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India's Muslim Cuisine

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The Muslims from western Asia brought their rich artistic and gastronomic culture to India. This influence lasted for more than 400 years and is now part of the fabric of Indian culinary culture.

The two colliding cultures resulted in a magnificent cuisine called Muglai Cuisine.   The lamb kebabs were laced with spices, the rice pulaos of India were cooked with meat and turned into wonderful biryanis, lamb and meat roasts were now flavored with Indian herbs, spices and seasonings.  Also, Indian dishes were garnished with almonds, pistachios, cashews and raisins. India was also introduced to leavened breads by the Muslims.  At this time the tandoor was created by the royal chefs.  The Indian rotis and the leavened breads were merged into Tandoori Naans. Meats were now marinated in yogurt and spices and also cooked in tandoors.  Both pork and beef were avoided to respect the traditions of both cultures.  The idea of concluding a meal with sweetmeats was introduced as the Persian rulers loved sweets.

 

The great Muslim rulers brought their panache and elegance of living to India's culinary scene.  The idea of community dinning and lavish and extravagant banquets were introduced to India. Dishes were served in jade, silver and Chinese porcelain.   The splendor of the Mughal/Muslim cuisine is reflected in the Muglai Cuisine of India which is the richest and the most lavish in the country.

 

 

THE SYMBOL OF MOTHER AND GOOD NATURE

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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
A
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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