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India's Jain Cuisine

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Jainisim is governed with the idea of non-violence or ahimsa.  This high ideal has had a tremendous influence on India's cuisine resulting in India's glorious vegetarian culture. Jainism is a very evolved philosophy and a very gentle religion.  Many Jains have very soft and peaceful souls and very simple lives and they command respect wherever they go.  This philosophy was also seen as having many good ideals by ancient India and many of its principles have been naturally incorporated into Hinduism and India's culinary culture.

Jainism takes non violence to a very strict level and respect life at any level including plant life.   They make sure that there lifestyle does not cause injury to anyone.   Gandhiji has been influenced greatly by this philosophy and in turn influencing Martin Luther King to resort to non violence.

As a result of this the Jain diet consists of grains like wheat, rice, lentils or pulses and beans, oil-seeds are recommended as they fall under the category of non-injurious food. They are yielded only when their plants get dried of their own after their age ends.  Fruits and vegetables that become ripe on the plants or branches of trees or those that fall on their own after becoming ripe, are used for food.

Jains are strict vegetarians and many also avoid root vegetables as it is violent to plants. They also avoid any liquor so they can live a mindful life.

Other aspects of their food philosophy is that they regularly offer food to poor people, fast on certain days, do not waste any food, drink filtered water and eat after sunrise and before sunset.

Jain ideas can be traced back to the seventh century B>C> in India, though it was Mahavir Jain who formalized the philosophy of what was to be known as Jainism in the sixth century. Mahavira, most likely born around 540 BC, was a Kshatriya of high Licchavi tribal birth. At the age of 30, he renounced family life and proceed to live, for the next 12 years, as an ascetic



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The cow is considered sacred due to the following reasons.
1.  The cow was regarded as one’s mother as it sacrificed the milk meant for its calf and provided milk for the people.  It is therefore a symbol of a 'mother' in India
2.  The cow was also kept at many Indian homes for its milk and the animal became a part of the family.

3.   At the beginning of the Epic period (c.l000- 800 BC), cow’s meat was said to be common food that added vigor not only to the body but also to the mind. A theory suggests that during the 5th century it was discovered that the cattle population was decreasing at an alarming rate. People began to realize that a live cow was a greater asset than its meat.
4.  Ghee (clarified butter), milk and yogurt were vital for temple rituals, this animal began to enjoy a greater value alive.
5.  In the Atharvaveda (vedic text) beef-eating was prohibited as it was likened to committing a sin against one's ancestors.
6.  Other factors that contributed to the rise of vegetarianism in India was that kings such as Ashoka (c. 322-183 13C) discouraged the killing of animals. The powerful and benevolent and popular Emperor Ashoka of that time popularized a vegetarian cuisine. Even today a majority of Indians are vegetarian.
7.  The two other individuals that helped make India vegetarian are Mahavir and Buddha who were India's greatest spiritual teachers. (Also the ancient, urban Dravidian civilization may have been vegetarian.)
This was the start of the taboo of eating beef in India.

Mindful Eating
tharva veda also classified foods into sattavic, rajasic and tamasic taking the philosophy of vegetarianism many steps further. In this system meats were classified as spent energy along with overeating and over-ripe food and these foods were discouraged as they did not contribute to the whole being which included mind, body and soul.

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This value of eating for mind, body and soul made its way beyond the Vindhya Mountains of Central India establishing itself more firmly in the south of India that the North of India. Here, it gained immense popularity even amongst the non-Brahmins who deemed it as leading a meritorious lifestyle. Thus vegetarianism became more linked with the cuisines of southern India. The south of India went on to develop a complex, rich and intricate vegetarian cuisine which is very unique and complex yet pure and simple.
However not all Brahmins (learned men) of India became vegetarian. A classic example would be the Kashmiri Brahmins who continue to pride themselves on their mutton and chicken dishes. There are also the Brahmins of Bengal who eat fish.

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