Amidst Coronavirus pandemic, let’s take a look at India’s unconditional love for meat.
‘Meat is not a part of the Indian culture!’ you must have heard this statement over and over again during recent times. Be it the so-called ‘Gau rakshaks’ or be it the various ‘religious’ organisations that have time and again reiterated that meat is not a part of the Indian culture. It instead is a western idea thatpromotes bad thoughts and makes a person barbaric. But is this true? Read on to find out.
It turns out that you have to look no further. The very religion these people claim to be defending provides the answer and the counter to their arguments itself.
Vedas, the scriptures that have guided the values of Hinduism for more than 3000 years now (The reason many love the Vedas 3000), divide the food that we eat into three different categories. These categories are called Rajasic, Sattvik and Tamasik. The food that fall in these categories have different effects on the mind and the body. Hence are suitable for different types of people and professions.
Vedas prescribe Sattvik food to anybody who is involved in activities like yoga and meditation. And is a part of a psychological or a philosophical activity. It is believed that Sattvik food helps the mind to be clear and more peaceful, it helps the body to be energetic and it makes the person more harmonious. Examples of Sattvic foods are seasonalvegetables and fruits, water, ‘humane’ dairy products, natural sweeteners, grains, legumes, etc. That is why people eat Sattvic food during fasts and during religious periods like Navratras.
The second classification of food is the Rajasik food which is associated with ambitiousness and competitiveness. This type of food is prescribed to anyone who is doing heavy physicalactivity which requires a lot of energy and spontaneous thinking. The Rajasik diet suits professionals like athletes, soldiers, entrepreneurs, etc. Foods in this category includes food from onion, garlic, radish to pepper, wine, caffeine drinks and eggs, chicken, lamb, etc. Apart from this the Vedas say that if a person isn’t a part of any heavy physical activity then they should avoid Rajasik food as it will cause unwanted energy in the body which may result in destructive thoughts. This idea is what many leaders misuse to flag non-vegetarian as unholy altogether.
The last category is Tamasik food. According to the Vedas,this food category is suitable for the men of inertia and induces laziness. Procrastination and sleepiness also are characterstics. However, the Vedas also mention that Tamasikfood is allowed in small amounts to a sick person as these foods appeal to one’s appetite. These include leftover and stale food, preserved meats like pork, ham, beef, bacon, etc. Apart from this fermented dishes, mushrooms, alcohol, drugs, deep fried and canned foods also are a part of this category. So the time ate the good old Chhole Bhature or Dosas and felt sleepy you were under the influence of Tamasik diet’s after-effects.
The Vedas though advise these diets but at the end leaves it onto the wisdom of the person who is consuming the food. Also at no point do the Vedas forbid eating meat, however, it is also worth mentioning that many Hindu scriptures including the Vedas ‘discourage’ and not ‘prohibit’ the eating of beef.The reason being that cows are holy animals to the Hindus and eating them may cause discontent among them. Similarly in Islam pore is considered to be unhealthy for humans and is considered to be ‘haram’ or forbidden. Similarly if someone eats pork, a Muslim may find it offending as it is connected to his or her faith and culture.
Coming to the data, one can find an even more surprising picture about meat and Indians. We are the second largest exporter of beef, more than 95% of goat meat produced in India is consumed locally and we are the inventors of world famous meat based dishes like biryani, chicken tikka and butter chicken. Chicken is the most popular type of meat owing to its less price and absence of religious inhibitions against it. However we also are a vegan’s paradise (India being the best, again)
Geographically South India has more non-vegetarians than the North of India. North India likes non-veg food, owing to two main reasons. The first is a cooler climate which prevails in most of the northern India (and is complemented by heat providing meat dishes) and the second is the extensive Islamic influence over the northern part of India which led to the birth of various cuisines such as the Awadhi and the Nawabicuisines. While in southern india continued Hindu Brahminical ascendancy and tropical climate led to many vegetarian food choices, however, due to coastal proximity non-vegetarian food is still very popular in southern India. Onto the Eastern part of India, due to continued dominance of tribal culture the cuisine itself is unique and embraces both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes. The west of India is largely vegetarian. A surprising fact is that Punjab, despite being home to the most lip-smacking meat dishes, is majorly vegetarian. Actually in total only 20% of all Hindus and 28.85% Indians are vegetarians. Apart from this only five Indian states, i.e. Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are the ones where vegetarians outnumber non-vegetarians. On the other hand 98% of Telangana loves animal based diets.
This leads me too you say that in reality the Indian culture in particular does not discourage or prohibits anyone from eating the food of their choice. The ideology that non-vegetarian food is a western philosophy is just a political agenda. Such groups use these ideas to get on the rightist ideology bandwagon just because right wing politics is on the rise and popular right now. This also leads me to say that the Indian culture since ancient times was a culture where everybody was free to do things and activities according to their wisdom.Therefore we should not be fooled by any of the so-called ‘protectors of religion’ who start owning and treating a religion or a culture as their personal property. And when we start associating a whole religion or a culture with just a single political identity, we are letting these sanctimonious people triumph. Just like in present we are letting Hinduism to be attributed to just one party and the same goes for Islam, Christianity, other ethnic communities, etc. this is where we are as citizens are being vanquished. Food is very simple yet it is very complex and it is the food which has connected Indiato the world and the world to India for ages. We are home to Hindustani cuisine which includes dishes from places like Afghanistan, Iran, China, South East Asia, Arabia, etc. This diversity is what makes Indian cuisine so unique and this diversity is what makes India so unique. If we lose this our diverse soul we also lose the spirit of India.
Feature Image Credits: India Bazaar
Aniket Singh Chauhan