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Millet is a crop that has a tragic story, but a happy ending. In fact, its ending is a beginning. There used to be a time when millet was as common as water upon the tongues. But then, there came the flash flood of the Western diet, sweeping away the bits of our healthy dietary tradition.
However, the world is coming awake to its diet-related mistakes. Adding to it, the UN declared the year 2023 as the International Year of Millets in order to induce people toward healthy choices.
The affair of millet and mankind is over 10,000 years old. In fact, it is one of the oldest known ones. There are mentions of millet in the Vedic texts. No wonder it is nutritious and delicious as well. And since the time it originated, it spread throughout the world. Today, you’ll find many types of millet. Each of these types is known by different names in different languages. So, let’s dive deep into it and know its names and cultural significance. And if you want to learn about the health benefits of millet, read here.
Different types of millets and their name in different Indian languages
It is a wonderful and potent crop, so much so that there are around 6,000 types around the world. Have a walk upon different lands and you’ll witness it. There are different sizes, shapes, colours, and even nutritional value. However, only a few common ones are grown for consumption.
Here are some common types of millets:
- Pearl millet
- Finger millet
- Foxtail millet
- Proso millet
- Barnyard millet
- Little millet
- Kodo millet
- Brown Top millet
Now, here are some less common ones:
- Japanese millet
- Italian millet
- Guinea millet
Let’s pick up each of these and know how their many names around India.
Why these are called pearl millets in English is not known. Most probably, it got its name because of its pearl-like colours – white or cream-coloured. However, what is known is that they are nutritious and the commonest of all the different types of millet. Here is how it is celebrated around India with different names:
Names of Pearl Millet in Different Indian Languages
|Odia||Bajra, Katreng, Gathia, Katrenga|
A crop that originated in Africa and is now cherished throughout the world. Many stories, many legends, and many dishes, but one purpose: to feed humanity with love and nutrition. When it comes to popular cereal crops, it stands at the fifth spot. The crops that precede it are maize, wheat, rice, and barley. 
Here is a fun fact: it is also often used as bird feed and to produce ethanol.
Now, let’s learn about its many names.
Names of Sorghum Millet in Different Indian Languages
|Odia||Janha, Khedjana, Janjarla, Gangei|
- Finger Millet
A crop that has gained its name based on its appearance. The gains are grown on a bunch of panicles that resemble fingers, although weird it looks. In the year 2016, when Kenyan farmers were struggling to make a living, finger millet was the plant that came to their rescue. It was drought-tolerant, could grow on poor soil, and was nutritious indeed.
Names of Finger Millet in Different Indian Languages
|Hindi||Nachini, Mandika, Mundua, Marwah, Ragi|
|Tamil||Kezzhvaragu, Keppai, Kelavaragu, Ragi|
|Telugu||Ragula, Ragi Chodi|
So why foxtail? It is because its panicle looks like a fox tail. The moment you see it, you get reminded of all those childhood stories around Fox. In China, it has traditionally been used as a medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine considers it to be one of the most nourishing grains for humans.
Names of Foxtail Millet in different Indian Languages
|Hindi||Kakum, Kangni, Rala|
|Odia||Gondli, Kangu, Kang|
It is one of the oldest cultivated millets that are known around. Believed to have been domesticated around 10,000 years ago in China, this crop has become a new favourite. Claims are that it was used to prepare Jiuniang (an alcoholic drink) during the Han dynasty. 
Names of Proso Millet in different Indian Languages
|Hindi||Barri, Chena, Variga|
Scientifically known as Echinochloa esculenta, barnyard millet is relatively new as compared to other types. The earliest evidence of its domestication goes back to only around 4,000 years ago. Traditionally, it is thought to have been used as food for domesticated animals. This is where it got its name from.
Names of Proso Millet in different Indian Languages
|Odia||Kheera, Bila Suan|
|Marathi||Sanwa, Sama, Varai|
Similar to proso millet, but a bit smaller in size. And as smaller as it is, as harsher it is at its core. This crop can easily handle both draught and water pooling. One of its many benefits is that these grains stay rich in antioxidants. This means better skin health, organ health, and overall well-being.
Names of Little Millet in Different Indian Languages
|Odia||Gurji, Koshla, Kuiri, Suan|
|Malayalam||Halvi, Vari, Sava|
It is an ancient grain that has been cultivated throughout India for thousands of years. Unlike other grains, it got its name from a place called ‘Kodagu’ in Karnataka. Many people use it to make porridge, upma, and even salads.
Names of Kodo Millet in different Indian Languages
Brown top millet was once a traditional remedy for constipation. It is a rare variety of millet and thus could cost more than its other varieties. Like other types of millet, it is high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Names of Brown Top Millet in different Indian Languages
|Punjabi||Sanva, Bhura Bajra|
Millet is a grain that is gluten-free in its natural form.
Shakespeare must have said in a drunken state what is there in the name. Sometimes, it could be true too. But you cannot go to a state and ask for something unless you know its name. This way, all that you get are some faces with brows raised in confusion. So, know the names, at least of foods.
Millet is a rich grain that is used all around the globe. Especially in India, it has numerous names. From barnyard millet in Marathi to proso millet in Punjabi, these tiny grains have nourished generations. They have a special place in the culinary traditions of many cultures. So let us celebrate the rich diversity of millets, their names, and their cultural significance.
Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses that are cultivated as cereal crops. They are rich in nutrients and have been used as staple foods for centuries in many parts of the world.
Yes, millets are naturally gluten-free, making them suitable for individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Millets are highly nutritious and provide a good source of dietary fibre, protein, essential minerals (such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorus), and vitamins (such as niacin and vitamin B6).
You can incorporate millet into your diet by using them as a substitute for rice or wheat in various recipes, including pilafs, stir-fries, salads, and baked goods. You can also try millet flour for making rotis or as a gluten-free alternative for baking.