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Faithandfood Fact Files – Hinduism

“Having well considered the origin of flesh-foods, and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let man entirely abstain from eating flesh.”
The Manu-smrti (5.49)

Forbidden ingredients
Main food beliefs
Vegetarianism
Eating in restaurants
Feasting and fasting
Links
Contact
About the writer

The Faithandfood Fact File bookmarks are the same for each religion. Compare this religion with the dietary beliefs of another faith by clicking on the name of the religion on the toolbar on the left.

Which ingredients are forbidden?

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs

Although some Hindus may occasionally eat meat, almost all avoid beef.

In addition, strict practitioners also abstain from:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms that
  • Any alcohol
  • Tea and coffee (obtaining caffeine)

What are the main laws or beliefs relating to food?
According to Vedic (Hindu scripture) texts, one should offer all food as a sacrifice to God: “...All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.27) The Gita specifies exactly what should be offered: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (9.26) There are other references in the Vedic literature confirming that fruits, vegetables, grain, nuts and dairy products are fit for human consumption.

Food plays an important role in worship, and the food offered to God (prasada) is thought to bestow considerable religious merit, purifying body, mind and spirit. Taking prasada that has been cooked and offered with devotion inclines the mind towards spirituality. Many Hindus have an altar at home and offer their food before eating.

Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs as they are usually considered tamasic (influenced by ignorance) and are not sanctioned by either the scriptures or saints. Almost all Hindus avoid beef out of respect for the cow. In the Mahabharata - a seminal Hindu epic - one of its central characters, Bhishma, declares that no sacrifices can be made without butter. And, thus, cows became essential to the spiritual life of Hindus. Alcohol, tea and coffee are said to pollute one’s consciousness, making the practice of meditation difficult. Mushrooms are thought to take on the quality of ignorance, while garlic and onions take on the quality of rajas (passion).

Is there a link with vegetarianism?
Most Hindus follow a balanced vegetarian diet. In the Mahabharata it explains “meat-eating has a negative influence on existence, causing ignorance and disease.” It explains, “a healthy vegetarian diet is sattvic, i.e., under the influence of goodness, able to increase purity of consciousness and longevity.”

In general, will people of this faith eat in a food outlet that serves food or drink that does not conform to their beliefs?
Most Hindus do tend to eat in a variety of places; these may not always conform to their preferred diet. However, there is a growing trend that Hindus eat in places which adhere to their religious beliefs and thus their dietary needs.

When and why do people of this faith feast and fast?
Over 18 major holidays in the Hindu calendar are feast days (dates vary according to the lunar calendar), including Holi, Ramnavamni, Dusshera, Pongal, Janmashtami, and Diwali. Personal feast days include the anniversaries of birthdays, marriages, and deaths.

Fasting is also common, dependent on a person's social standing (caste), family, age, gender, and degree of orthodoxy. Fasting can be complete, eating "purer" foods, adopting a completely vegetarian diet or it can be abstaining from favourite foods. Common fast days include Sundays, the day of the new moon, the full moon, the 10th and 11th day of each month, the Feast of Sivaratri, the 9th day of the month of Cheitra, the 8th day of Sravana, and days of eclipses, equinoxes, solstices, and conjunction of the planets. Some Hindus also fast on the anniversaries of the deaths of their mothers and fathers. Hindus fast as a way to enhance concentration during meditation or worship or as purification for the system. Fasting is sometimes considered a sacrifice.

Links to websites with further information:
http://www.camcnty.gov.uk/sub/cominfo/ethnic/
hinduism.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/
http://hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_food.htm
http://www.hinduforum.org
http://heartofhinduism.co.uk
http://nhsf.org.uk
http://indian-vegetarians.org
http://iskcon.com

If you have any question about the dietary practises or beliefs in this faith, you may contact

Sita Rama das
Principal of the College of Vedic Studies
Bhaktivedanta Manor,
Hilfield Lane,
Aldenham,
Herts'
WD25 8EZ
Tel No: 01923 854270
email: mte@pamho.net

Written by Sita Rama Das
Sita Rama das is the Principal of the College of Vedic Studies at Bhaktivedanta Manor in Hertfordshire. He has been conducting lectures and seminars on Hindu philosophy and teachings around the UK for twelve years. He also acts in the capacity of a Congregational Minister to the Hindu community in North West London. Sita Rama das also runs a small Publishing House called Dharma Publications Ltd, which recently brought out a comprehensive resource for teachers of RE called ‘the Heart of Hinduism’.

Note: Some people who are Hindus may not observe the dietary laws stated above. Prohibitions and restrictions even within a particular faith may change between denominations or branches. Please do not take this as an authoritative list. This page is meant as a guide only and are the beliefs of the writer.

The Faithandfood Fact File bookmarks are the same for each religion. Compare this religion with the dietary beliefs of another faith by clicking on the name of the religion on the toolbar on the left.

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