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10/6/2015

TheHinduViewonFoodandDrink|IndiaFactsIndiaFacts

ShatavadhaniGanesh
Indology |11082015

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CoauthoredbyHariRavikumar
In2007,theFoodandAgricultureOrganizationof
theUnitedNationsconductedasurveyofmeat
consumptionperpersonineverycountry.India
camelast.

Food:VegetarianandNon
Vegetarian
Further,therearemorevegetariansinIndiathan
therestoftheworldcombined(wecangeta
sensefromthislist).Thereisawidespreadnotion
thatsuchahighlevelofvegetarianismisdueto
Hinduism.WhileitistruethatmanyHindusare
vegetarians,itisincorrecttosaythatHinduism
forbidsmeateating.
Inthelargebodyofthefundamentalworksof
Hinduism,thereareseveralrulesandprescriptions
(quiteoftencontradictoryinletterthoughnotin
spirit)withrespecttofoodanddrink.Wecanfind
quiteafewoftheserulesinthefourVedasbutmost
ofthemarefoundintheSmtitexts(like
Manusmti),theDharmastras(likepastamba
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Dharmastra),andtheGhyastras(like
valynaGhyastra).Wecangleanseveral
interestingdetailsfromourtraditionalworks.
Forexample,welearnthatfoodwaseatenwhile
beingseated(RigvedaSahit4.30.3),foodwas
eatenonlytwiceaday(TaittiryaBrhmaa1.4.9),
andthattalkingwaskepttoaminimumwhileeating
(BaudhayanaDharmastra2.7.2).Intimesof
emergencies,therewereabsolutelynorestrictions
onfood(BrahmaStra3.4.2931).Weareaskedto
greetourfood,honourit,rejoiceuponseeingit,and
praythatwemayalwaysobtainit(Manusmti2.54
55).
Therearemanyreferencestomeateatinginour
scriptures.Intheoldestcompositionofthemall,
theRigvedaSahit,weseethatourancients
cookedthefleshofoxenandofferedittothegods,
especiallyIndra(seeRVS10.86.14or10.27.2,for
example).Horses,bulls,oxen,barrencows,and
ramsweresacrificedforAgni(RVS10.91.14).
atapathaBrhmaa3.1.2.21saysthatsage
Yjavalkyawouldeatthemeatofcowsandoxen,
provideditwastender.BhadrayakaUpaniad
6.4.18saysthatifacouplewantstobegetason
whowillgrowuptobeagreatscholar,theyhaveto
eatricecookedwithbeef,alongwithghee.
atapathaBrhmaa11.7.1.3goesontosaythat
meatisthebestkindoffood!
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SageVasistha
Butevenintheearlytexts,wecanseethe
compassionofourancientpeople.InRVS8.43.11,
Agniishailedasonewhosefoodistheoxandthe
barrencow.OftenintheRigvedaSahit(see
1.164.27,1.164.40,4.1.6,and5.83.8,for
example),thecowiscalledaghny,onewho
doesntdeservetobekilled.Therefore,itseems
thatonlybarrencowswerekilled.Howelsedowe
accountforthelavishpraiseshoweredoncows
(RVS6.23.18and8.101.1516)?Oneverse(RVS
8.101.16),whichhailsthecowasdev,goddess.
Althoughanimalsacrificeswereprevalentinthe
Vedicperiod,therewerealreadysomeattemptsto
reducethis.Theycameupwiththeideathatinstead
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ofkillingananimal,onecouldofferheartfelt
praisetothegodsorafuelstickorcooked
food(seeRVS8.19.5and8.24.20forexample).
Inlatertimes,theyevendevelopedaningenious
theorythatapersonwhoeatsmeatwillinhis
nextbirthbecomethemeateatenbythat
animal(atapathaBrhmaa9.6.1.3).
IntheMahbhrata(DroaParva/Book3,Chapter
199),sageMrkeyatellsYudhihirathestoryof
ahunterandapriest.Whenthepriestaccusesthe
hunterofviolence,thelatternarratesthestoryof
KingRantideva:InRantidevaskitchen,two
thousandanimalswerekilledeverydayasweretwo
thousandcows.Rantidevabecamefamousbecause
hefedmeattoallhispeople.
Klidsa(5thcenturyCE)saysinMeghadta1.45
thatRiverCharmanvati(moderndayChambal)
arosefromthegloryofKingRantidevawho
sacrificedthousandsofcows.Mallintha
(13thcenturyCE)saysinhiscommentaryonthe
MeghadtathatCharmanvatioriginatedwiththe
constantwashingofcowhideandtheflowingofthe
bloodofcows.
Butovertheyears,meateatingreducedinIndia.
Thiswasduetoacombinationofsocioreligious,
geographical,andculturalfactors.However,we
observethatmeat(includingbeef)wasstill
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consumedaspartofritualsandspecialoccasions.
Forexample,duringrddha,aritualinmemoryof
deadparentsandotherancestors(pastamba
Dharmastra2.7.16.25)whilepreparingamealfor
adistinguishedguestaspart
ofmadhuparka(valynaGhyastra1.24.2226,
VasihaDharmastra4.8)orinthelagavaritual
inwhichabulliskilled(valynaGhyastra
4.9.10).
Infact,toputtorestargumentsofthosedays,atext
nolessthantheBrahmaStra(3.1.25)saysthat
thescripturesdonthaveaproblemwithkilling
animalsforaspecifiedritual.EventheManusmti,a
textthatisratherpartialtovegetarianism,saysthat
meateatingisfineunderspecificcircumstanceslike
duringacalamityoraspartofaritual(MS5.27,
5.32).
Madhuparkaisthepracticeofofferinghoneyto
honouradistinguishedguest.Accordingto
Yjavalkyasmti1.110,sixkindsofpeopleare
offeredmadhuparkaapriest(tvik),a
teacher(crya),bridegroom,king,
graduate(sntaka),andsomeonedeartothe
host.
TheBaudhyanaGhyastra1.2.65addsguest
(atithi)tothislist.Aspartofmadhuparka,honey,
curds,ghee,water,andgrainswereofferedwhile
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meatwasoptional(SeevalynaGhyastra
1.22.526formoredetails).

