Pulses Icon

January 31, 2022

Pulses are a valuable source of protein, and indispensable in the vegetarian diet.

Most pulses are high in protein but have varying degrees of fat. They are easier to digest than casein, but less substantial.

They are more important as a food than cereals, and in emergency conditions, pulses are more essential for health. Some pulses are also used for oil production.

For farming, pulses are important as nitrogen fixers. The roots of all pulses should be left in the soil for some time after the harvest so that they can perform this function. This is one reason why they make excellent blended crops with plants like cereals, which do not fix nitrogen in the soil.

Pulse in Saḿskrta is “dvidal,” and in Hindi and Bengali, “dál.” In Urdu all pulses are called “dalahan.”

There are many common pulses which include:

  • green gram (śát́há moog). The varieties include: golden gram (soná moog) horse gram (ghoŕá moog) grassy gram (gheso moog) black gram (biri kalái) khesári

  • peas (kalái, mat́ar)

    • small black variety (t́hikre mat́ar)
    • big white variety
  • Bengal gram (cáná, cholá)

    • small black variety (t́hikre cáná)
    • pink variety (gulábi cáná)
    • all white variety (kábuli cáná)
  • lentil (masoor)

  • cow pea (aŕahar)

    • junior cow pea (Mághii aŕahar)
    • senior cow pea (Caetii aŕahar)
  • soybean

  • barbat́i beans

Green Gram (Śát́há Moog)

Green gram is known as “mudga” in Saḿskrta, “muga” in Bengali, and “moog” in Hindi. Mudga giri means “a hill like moog,” hence the name Munghyr. There are three varieties of green gram:

golden gram (soná moog) horse gram (ghoŕá moog) grassy gram (gheso moog)

The most substantial of these is horse gram, but the variety which is the most sweet scenting and palatable is golden gram. The best quality golden gram is grown in the Nadia district of Bengal. Golden gram is a two month crop, thus five to six crops can be harvested per annum, with some rest period for the land. In the Ánanda Nagar area, both golden gram and tapioca may be cultivated. They make a good combination in khicuri (rice, pulse and vegetables cooked together) for mass feeding.

There were formerly many seasonal green grams, but nowadays two main varieties, 60 day green gram (śát́há moog) and rainy season green gram, are grown. The period for rainy season gram is during the months of Aśádha, Shrávańa and Bhádra. The production and growth of rainy season gram is ordinary. 60 day green gram grows throughout India, as does golden gram. Green gram grows best in half sandy (demi-sandy) alluvial soil. It grows well throughout the year, except in the rainy season, and requires less water than áus paddy. One special rule for harvesting green gram is that the pods should be plucked singularly, one by one. Children may help pluck the pods, which should be plucked before they have completely dried.

Black Gram (Biri Kalái)

Language Name
Saḿskrta mash kalai
Bengali biri or beuli
Nepali mash
Punjabi mah or “mash” (the bigger variant is “rajmah” or “raj mash”)
Hindi “ureda”
West Bihar “wid”

Black gram is the most nutritious of the pulses and may be eaten regularly. But it should be avoided if one’s stomach is not in order.

Gram is difficult to digest, but it gives immediate energy and no reserve energy.

Cow pea gives reserve energy but is more difficult to digest than gram.

Black gram is called “mash kalai” or “thakuri kalai” in North Bengal. Green gram is more palatable but less nutritious than black gram.

The best seasons to grow black gram are the rainy season and autumn, for the five months from Ashadra to Kárttika.

High, rain fed, alluvial or laterite soil is the best soil for growing black gram. Black gram grows in the western and northern districts of West Bengal, certain parts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and the Punjab.

As a pulse, it is very substantial. Bará, bari, dahi bará and pápad are all prepared from this pulse. The creepers may be used as animal fodder. They may be cut at intervals of 45 days, except one month before the flowering date. Pruning should cease one month before flowering. Since black gram flowers in the month of Áshvina, pruning should be stopped in Bhádra, otherwise there will be less flowering and fruiting. After pruning there will be a profuse growth of the branches and sub- branches. It may also be grown as a blended crop.

