Founder’s Message

Story behind PanakamTradition in a Bottle

We launched “Panakam – Tradition in a Bottle” in 2015 to share the traditional culinary heritage treasured by my family for generations. Various traditional food products are made at home under the Panakam umbrella using indigenous methods of pickling and preserving treasured by various traditional communities in South India.

Hailing from a town called Rajapalayam, 85 km south of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, I belong to the Telugu-speaking Kshatriya Raju community. Rajapalayam is famous for its mangoes, cotton based factories, and the famous Indian Dog breed. Our ancestors, who were from the Vijayanagara kingdom (present day Andhra and Karnataka regions), migrated and settled in Rajapalayam during the reign of King Krishnadevaraya in the 15th century and the Nayakas of Madurai in the 16th century.

My mother, Prabavathi Arjun, is an excellent cook. Frequent guests at home keep her busy in the kitchen. My father, Late Sri VKN Arjun Raja, also elevated our culinary education by making us experience different cuisines at restaurants during our travels. He also encouraged my mother to try out new recipes with exotic ingredients. She too happily experimented with new ingredients in her Rajapalayam style vegetarian dishes and South Indian cuisine. I was used to these cooking and hosting rituals from childhood.

The highlight of this culinary odyssey was the Rajapalayam mango pickle. My community has been using a treasured heirloom mango pickle recipe for many generations. The recipe most probably came with my ancestors in their travels down south. The mangoes were from our own family orchards in Rajapalayam. I have fond memories of witnessing and participating in the annual pickling rituals during the summer months at home in Rajapalayam. Sneaking up to the terrace to pick a few pieces of mango drying in the hot sun and policing to make sure my cousins didn’t steal them are some of my fondest summer memories. Pickles were distributed to friends, family and my father’s business contacts all over India and abroad.

“Panakam – Tradition in a Bottle” is the result of all the journeys and the more recent family experiments with various cuisines.

When I grew up and became seasoned traveller abroad as part of my business trips, pickles became a favourite gift option, be it Europe, America, the Middle East or even West Africa. My friends in France, some of whom are well-known chefs, winemakers and sommeliers, always enjoyed them. The diverse regional food and wine in Europe fascinated me, but I also wanted to showcase the regional and community based cuisines and traditional food products of South India. Being a wine aficionado and educator, I was entranced by the fermentation and preservation methods used in Indian pickles and how these processes were similar to wine and cheese making in Europe and elsewhere.

Indeed, India has a rich tradition of pickle making. The countless regional varieties and flavours of the Indian mango pickle are an example. I feel we haven’t done much to showcase the diversity of Indian pickles. These traditional pickles need to be experienced and documented. Apart from the popular industrial pickle brands in supermarket and corner grocery stores, it is a challenge to find even in gourmet shops real homemade traditional pickles bottled without preservatives.

It was to resolve this challenge that I conceived the idea of making available to one and all traditional handmade pickles by selected families who continue to follow recipes passed down through generations using fresh local produce and ingredients. I also look for families who share our enthusiasm and expertise to document and share their traditional recipes.



Our first product was our very own Rajapalayam mango pickle, something I have loved since childhood. The recipe would have certainly undergone several adaptations due to new influences and ingredients in new places. The Rajapalayam based products are handmade by me and my mother. Anakapalle based pickles are handmade by the Saripalle family.

All our products are natural, traditional, vegetarian, handmade and homemade, and free from any preservatives, flavours, taste enhancers or added colours.

Food is part of our cultural heritage – simple, natural and authentic. Taste is one of the most sensuous experiences. Being a food artiste is to enhance your own experience of taste and share that experience with others. Authenticity in food is luxury. It is this authenticity I wish to share with the offerings from “Panakam – Tradition in a Bottle”.

Chinmaya Arjun Raja – Founder & Chief Pickle maker
PANAKAM – Tradition in a Bottle
Dhanendra Foods – Chennai – Tamilnadu