Ramayana(PicCourtesy:GoogleImageSearch)
InthepreludetoActIVofBhavabhtis
play,Uttararmacarita(8thcenturyCE),thereisa
delightfuldialoguebetweentwoascetics,
SaudhtakiandDayana.Saudhtakiiscurious
abouttheguestwhoisvisitingtheirramaand
learnsthatitisVasiha.HetellsDayana,I
thoughtitwasatigerorawolf.Mypoorcalfwas
terrifiedsincehisarrival.
Whenagreatscholarvisitsus,weshouldoffer
themadhuparkawithbeeformutton,asitissaidin
thedharmastras!
Saudhtakisays,Youcontradictyourself.Acalf
wassacrificedforVasihabutwhenKingJanaka
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came,hewasofferedjustmilkandcurds.Thecalf
wassetfree.
Whatthedharmastrassayinthismatterappliesto
thosewhohavenotgivenupmeat.KingJanakaisa
vegetarian.
AlltheseexamplesofKlidsa,Bhavabhti,and
Mallinthaservetoshedlightonhowmeateating
wasperceivedinthefirstmillenniumCEinIndia.
Jainismwasthefirst(andperhapsonly)religion
whoseadherentswerestrictly
vegetarian.Buddhismdidnotforbidmeateating
persebuttheywereagainstanimalsacrifice.
Peoplewereweanedawayfromeatingmeatdueto
theinfluenceofthesetworeligionsandalsowiththe
riseoftheVaiavafaith,whichusedBhgavata
Pura7.15.78astheirreferenceforwholly
avoidingmeat.

Alcohol
Asforconsumingalcohol,manytextsprescribe
abstinencewhilesomeothersprohibitconsumption
forsomegroupsofpeople.However,intheVedas,
wefindmanyinstancesoftheconsumptionofthe
juicefromthesomacreeper(possiblyCannabis
sativa)asanimmediaterewardafter
conductingyajaandtheconsumption
ofsur(alcoholmadefromfermentedbarleyorwild
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paddy)forpleasure(forexample,seeRVS1.116.7,
8.2.12,or10.131.45).
Whilethedrinkingofsomawascommended,
drinkingsurwascondemned.KhakaSahit
12.12putsiteloquentlywhenitsaysthatoneshould
keepawayfromalcoholinorderthatapersonmay
avoidcommittingasinfulact,inspeechorindeed.

