ajwain is not caraway seed.
ajwain is round pellets/ used for its digestive proprieties, when used crushed.
can be sometimes subbed for cumin. great with potatoes.
caraway seed is a cousin of cumin, in looks and taste.
my ajwain and thyme DOES NOT smell the same . :-)
waaahllll now, everybody here is just over my head with the indian thing, but i'd like to chime in with one of my favorites from moroccan or north african or middle eastern or whatever, za'atar. i get it in middle eastern markets, and it's mostly thyme with sumac, sesame and olive oil, but somehow still powderey... it's great. i toast pita, cut it in wedges, brush with olive oil and sprinkle za'atar for hummus. it really makes a difference in flavor and presentation. the sumac adds a lovely citric flavor, the powder makes a colorful presntation, both green and red, and it's mostly thyme. whod'a thunk? easy to impress the natives thing with a big difference in presentation! look for some.
Ajwain is indeed caraway seed, also known as carom seed. Just have a google or look in a dictionary and see how ajwain is translated into English. There are some other, less commonly used translations as well, such as "Bishop's Weed," given as well, but I think caraway seeds would be the most widely understood exact translation of ajwain in English.
Ajwain can be ground and pressed into pellets. You can also boil the seeds with water and feed this tea to babies to their ease gas bubbles. It is indeed used for not only its flavor, but its digestive properties.
I agree with you that ajwain doesn't smell like thyme.
For ajwain classified as a type of caraway:
Taxonomic Rank: Species
Synonym(s): Ammi copticum L.
Carum copticum (L.) Benth. & Hook. f. ex C.B. Clarke
Trachyspermum ammi (L.) Sprague ex Turrill
Common Name(s): Ajowan caraway
Current Standing: accepted
I think you are right, the ajwain is different than European caraway. I think it is also a biological cousin of kala zeera/shahi zeera. They all seem to be differnt types of caraway.
I don't know anything about taxonomy, but I just googled the taxonomic name of kala zeera: Bunium persicum and European type caraway: Carum carvi, and ajwain: Trachyspermum copticum...they are different, but all cousins, and distant relatives of cumin (normal zeera/white cumin).
All of those languages listed above in Scott R's response are classified as separate languages, not dialects.
Anyhow, thyme isn't used in Indian cooking at all, and I don't think if you asked a native speaker of any Indian language one could tell you without looking in a dictionary how to say thyme since it isn't used. Probably Indians who cook Western foods which contain thyme just say "thyme."
The Platt's dictionary, an authoritarian text on Hindi and Urdu, gives Farsi origin word ipaar and Arabic origin word Haasha for thyme and lists no Indic term for the word, see:
I am guessing that the word exists in Urdu because it could be used in Yunaani/Hakeem medicine prescriptions or something.
Ajwain is caraway seed and it tastes nothing at all like thyme to me, anyway, but the wiki page on it says it has a similar taste to thyme in the raw form because it contains thymol.
The name depends on the dialect:
Hindi : Banajwain
Malayalam : Thottathulasi
Punjabi: Marizha, Masho, Rangsbur
(the spellings are approximate transliterations)
I don't believe it's a traditional spice, though. Ajwain (Ajowan), which is thyme-like (in flavor, at least) is: