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Top 9 Types of Millets In India

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How well do you know about the different types of millets grown in India? Do you know their benefits to the ecological and economic security of the country?

Before forging into the venture of promoting millet as a healthy and sustainable option for agriculture and human consumption, we had come across these questions ourselves. And rightfully so, we have figured out the answers through our experimentation so far.

This blog attempts to give a brief backstory of how and why we considered making millet a companion to our personal and professional lives. 

Our Journey of Discovering Millets as Entrepreneurs 

The year was 1997. Pune. My husband and I had two young children to look after. Naturally, ragi sattva was our favourite choice. But that was not the case with our children. They hardly liked it which caused more or less a break from our adventures into millet testing.

Besides having busy professional lives, we weren’t the most informed people on how to cook using millet. We stuck to wheat chapatis and rice, while occasionally making bajra bhakri, which was systematically refused by our kids.

Cut to 2015, due to some kind of a magnetic pull, my husband was drawn to agriculture and farmlands in the Konkan region. At the peak of his professional career, he embarked on an incredible journey, which I admit, was incomprehensible to me at that time. He experimented relentlessly with growing veggies, fruits and other crops on his arid piece of land, while juggling his full-time career back in Pune. He had little or no success, until 2019!

This was the year when we discovered millets. You might be thinking, “How do you discover a grain which has been around since ancient times?” Well, despite its many virtues, it had practically vanished from view in the neighbouring farms. Nobody in our farming village was cultivating it anymore! It was completely replaced by rice plantations.

 So why did we fall in love with millets?

 Because it was extremely easy to grow, all the while being super nutritious. A veritable “superfood”. Our neighbours were still sceptical about this choice. After all, the commercial value for millets was next to none. A little more digging revealed that millet crops (not the seeds, which were for human consumption!) were majorly cultivated for animal fodder! 

Despite being nutritious, and accessible, it was ignored in terms of human consumption. That’s when we decided to remove the gap of knowledge and commercialise the benefits of millet ourselves. So, we started Sonkan Foods, mainly promoting 2 millet varieties: Ragi (finger millet) and Varai (proso millet). 

Did you know that there are currently over 6000 different varieties of millet? But only a few of them are still commercially grown in India. That still leaves us with plenty of opportunity for confusion!

Common Millet Types Consumed in India

(Spot the common points in these 9 millet types. The answer is at the bottom of the page)

Finger Millet: 

Finger millet is a robust, tufted, annual grass. The inflorescence is a panicle with 4-19 finger-like spikes that resemble a fist when mature, hence the name finger millet. The seed pericarp is independent of the kernel and can be easily removed from the seed coat.

It is traditionally used to make porridge, flatbreads (bhakri), and sweets. Today, it is seen as a healthier alternative to wheat, which is why it is being used in a variety of products such as breakfast cereal, energy bars and cakes.

Commonly known as:

Ragi in Kannada, Telugu and Hindi, Mandua/Mangal in Hindi, Nachani in Marathi, Kodra in Himachal Pradesh, Mandia in Oriya, Taidalu in Telangana region, Kezhvaragu in Tamil.

Commonly grown in:

Major ragi-growing states of India are Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chattisgarh and Gujarat.

Barnyard millet: 

Barnyard millet is a multi-purpose crop which is cultivated for food and fodder. A warm and moderately humid climate is good for raising barnyard millet crops. It is a hardy crop and can withstand adverse conditions of weather. It can be grown on rain-fed as well as irrigated land.

Commonly known as:  

Sanwa, Jhangora in Hindi, Kuthiravali in Tamil, Oodalu in Kannada, Udalu, Kodisama in Telugu

Commonly grown in:

It is cultivated in India, in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Bihar.

Foxtail millet: 

Foxtail millet is regarded as a native of China. It is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops. Foxtail millet ranks second in the total world production of millets and continues to have an important place in world agriculture.  

It can be grown on poor or marginal soils in southern Europe and temperate, subtropical and tropical Asia. It will grow in altitudes from sea level to 2000 m. It cannot tolerate water logging. However, foxtail millet is fairly tolerant of drought. It matures very fast and thus is considered a fast cash crop. Its grain is used for human consumption and as feed for poultry and cage birds.

Commonly known as:  

Kangni, Kakum in Hindi, Kang in Gujarati, Tenai in Odia, Navane in Kannada, Korra in Telugu, Kaon in Bangla

Commonly grown in:

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and to a small extent in the northeast states of India.


Sorghum is a warm-season crop, intolerant of low temperatures but fairly resistant to serious pests and diseases. It is a popular grain in India and widely consumed.

Commonly known as:

Jwari in Marathi, Jowar in Hindi, Punjabi, Cholam in Tamil, Jola, Jonna in Kannada

Commonly grown in:

Most of the Sorghum is produced in North and Central America, South America and Oceania. India ranks fifth in total sorghum production. In India, Maharashtra is the biggest producer of sorghum followed by Karnataka.

Pearl Millet: 

Pearl millet is well adapted to growing areas characterised by drought, low soil fertility, and high temperature. Because of its tolerance to difficult growing conditions, it can be grown in areas where other cereal crops, such as maize or wheat, would not survive. 

The plant was probably domesticated as a food crop some 4000 to 5000 years ago along the Southern margins of the Central highlands of the Sahara. It has since become widely distributed across the semiarid tropics of Africa and Asia.

Commonly known as: 

Bajra in Hindi & Punjabi, Bajri in Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Sajja in Telugu and Sajji in Kannada

Commonly grown in:

Pearl millet originated in Central tropical Africa and is widely distributed in the drier tropics and India. It was introduced into the Western states in the 1850s and became established as minor forage in the Southeast and Gulf Coast states.

Browntop millet: 

Browntop millet or signalgrass as it is commonly called, is one of the rarest among millets. Browntop millet is drought-hardy and heat tolerant, but can also be planted in low areas that get flooded. An interesting fact to note is that it is a shade-loving crop that can grow well even under tamarind trees. Browntop millet is remarkable for its early maturing ability. The crop is harvested in 75 to 80 days.

Commonly known as:

Hari Kangni in Hindi, Hari Kang in Gujarati, Palapul/Kulasama in Tamil, Korale in Kannada, Andakorra in Telugu, Chama Pothaval in Malayalam.

Commonly grown in:

It is native to India and grows well in the dryland tracts of Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border areas, covering regions of Tumkur, Chitradurga and Chikkaballapura districts in Karnataka and Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh.

Kodo Millet: 

It is grown as a major food source in the Deccan plateau in India. It is a very hardy crop that is drought tolerant and can survive on marginal soils where other crops may not survive.

Commonly known as:

Kodra in Hindi and Gujarati, Varagu in Tamil, Harka inKannada, Arikelu in Telugu, Koovaragu in Malayalam.

Commonly grown in:

Kodo is an annual grain that is grown in India, Nepal, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and West Africa from where it originated. In India, it is mainly grown in UP in the north and Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Proso or Common millet: 

Proso millet is an important minor millet grown in India. The crop can evade drought through its quick maturity. It has relatively low water requirements, requires 60-90 days for maturity and therefore, offers better prospects for intensive cultivation in dryland areas.

In under-irrigated conditions, proso millet is generally grown during the kharif season but in areas where irrigation facilities are available, this is profitably grown as a summer cash crop in high-intensity rotations. Proso millet probably originated in India.

Commonly known as:

Vari or varai in Marathi, Barri, Chena in Hindi, Pani Varagu in Tamil and Malayalam, Baragu in Kannada, Variga in Telugu

Commonly grown in:

It is grown extensively in India, Japan, China, Egypt, Arabia and Western Europe. In India, proso millet is largely grown in Madhya Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Little Millet: 

Little Millet is a quick-growing, short-duration cereal which can withstand both drought and waterlogging. It is an important crop grown for food and feed. It can be grown in deep, loamy, fertile soils rich in organic matter that are preferred for satisfactory growth.

It can withstand salinity and alkalinity to some extent. It is a wonderful millet which is suitable for people of all age groups. Little millet can be grown on a wide range of soils including waterlogged soils.

Commonly known as:

Kutki, Shavan in Hindi, Punjabi, Gajro in Gujarati, Samai in Tamil, Same in Kannada, Samalu in Telugu

Commonly grown in:

It was domesticated in the Eastern Ghats of India occupying a major portion of the diet amongst the tribal people and spread to Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Myanmar. In India, its cultivation is mostly confined to the tribal belt of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

Ufff, that was a lot of information.

As promised above, the similarity in all the above millet types is their ability to grow almost anywhere! Without compromising on nutritional value. In today’s world with rising temperatures and increasing draughts, millets can be the answer to food security, especially in a vast country like India.

Craving to transition towards a wholesome and sustainable diet?  Follow us on Instagram for quick bites.

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