AlsoRead
BeefHasHurt
FreedomFar
Morethan
anyBeefBan
AntiCow
slaughter
legislation:
Panicin
Bangladesh
TheGlobal
meatindustry
and
irreversible
consequences

Thereisaverseinthe
RigvedaSahit(10.5.6)
thatliststhesevenrules
ofconductformen
anyonewhoviolates
evenoneoftheseisa
sinner.Weknowfrom
YskasNirukta(6.27)
thatdrinkingalcoholis
oneoftheseven
transgressions.

Manusmti11.55liststhe
fiveterriblesins
(pacamahptaka)
Sonia
amongwhichwefind
Falerios
alcoholconsumption.
Sleightof
Handinthe
AccordingtoManu,itis
NewYork
especiallyforbiddenfor
Times
abrhmaatodrink
alcoholandheevenprescribesaharshpunishment
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forit(MS11.91).
Itisinterestingtonotethattherearereferencesfor
bothRmaandKapartakingalcoholand/or
meat.RmaoffersmeattoStandcoaxesherto
tryitoutsinceitiswellcooked(Ayodhyka/
Book2,96.12).WhenHanumanmeetsStinthe
Aokavtik,hetellsherthatRmahasbeen
piningforher,andafflictedbysorrow,hehasturned
vegetarianandateetotaller(Sundaraka/Book
5,36.41).Later,thereisanothersectionwhere
RmafeedsStwithwine,meat,andfruits
(Uttaraka/Book7,42.1820).
Similarly,thereisasegmentwhereKaand
Arjunagettotallydrunkinapartyalongwith
DraupadiandSatyabhma(UdyogaParva/Book5,
58.5).
Thatsaid,thereisnoneedfordevoutHindusto
getupsetbythisorforHinducriticstogettake
theirusualperversedelight.Theseincidents
dontaffectthepersonalitiesofgreatheroeslike
RmaandKaatanyrate,oneneednotjudge
othersbytheirpersonalhabits.

Ayurveda
Thetextsofyurvedatellusthatintermsofhealth
andwellness,apurelyvegetariandietisnot
superiortoahealthymixofvegetarianandnon
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vegetarianfoods.Infact,somekindsofmeathave
beenrecommendedforstapleuse.
Further,yurvedadoesnotemphasise
vegetarianismeveninitscodeofethicsitisnot
aprerequisiteforhighculture.Thisisinsharp
contrasttoitstakeonalcoholicdrinks,whichthough
regardedhealthyinmoderation,hasbeendespised
inthecode.
Togetanoverallpictureaboutfoodanddrink,we
needtolooknofurtherthantheBhagavadGt,the
greatestsummaryofHinduthought.Krishna(BG
3.13)givesusanideaofhowweshouldapproach
foodanddrinkingeneral:
Thewiseoneseatthefoodthatremains
afterbeingofferedtoyaja
thus,theyarereleasedfromallevils.
Thewickedonespreparefoodfortheirownsake
andindeedliveonsinalone.
Intheactofobtainingfood,wecausesomeharmto
thenaturalenvironment.Soweshouldeatour
foodwithasenseofgratitude,whichiswhat
Krishnareferstoasofferingtoyaja.We
shouldneverfeelentitledtoourfoodlivingonsin
referstothis.
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Later,inBhagavadGt17.710,Krishnaspeaks
aboutthenatureofpeopleandthefoodthatthey
enjoybutheneverprescribesaparticulartypeof
foodthatoneshouldeat.
Itisimpossibleforustosurvivewithoutinflicting
somedegreeofviolencetotheworldaroundus.
Manusmti(3.6871)mentionsthefiveplacesina
house(pacasn)wherelivingbeingsmaybe
accidentallykilledthefireplace,grindingslab,
pestleandmortar,placessweptwithabroom,and
thewaterpot.
Toabsolvethemselvesofthissin,householdersare
expectedtoperformthefivegreatworships
(pacamahyaja)everyday:prayerstothegods,
homagetoancestors,respecttothewiseand
thepursuitofknowledge,servicetofellow
beings,andworshipofforcesofnature.

