The history of sugar cane in India

March 6, 2018

The sugar cane juice drink that we enjoy today has a rich history based on a very nice success story. Cultivating sugar was believed to have originated in India, with records showing that the process of refining cane juice (which we now enjoy in drinks such as ganna juice) into granulated crystals was also a development of the country. It was initially a trade secret, so most of the world’s population used to chew the raw sugarcane just to extract its juice. The Indians popularized sugar refining, a process they discovered during the Gupta Dynasty in 350 A.D.



From then on, sugarcane farming has flourished, and sugar extraction has become widespread all over India. There is evidence of the existence of these practices in many literature pieces written during the early periods of sugarcane farming. Several entries mention the huge machinery used for sugar extraction could be compared to the sound of large elephants, while the smoke produced during the process were described as resembling the clouds over the mountains.


Since it began as a trade secret and was exclusive to India, exportation of sugar to other countries was a thriving business for Indians. Another avenue to spread sugar to the world was through Indian sailors who used sugar as their commodity when traveling their usual trade routes. From then on, sugar has increasingly become popular all over the world as well the world’s increased interest in the technology involved in sugar cultivation. One record shows that Darius, the Emperor of Persia, regarded sugar (sugarcane) as “the reed which gives honey without bees.”


Records have shown that some of the earliest refining methods involved the following:

·         Grinding and/or pounding of sugarcane to extract its juice; and

·         Boiling down the juice or dry it out in the sun in order to form its solid state.


One of the first records of promoting sugar making methods to other countries happened during the reign of Harsha (around 606-647 A.D.). Upon introduction to sugar cultivation and with an interest to learn more, the reigning Emperor Taizong of Tang in China requested Indian emissaries hold tutorials on sugar cultivation methods to some selected Chinese. This has contributed to the success and popularity of sugar, with a widespread interest in obtaining it as well as cultivating it.



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