Diet in Hinduism

Diet in Hinduism

Since Hinduism is practiced by the majority of India's population, Indian cuisine is characterized by its wide variety of vegetarian delicacies. However, the food habits of Hindus vary according to their community and according to regional traditions.


Vegetarian Hindus

Some major paths of Hinduism hold vegetarianism as an ideal. There are three main reasons for this: the principle of nonviolence (ahimsa) applied to animals,[1] the intention to offer only "pure" (vegetarian) food to a deity and then to receive it back as prasad,[2] and the conviction that non-vegetarian food is detrimental for the mind and for spiritual development. Many Hindus point to scriptural bases, such as the Mahabharata's maxim that "Nonviolence is the highest duty and the highest teaching,"[3] as advocating a vegetarian diet.

There are many Hindu groups that have continued to abide by a strict vegetarian diet in modern times. One example is the movement known as ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), whose followers “not only abstain from meat, fish, and fowl, but also avoid certain vegetables that are thought to have negative properties, such as onion and garlic.”[4] A second example is the Swaminarayan Movement. The followers of this Hindu group also staunchly adhere to a diet that is devoid of meat, eggs, and seafood.[5]

Vegetarianism is propagated by the Yajurveda and it is recommended for a satvic (purifying) lifestyle.[6] Thus, another reason that dietary purity is so eminent within Hinduism is because “the idea that food reflects the general qualities of nature: purity, energy, inertia”; it follows that a healthy diet should be one that promotes purity within an individual.[4]

Non-Vegetarian Hindus

Contrary to popular belief, India is not a predominantly vegetarian country.[7][8] Brahmins of East India and Kashmir and the Saraswat Brahmins of the Southwest are allowed fish and some meat.[9]

Meat-Eating Hindus

(see Jhatka and Animal sacrifice in Hinduism)

Historically and currently,[10] those Hindus who eat meat prescribe jhatka meat.[11][12] This is a common method of slaughter when Bali Sacrifices are made to some Hindu deities, however, Vedic rituals such as Agnicayana involved the strangulation of sacrificial goats.[13] Many Shaivite Hindus engage in jhatka methods as part of religious dietary laws, as influenced by some Shakta doctrines, which permit the consumption of meat (except beef, which is universally proscribed in Hinduism). During Durga Puja and Kali Puja among some Shaivite Hindus in Punjab, Bengal and Kashmir, Jhatka meat is the required meat for those Shaivite Hindus who eat meat. Many Vaishnava sects prohibit the consumption of meat, and their relative demographic predominance over some non-vegetarian Shaivite sects leads to a common stereotype that all Hindus are vegetarian.


See also

  • Hindu dietary law


  1. ^ Tähtinen, Unto: Ahimsa. Non-Violence in Indian Tradition, London 1976, p. 107-109.
  2. ^ Mahabharata 12.257 (note that Mahabharata 12.257 is 12.265 according to another count); Bhagavad Gita 9.26; Bhagavata Purana 7.15.7.
  3. ^ Mahabharata 13.116.37-41
  4. ^ a b Narayanan, Vasudha. “The Hindu Tradition”. In A Concise Introduction to World Religions, ed. Willard G. Oxtoby and Alan F. Segal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007
  5. ^ Williams, Raymond. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. 1st. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 159
  6. ^ Michael Keene (2002), Religion in Life and Society, Folens Limited, p. 122, ISBN 9781843032953,, retrieved May 18, 2009 
  7. ^ Puskar-Pasewicz, Margaret (2010). Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism. ABC-CLIO. p. 39. ISBN 9780313375569. 
  8. ^ Brunk, Conrad Grebel; Coward, Harold G. (2009). Acceptable genes?: religious traditions and genetically modified foods. State University of New York Press. p. 168. ISBN 9781438428949. 
  9. ^ Balasubramanian, D. (21 October 2004). "Changes in the Indian menu over the ages". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 26 August 2010. 
  10. ^ "The Hindu : Sci Tech / Speaking Of Science : Changes in the Indian menu over the ages". 2004-10-21. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  11. ^ Das, Veena (13 February 2003). The Oxford India companion to sociology and social anthropology, Volume 1. 1. OUP India. p. 151. ISBN 0195645820. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  12. ^ Rao, K .Krishna (1 January 2006). "7". Introduction to Indian Social Anthropology (1 ed.). Global Vision Publishing House, India. p. 282. ISBN 8182200776. 
  13. ^ Nripendr Kumar Dutt (4 Nov 2008). Origin and Growth of Caste in India (C. B.C. 2000-300). Unknown. p. 195. ISBN 1443735906. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 

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