Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Although the origin of sugarcane is in the South Pacific, the first general indication of the appearance of a form of sugar that was transportable long distances, and thus susceptible to being widely traded, was in northern India before 500 b.c.e. The earliest Sanskrit reference to manufactured refined sugar (as opposed to other forms of cane sugar, such as cane juice) occurred sometime between the seventh and fourth centuries b.c.e., with the earliest datable reference appearing in a manual on statesmanship written between 324 and 300 b.c.e. There are multiple references in Sanskrit after that date that testify to the widespread cultivation, refinement, and consumption of sugar, as much for medical uses as for culinary ones. See medicinal uses of sugar; sugar refining; and sugarcane agriculture.