Associated crops that may be grown with black gram are turmeric, sugar cane, shák (green leafy vegetables), brinjal, raw chilli (green chilli) and radish.


Language Name
Urdu khesári (from Sanskrit)
Saḿskrta khesara
Tripuri khesári is known as “triputi,”
Bengali and Hindi khesári
Ráŕhi Bangla and Assamese tewada
Burdwan tewada

Khesári may be produced as a “pigeon crop” along with paddy without tilling the land, or it may be grown afresh in the month of Áshvina when watery clay remains in the paddy field. During the paddy harvesting period, the upper portions of the khesári should be cut off, and as a result new shoots and offshoots will grow. Khesári takes four months to mature and may be grown as a single winter crop after tilling the land.

Khesári contains certain poisonous alkaloids in the pulse and the leaves which may cause paralysis in the lower part of the body in both human beings and animals. Children are more likely to contract this disease than others.

So, khesári should not be eaten. Some people are of the opinion that if khesári is kept in hot water during the night and removed from the water in the morning, and then properly rubbed, it will be cleansed of the poison. If a new, non-poisonous khesári variety could be developed, then it may be used as food. Unless this is done, it is not advisable to eat khesári, even though it is very rich in protein.

Peas (Kalái, Mat́ar)

Peas are called “kalai” in Saḿskrta, “matar” or “kalai” in Bengali and “kerao” by the inhabitants of Bihar. Peas are a very substantial and nutritious food, but if they are eaten excessively they may cause skin disease.

The small variety is called “t́hikre matar” in Bengali. This black pea may be grown as a “pigeon crop” in the paddy field, like khesári. It may also be used as a single crop by tilling the land and growing it as a winter crop, or as a blended crop along with wheat in a ratio of 9:1 wheat to peas.

The big white variety will produce a winter crop, but the land must be tilled properly. Peas take four months to mature, that is, almost the same amount of time as khesári. The leaf of the pea has more potassium than the green gram leaves (cholá shák), but less than caladium. It is also a laxative.

Bengal Gram (Cáná, Cholá)

Bengal gram is known as “canak” or “buntik” in Saḿskrta, “cáná” in Hindi, “cholá” in Persian, Urdu and standard Bengali, “rahimá” in Bhojpuri and “but” in Bihar and Ráŕhi Bangla. There are three varieties of Bengal gram:

small black variety (t́hikre cháná) pink variety (gulábi cháná) all white variety (kábuli cháná)

The black variety of Bengal gram has substantial food value and is the most tasty. The plants are small and the yield is low. It is grown as a “pigeon crop” with paddy, just like khesári, black pea (t́hikre mat́ar) and pea, if the soil is dry after harvesting the áman crop.

If it is grown as a “pigeon crop”, it should be sown by the 10th of Agraháyańa at the latest, otherwise boro paddy should be planted. Black Bengal gram takes five months to mature, from Kárttika to Phálguna. Black gram can also be sown as a “pigeon crop” for research. The pink variety is produced as a winter crop after the land has been tilled. It also takes five months to mature.

The all white Bengal gram is all white, and bigger, less tasty, less substantial and less productive than the other varieties, but it is a good money earner. It is also produced as a winter crop after tilling the land.

Gram has good nutritional value but it is hard to digest. Gram gives immediate energy, but not much reserve energy. Horses are often fed gram because it is easy to soak. As long as the gram is in their stomachs, they can work, but when it is digested they must be fed again.

When the gram crop is one month old, its leaves and stems should be picked for use as green vegetables (shák). This induces side offshoots so that there is more flowering and fruiting. But the practice of plucking the leaves and stems should be stopped one month before flowering. For example, if flowering occurs on the 1st of Paoś, then plucking should be stopped from the 1st of Agraháyańa. This rule applies to all the pulses.

