The Sweet Legacy of the Mughals: Exploring the History of Petha

Hitanshu Bhatt
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history of petha

It is believed that the very famous sweet of Agra was invented during the rule of Shah Jahan. Let's look into the history of Petha and how it originated.

Petha is made from ash gourd (winter melon) and white pumpkin, or petha, and is famously referred to in India as a white translucent sweet. This squishy white Indian mithai is one of the simply made sweets with just 3 ingredients; fruit, water, and sugar. The story of this popular indulgence dates back to the monument of the Taj Mahal itself and so let's dig into the history of petha.

Sweet from the rule of the royals

history of petha


It is believed that the Petha was made during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It was during the time of construction of the Taj Mahal that Emporer ordered his chefs to prepare a sweet which looks as pure and white as the Mahal. The royal chefs cut the Petha (white pumpkins) into dice, boiled them in water, and then mixed them with sugar. The sugar provided the workers with instant energy that could help them work and that's what made the petha work, too.

Also Read: History of Food: Know the origin story of Ladoo, the must-have sweet for all celebrations

The demand of the labours

history of petha


According to another belief, during the construction of the Taj Mahal, which supposedly went on for 22 years, the labourers were fed nothing but roti and dal until they got bored and sick of it. They desired to eat something else and requested the emperor to fulfill this wish. Shah Jahan then asked his master architect, Ustad Isa, for assistance. Isa then went to a Pir (a spiritual man), who had received the recipe for petha while meditating and passed on the same recipe to him.

Oal Ka Murraba

history of petha


Petha is not only famous in Agra but also in other parts of India by different names. It is known as Oal and Oal ka Murrabba in Jharkhand and Bihar. It is also a preferred sweet because it stays for a longer period of time. It can be preserved for 40 to 45 days by soaking it in the Chashni (sugar syrup). Traditionally it was made by burning coal to produce heat and to date, some of the shopkeepers use this technique.

Agra holds great significance in Indian history and petha adds up to the list. So, next time you visit Agra, don't forget to bring some Pethas home, be it kesar, badami, or angoori!

Also Read: Did you know the Origin of Kolkata Biryani? Come, read and find more about the Nawabi Biryani.

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