AttitudeTowardsFoodand
Drink
Wecannotaltogetherbenonviolentbuttothe
extentpossibleweshouldavoidviolence.Itis
noteworthythatManuprohibitsanyformofkilling
forpleasure(MS5.45)anddeclaresthataperson
whodoesnotinjureanylivingbeingattainsthe
highestbliss(MS5.4647).
Therefore,whenitcomestofoodhabits,beinga
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vegetarianispreferredwithsustainabilityinview
butnotimposed.Keepingthisinmind,itwillbe
betterifmeateatersrespecttheirvegetarian
(andvegan)brethrenratherthanlookuponthem
withdisdain.Ontheotherhand,thevegetarians
(andvegans)neednotlookatmeateaterswitha
holierthanthouattitudebecauseitisonlynatural
forhumanstoeatmeat.
AcommonlyusedwordforfoodinSanskritand
otherIndianlanguagesishra.Theetymologyof
thewordhriyateitihra,hraisthatwhichis
takeninsuggeststhatitreferstoanythingthat
weconsume,notjustfood.

Ayurveda(PicCourtesy:GoogleImagesearch)
Ifwetrulywantsustainabilityoftheplanetand
allthelivingbeingsinit,thenwehavetolookat
ourintakenotjustfromthepointofviewof
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food.
Justasastart,thinkabouthowourfoodis
produced,processed,andshipped.Ifwelearnmore
aboutfoodprocurement,thenwecanmakemore
informedchoicesofwhatfoodstoavoidandhowwe
canhelpsustainabilityinthelargesense.
Whateverpositiveecologicaleffectsonemighthave
bybeingvegetarianmightbecancelledoutbyabad
choiceinwhatkindoffoodswepick(heavily
processedfood,geneticallymodifiedfood,etc.)
Similarly,thenegativeeffectsofmeateatingcan
betemperedbymakingbetterchoicesinhow
themeatisprocured.
Finally,therecanbenouniversaldictumabout
thefoodthatwecaneatorshouldnoteat.Letus
tryourbesttobehaveinawaythatissustainable
fortheworld.Letusdeveloptherightattitude
towardsourfoodthatofgratitudeandjoy.Andlet
usrememberthewisewordsofManu(MS5.56)lest
webeatourselvesaboutit:
Meateating,drinking,andsex
canyoucallthesefaults?
Itisbutnaturalforpeopletoengageinit,
however,itsagreatthingifonestaysawayfromit!

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(Additionalinputthanks:Dr.G.L.KrishnaandDr.
KotiSreekrishna)

References:
AgaHdayambyVgbhaa,Strasthnam,
Chapters2,5,6and8
BhavabhtisUttararmacarita.Bombay:
NirayasgaraPress,1949.pp.1035
KlidsasMeghadta.Bombay:Nirayasgara
Press,1915.pp.37
Kane,PandurangVaman.HistoryofDharmatra.
Poona:BhandarkarOrientalResearchInstitute,
1941.Vol.II,PartII.pp.54249(ChapterX.
MadhuparkaandOtherUsages)andpp.757800
(ChapterXXII.Bhojana)
Mahabharata,Book3,Chapter199<http://sacred
texts.com/hin/mbs/mbs03199.htm>
Mahbhrata:TextasConstitutedinitsCritical
Edition.Vol.2.Udyoga,BhmaandDroa
Parvans.Poona:BhandarkarOrientalResearch
Institute,1972
Prakash,Om.FoodandDrinkinAncientIndia.New
Delhi:MunshiRamManoharLal,1961
Sreekrishna,KotiandRavikumar,Hari.Tastarians.1
Jul.2015<blogspot.in/2010/02/tastarians.html>
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Sreekrishna,KotiandRavikumar,Hari.TheNew
BhagavadGita.Mason:W.I.S.E.WordsInc.,2011.
pp.84,243
rmadvlmkirmyaam(Mlamantram).
Gorakhpur:GitaPress,1963
Swamy,B.G.L.TheRgVedicSomaPlant.Indian
JournalofHistoryofScience(1976)

ShatavadhaniGanesh
Dr.GaneshisaShatavadhani,amultifacetedscholar,
linguist,andpoetandpolyglotandauthorofnumerous
booksonphilosophy,Hinduism,art,music,dance,andculture.

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