One property of gram leaves is that they are rich in calcium. During teething, children often suffer from diarrhoea because all the calcium in their diet goes into teeth formation. In the rainy season also, children sometimes suffer from diarrhoea because the rainwater does not contain many minerals. If a child develops diarrhoea and becomes emaciated due to lack of calcium, gram leaves will restore his or her health.

The leaves should be ground into a liquid, which will turn red, and this juice should be taken. Also, if a nursing mother dies, the baby can be fed boiled gram leaves as a substitute for mothers milk. This will prevent the health of the baby deteriorating. Gram husk makes a good cattle feed. Milk giving animals relish gram husk mixed with mustard oil cake (sarśe khal).

Lentil (Masoor)

Language Word
Saḿskrta “masuri”
Hindi “masoor”
Bihar “masoori” and in
Bengali “masoor” or “masoori”

The small variety may be cultivated as a “pigeon crop” along with paddy in the month of October.

The large variety may be cultivated along with wheat, as a winter crop, after the land has been tilled. Lentil leaves have no special qualities although they are sentient.

Lentils are to be treated as a static food and must not be eaten by sannyasis. They may be eaten in the daytime by householders (grhis), but they must not be eaten in the night by anybody because at night they ferment easily.

Cow Pea (Árahar)

The Saḿskrta name for cow pea is “kandul tandul.” In Midnapur it is called “gach kalai.” In North Bengal it is known as “alry” in colloquial Bengali.

Cow pea is a substantial food crop because it supplies a lot of energy to both human beings and animals, although it is a bit hard to digest. Cow pea provides a lot of reserve energy, whereas gram gives immediate energy. Cow pea is even more difficult to digest than gram. Horses are not fed cow pea as it is hard to soak.

There are 2 varieties:

  • junior cow pea (Mághii aŕahar)
  • senior cow pea (Caetii aŕahar)

The season for both the varieties is in the month of Aśádha. It may be produced with the áus paddy in the month of Aśádha, and after the harvest of the áus crop it stands alone in the field because it takes nine months to mature. During this period, a second associate crop should be grown. It is best if this second crop is a tuber crop.

The junior variety becomes fit for harvesting in the month of Mágha. The senior variety is harvested in the month of Caetra, and has greater food value than the junior variety. The plants may be utilized to produce fuel, as fencing or for constructing temporary sheds.

The roots of all pulses, including cow pea, should remain in the ground for some days after the harvesting is finished because nitrogenous compounds are produced in the roots, and these help increase the soil productivity after rain. A new variety of cow pea which can be harvested in the month of Agraháyańa should be developed. If this is done, then the cultivation of this variety should be encouraged. The soil at Ánanda Nagar is good for growing cow pea.


This bean is most conveniently used as a pulse (dál) along with its special nutritive value of fat. Also, as a protein it is about 250% richer than casein. Soybean is an all-season crop and takes about 90-100 days to mature. It may be cropped along with peanut, linseed, sesame or jute.

The cultivation of soybeans should be encouraged at Ánanda Nagar and the surrounding areas because the people there are very poor. Soybeans will help meet their nutritional requirements. It requires two watering periods and soil that is somewhat fertile. Compost (patta pache sárá) will suffice as fertilizer.

Bengal gram and siima, two varieties of pulse grown in Bengal, are equivalent to each other in food value, but soybean has 2.5 times more food value than either of them.

Barbat́i Beans

Barbat́i beans are also a very nutritious and substantial food, and can be eaten either as a vegetable or as a pulse. In Bengal barbat́i beans are called “barbat́i” as a vegetable and “hanuman karai” as a pulse. They are richer in food value than many other pulses.

Barbat́i beans are grown as rainy season and autumn seasons crops. Unlike many other beans, which are pre- winter and winter season crops, they require some water, and more water than the other pulses. Other pulses require water twice in the season, while barbat́i beans and wheat have to be watered three times.