Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge
Vol 6(1)-January 2007 -pp 141-143

Some interesting indigenous beverages among the tribals of Central India

Vivek Kumar1* & RR Rao2

1National Innovation Foundation, Bungalow No 1, Satellite Complex, Premchand Nagar Road, Ahmedabad 380 015, Gujarat; 2Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Bangalore, Karnataka


Received 3 November 2006; revised 5 December 2006

Central India is rich in ethnic as well as floristic diversity. The tribal groups of this region mainly depend on the forests for food, medicine and shelter. Beverages play an important role in the life of these tribals. The paper presents the detailed account of two important beverages, Handia and Mahua consumed by the tribals of Central India.

Keywords: Handia, Mahua, Traditional beverages, Tribals, Central India

IPC Int. Cl.8: A61K36/00, A01G1/00, A01G17/00, A47G19/00, A23L1/00, A23L1/06

In India, about 550 tribal communities contribute 8.08% of the total population of the country. About 20-30% of the total population of scheduled tribe is found in central India. About 40-50 tribes residing in the region are divided in to more than 100 groups. The main tribes are Andh, Baiga, Bharia, Bhatra, Bhil, Bhujia, Bhillala, Birhor, Gond, Halba, Korwa, Kol, Maria, Nagesia, Oraon, Sahariya, Santhal, etc. These tribal groups largely depend on forests for their basic needs like food, fodder, medicines, timber, and shelter, etc. Among food plants, beverage, alcoholic and non-alcoholic occupies an important position, and plays a main role in social life of tribals. Almost all tribals are fond of drinks and consume during every ceremony, festivals, marriages, funeral feasts, and offer it to their Gods and deities. Among the non-alcoholic beverages, which they consume as cooling or refreshing drinks generally in summer are prepared from various plant species such as Aegle marmelos (L.) Corr. fruit pulp, Asparagus racemosus Willd. root powder, Curculigo orchioides Gaertn. roots, Chlorophytum tuberosum Bak. roots, Curcuma augustifolia Roxb. rhizomes, Mangifera indica L. fruit pulp, and Sacchraum officinarum L. juice, etc. The common alcoholic beverages are Paise prepared from Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn., Tadi from Borassus flabellifer L., Salpi from Caryota urens L., Chind from Phoenix sylvestris Roxb., Handia from Oryza sativa L., and Mahua from Madhuca longifolia var. latifolia (Koen.) Macbr. Handia and Mahua are most commonly and popularly consumed drinks among the tribals of central India.



 The study was carried out in Surguja district of central India. The total area of the districts is about 22,337 sq km. 48.5% of the total area is covered by Sal and mixed forests1. Gonds, Kawars, Nagesia, Oraons, Pandos, Korwas, Khairwars, Majhwars, Kodakus, Agarias and Baigas, etc are the main tribes of district. Most common beverages in the district are Handia and Mahua. Handia is prepared from grains of Oryza sativa L. and Mahua from dried corollas of Madhuca longifolia var. latifolia (Koen.) Macbr.  The paper highlights the detailed methods of preparation of these beverages.


Preparation of fermentation cake (Ranu tablets)

 In the preparation of Handia and Mahua, Ranu tablets play an important role, act as yeast starter or fermentor, and help in fermentation of both beverages. Ranu tablets or Ranu goti are the mixture of roots, barks, rhizomes, leaves of about 20-25 plant species (Table 1) and binded with the rice flour. For preparation of tablets, rice is soaked in water, pounded, and kept in shady place for drying. The plant species used in preparation of Ranu goti are collected mostly from forests, and sometimes grown in the kitchen garden. The roots, leaves, bark, seeds of the plants are sun dried and pounded, powdered and dried in sun. The powder is mixed with flour thoroughly in the ratio of 1:2, and rolled in small pieces in the form of small cakes. These tablets are kept in closed room for drying. After drying, these Ranu tablets or Ranu goti are used for preparing local beverages.


Preparation of Handia (Rice beer)



Table 1¾Plants used in the preparation of Ranu tablets




Plant name

Local name

Parts used




Argyreia bella (C.B.Clarke) Raizada



Bombax ceiba L.



Buchanania lanzan Spreng.



Casearia graveolens Dalz.



Cassine glauca (Rottb.) O. Ktze


Stem bark

Catunaregam spinosa (Thunb.) Tirvengadum



Cissampelos pareira L.



Crotalaria albida Heyne ex Roth

Choate ghurguli


Cryptolepis buchanani Roem. & Schult.

Kali dudhi


Datura metal L.



Elephantopus scaber L.

Manjur choti


Euphorbia prolifera Buch. – Ham. ex D. Don



Hemidesmus indicus (L.) R.Br.



