk? | One Good India
Next article Plastic Packaging: Why We Use It And What We Think About It

Comments

One Good - November 17, 2022

Chinmay & Sayantani,

Thank you so much!

Chinmay Nighoskar - August 3, 2022

Great Article!
I am proud to be Vegan.

Sayantani - July 29, 2022

Outstanding!

Leave a comment

* Required fields