Monday, 20 April 2015

India Facts (1): Food & Spirituality (FPFS Challenge)

Food & Spirituality

From last few days I was thinking of writing something in a series. With series, you always have fair sense of idea on which lines you want your content to be focused on.  There were number of ideas on different themes, but I decided to go with something which will attract all my audience as compared to specific set of audience with certain interest. So this series is about India: Land of Manu, Ayurveda, Yoga, HImalaya. With each of this post, I will present one fact about India which is quite common but reminds us about the social & cosmopolitan culture of India. I hope my audience will like it.

In the first installment of this series, I will talk about Food & Spirituality. In India, we always believe what we eat is what we think and how we are spiritually connected. India has variety of foods and each state has their own cuisines and tastes, however there are certain beliefs which affect the eating habit of different people. For people in India, food is considered not only for sustaining the body but also to invoke positive energy, high spirits & being devoid from negative thoughts. People following different religions tend to consume/avoid certain foods. 

Broadly speaking, Hindus traditionally avoid foods that are thought to inhibit physical and spiritual development, although there are some certain rules.  Cow is holy to Hindus and people worship cow. In rural areas, having cow in home is considered to be sign of prosperity. In number of Hindu families, first bread that is being made in the day is assigned for the holy cow. Such is the place of cow in Hindu system. The taboo on eating beef is the most rigid restriction.  Very recently, The Indian president has approved a bill which bans the slaughter of cows and the sale and consumption of beef in the western state of Maharashtra.

Jains avoid foods such as garlic and onions, which, apart from harming insects in their extraction from the ground, are thought to heat the blood and arouse sexual desire.  You may come across vegetarian restaurants that make it a point to advertise the absence of onion and garlic in their dishes for this reason.  Devout Hindus may also avoid garlic and onions on certain occasions.  If you go to any ashrams or neuropathology centers, many of them don’t serve onions in their meals.

Some foods, such as dairy products, are considered innately pure are eaten to cleanse the body, mind and spirit.  Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, health and longevity, also influences food customs in India. Those following strict Satvik diet which exclude ingredients like garlic and onions that produce heat in the body are avoided to allow your body to detox.

Pork is taboo for Muslims and stimulants such as alcohol are avoided by the most devout.  Halal is the term for all permitted foods, and haram for those prohibited.  Fasting is considered (which is a religious obligation for Muslims) an opportunity to earn the merit, to wipe the sin-slate clean and to maintain the body metabolism.

Buddhists and Jains subscribe to the philosophy of ahimsa (nonviolence) and are mostly vegetarian.  Jainism’s central tenet is ultra vegetarianism, and rigid restrictions are in place to avoid even potential injury to any living creature – Jains abstain from eating vegetables that grow underground because of the potential to harm insects during cultivation and harvesting.


I have been tagged by one of my best blogger friend, Shweta Dave to take part in Five photos Five stories Challenge (FPFS) which is- Post a picture for 5 consecutive days and attach a post to it , fiction, poem or short write-up or anything to suit your taste. I thank Shweta for this challenge. I accept it.

I am tagging my dear blogger friend Ami on my Day One and as a part of the challenge, I will tag a new person on Day Two.


  1. Very informative and a good take on the prompt.

    1. Thanks Indrani. Hope you enjoyed your Malaysia trip. Look forward to your posts on Penang.

  2. It is really interesting how spirituality was assigned to food in India. Some of the stories I had read might seem a bit relevant here

    1) Banning cow slaughter
    Cows were a great resource, every part of them was useful - milk, dung as antiseptic or even firewood, skin for leather and so on. And spirituality was assigned to it as a way to protect them

    2) Pork

    Pork meat is extremely tricky and the animal is a festival of infections and diseases owing to its environments. Improperly cooked, it was a menace more than any good. Hence that was banned.

    Just another perspective but thought it maybe a bit relevant here..

    1. Great insights on justifying spirituality along with eco-socio & scientific cause. Thanks Vinay for your valuable comment.

  3. What a wonderful series you've been writing, Vishal! Thank you for tagging me, and allow me to admit I feel a little intimidated/challenged to take this up after the excellent, intricate and far-away-from-ordinary posts you've written. :) But I would love to give this some thought and do my own FPFS series. :)

    As for this post, food is undoubtedly one of India's great heritages. Did you know the French cuisine was declared an 'Intangible World Heritage' a few years ago? I see no reason why Indian food shouldn't be accorded the same status, given the sheer variety of food (that too, undeniably yummy!) we have here. The connection with spirituality is something that doesn't come up so often. I should rather say - food in context of religion is discussed, but not the more amorphous angle of spirituality.

    Excellent post. And thanks again for tagging me - I'll soon write my five posts in this series. :)

    1. Thanks Amy for appreciation. I wanted to make it different & what better way - to share different facts about India which is full of colors, languages, cultures, geographies, lifestyle & yes cuisines :)

      I am surprised to hear about French cuisines being regarded as 'world heritage' tag. Wow.... your comment just inspired me to to write a post about variety of food options as per different seasons. In terms of their core concepts, I consider spirituality & religion as same. Here in India, we have seen people tend to prefer/avoid certain foods due to certain reasons. Yes, that could be religious (as you mentioned) and spiritual (as some people might say), however the technical reasons could be different which Vinay mentioned in his comments above (great insights though :).