Holarrhena pubescens Wall. ex Don


Root / stem bark

Knoxia sumatrensis  (Retz.) DC.

Khudi kanda

Whole plant

Pueraria tuberosa (Willd.) DC.

Patal kumhra


Scoparia dulcis L.

Bhui dhania

Root/whole plant

Senecio nudicaulis Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don

Ban sarson


Symplocos racemosa Roxb.


Stem bark

Tylophora rotundifolia Buch.- Ham. ex Wt.,



Wattakaka volubilis (L.f.) Stapf

Gai lakhan




Handia is prepared from grains of Oryza sativa L. For this, rice is boiled well and then spread on mat for cooling. After that, the cooked rice and Ranu tablets are placed in earthen pots  (Handia) and the mouth of vessel is covered by cloth and kept in suitable placed for 2-5 days for fermentation. Ranu tablets or medicinal cake is added to this boiled rice in appropriate proportion. In one litre generally four tablets are added.. Some plant parts, e.g. Elephantopus scaber L. roots, Argyreia bella (C.B.Clarke) Raizada stem, Casearia graveolens Dalz. bark, Symplocos racemosa Roxb. Bark, etc. are also added to increase intoxication or decrease the period of fermentation. After 3-5 days, the fermented product is extracted with hot & cold water and the extract is drunk as beverage.


Preparation of Mahua

 Mahua is prepared from dried corollas of Madhuca longifolia var. latifolia (Koen.) Macbr. For the preparation of Mahua, two methods, Close process and Tube process are used by tribal people (Figs.1 & 2). In Close process, the liquor is collected in the pot, while in tube (nala) method, a tube is connected to the pot in which liquour comes out by the help of tube and stored in pot or cane. The dried corollas are kept in pot and some water is added. In the pot, ranu tablets and juice of Buchanania lanzan Spreng. leaves is added to help the fermentation. The pot is closed by the cloth and kept for 3-5 days or till it start smelling, then the pot is kept on stove for distillation. On this pot, another pot is placed and above this another pot is placed in which the cold water is filled. The junctions of these pots are tied tightly by cloth. The vapour passed through the middle pot strikes the bottom of the upper pot in which the cold water is kept. The vapour cools and the droplets collect in the middle pot. In closed system, in middle pot (paina), a small pot called dokli is placed in which the liquour is collected. In tube (nala) process, the vapour is passed through the tube, which is connected to middle pot and collects in cane or in anther pot. The water of upper pot is regularly changed to keep it cool. The collected mahua is drunk as beverage. The strength of mahua depends on changes of water of upper pot.



 Preparation of these two beverages is very common among the tribals of central India and is prepared in almost every second house. Both these beverages have great importance in the social life of tribals. These beverages act as binding agent among the tribal communities. In every function, they join together and drink beverages and enjoy. Handia (rice beer) is generally prepared during festivals or ceremonies. In marriages, the number of Handia to be given to girl side is decided well in advance. Mahua is daily consumed by these tribals. Women and children are also fond of these beverages but consume in small quantity and preferably during festivals or ceremonies. Tribals not only consume these beverages for intoxication but also meet 5-10% of the daily requirements of the nutrients, playing supplementary role in the nutrition of the people2. In small quantity, these beverages are also used as medicine for treating different ailments or diseases. Handia is taken as light tranquillizer by Maria tribe of Baster3. It is also given to treat fever, dysentery, diarrhoea and gynaecological complaints4. Mahua is given to treat dysentery by Baiga, Gond, and Kol tribe of Surguja district5. Ranu tablets are also used in treating cholera by Gond tribe of Surguja district.



 Authors are thankful to Dr SK Jain for his constant guidance and encouragement; Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Dehradun for financial support; Director NBRI for infrastructure facilities; Forest, revenue officials and tribals of Surguja for help in field work.



1         Sagar G D, Forest Working Plan of South Surguja Forest Division, (1997-98) to (2006-07), Vol I, Working Plan Division, Ambikapur, Surguja, 1997. 

2         Roy J K, Alcoholic beverages in tribal India and their nutritional role, Man in India, 58 (1978) 298-326.

3         Sahu T R, Life support promising food plants among aboriginals of Bastar (MP), India, In: Ethnobiology in Human Welfare, by S K Jain,  (Deep Publications, New Delhi), 1996, 26-30.

4         Sinku Usha, Ethnomedicinal use of rice beer (Deyang) among Ho tribe of Singhbhum district of South Chotanagpur, In: Proc Natl Symp medicinal mplants diversity in Chotanagpur Plateau and Human Welfare, Ranchi, Bihar, 1999, 5.

5         Kumar V & Rao R R, Some plant beverages used in traditional medicines, Ethnobotany, 13 (2001) 36-39.


*Corresponding author