History of Tandoori Chicken: Know The Origin that Dates Back to the Harappan Civilization!

History of Tandoori Chicken: Know The Origin that Dates Back to the Harappan Civilization!

Tandoori chicken has become an incredibly popular item on the menus of almost all Indian restaurants, and it is easy to understand the reason behind it. The tempting aroma of the roasted chicken marinated in yogurt with light spicy flavor, give the meat its beautiful red color.

The preparation is named after the cylindrical clay oven, tandoor in which the meat is cooked. Several curious foodies grapple around the questions of the history of tandoori chicken and its relation to chicken tikka masala and butter chicken. However, there are a few convincing answers. Here is a guide to some of the theories available that surround the most famous dish of Indian cuisine.

Story of Origin

The history of tandoori chicken dates back to the Harappan Civilization. Sounds awkward? But, yes, the tandoori chicken dish was prepared in the Harappan civilization, which dates back to almost 3000 years ago during 2600-2500 BCE.

Professor Vasant Sindhi, an archaeologist, was the first to find out old ovens in the Harappan sites of excavation, that looked quite similar to tandoor clay oven used in the present north-western regions of India. Even the physical remains of the bones of chicken with char marks have also been discovered.

The Sushruta Samhita claims that the meat was roasted after being marinated with aromatic spices and black mustard, in an oven. Hence, there are chances that the art of tandoori chicken was known to our Harappan ancestors, and it just went on evolving with age.

Also Read: History of Butter Chicken: Know How The Spicy and Savoury Most Wanted Cuisine of India Invented!

The tandoori chicken that's popular today is said to be innovated by Kundan Lal Gujral. It is even believed by some that Kundan first prepared the tandoori chicken in Peshawar, when he worked for Mokha Lamba Singha in Gora Bazaar, Peshawar. There was a cylindrical clay oven, a tandoor in the shop of Mokha Singh.

It was built by Gujral, right in the middle of the shop. The Gujral version of tandoori chicken was made with a bright orange-colored exterior that looked tempting and became an instant hit. However, Gujral was forced to flee to India due to the political upheavals during the partition.

He settled in Dayarganj in Delhi and tried to make a living with the culinary skills he had learned in Peshawar. And thus, the iconic Moti Mahal was built, which gradually became an internationally renowned restaurant.

The restaurant beside popularising tandoori chicken brought forth two other most loved dishes, namely, Butter chicken and Dal makhani. Many great personalities, including Gandhi, Nixon, and Kennedy, visited the Moti Mahal restaurant. The restaurant is attributed to popularizing the Indian chicken cuisines into the international food stage.

However, still, there are claims that the tandoori chicken was invented in the Mughal era. However, there are many counter-arguments that it was never a part of the Avadhi cuisine. It is not a total Muslim originated cuisine that hailed from the North of India. Gujral was a Punjabi Hindu, a refugee who turned out to tandoori chicken as a successful venture.

Versions of Tandoori Chicken

Well, the tandoori chicken has a boneless version too, that can be eaten with forks and knives: Chicken Tikka. The word tikka is derived from the Turkic word. It means pieces and bits. The Turkish translation of the word is "Tike."

The chicken tikka consists of basically boneless chickens baked through skewers on a brazier. They are marinated with various spices and yogurt.There is a Kashmiri variant of the chicken tikka. However, in this version, the chicken pieces are grilled over red-hot coals. And more importantly, it doesn't necessarily contain boneless chickens. The pieces of chicken are further brushed with butter or ghee to increase the flavor, while still being in flame.


Regardless of the debate about the history of tandoori chicken, chicken tandoori tends to be our favorite chicken dish that's exclusively Indian in taste and aroma. It has gained worldwide popularity and first-hand choice for almost everyone.

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