Food is so vitally important in Hindu religion that it is considered to be part of God or Brahman. It nourishes the entire physical, mental, and emotional aspects of a human being. It is considered a gift from God and should be treated respectfully.
Food in Hindu Dharma
- Food is considered an actual part of Brahman, rather than simply a Brahman symbol.
- Beef is strictly forbidden; the cow is considered Mother in Hindu dharma.
- Pork is strictly forbidden food
- The food contains energy-like sound waves that can be absorbed by the person eating them.
- According to the Hindu religion, violence or pain inflicted on another living thing rebounds on you (karma).
- To avoid causing pain to another living thing, vegetarianism is advocated, but not compulsory.
- Prohibited animal products may be different from one area to another; for example, duck or crab may be forbidden in one location and not in another.
- Meat is not always forbidden in the Laws of Manusmriti.
- Fasting depends on person’s caste and the occasion.
- Serving food to poor and the needy or a beggar is good karma.
- Food is associated with a lot of religious activity and is still offered to God during some of the religious ceremonies.
- On specific days, food is offered to departed souls.
- Many Hindu temples distribute foods to visiting devotees.
Several rituals are associated with food in Hindu tradition. A child’s first solid food is celebrated as a samskara, or rite, known as annaprasana. The funeral rites involve serving food and offering food to the departed soul for his journey to the ancestral world. According to Manusmriti, “Food that is always worshipped, gives strength and manly vigour; but eaten irreverently, it destroys them both.”
Some Hindu rituals before eating food
- Cleaning the place where the food will be eaten
- The sprinkling of water around the food, accompanied by some mantras or prayers.
- Making an offering of the food, then offering five vital breaths (pranas), namely prana, apana, vyana, udana, and samanaya and then to Brahman seated in the heart.
Vegetarianism in Hindu religion
“You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they are human, animal or Whatever.” (Yajur Veda 12.32)
“By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for Salvations.” (Manusmriti 6.60)
“Ahimsa is the highest Dharma, ahimsa is the best Tapas.
Ahimsa is the highest self-control, ahimsa is the highest sacrifice.
Ahimsa is the highest power, ahimsa is the highest friend.
Ahimsa is the highest truth, ahimsa is the highest teaching.”
(Mahabharata 18.116.37 – 41)
Vegetarianism is a practice of eating food that excludes the meat of animals but does permit eggs. Vegetarian foods include grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy products. Vegetarianism was never an essential requisite for Hindu religion. Hindus practice vegetarianism because to the adherence of ahimsa (nonviolence), one should refrain from being harmful to any person or even to animals. The Sanskrit word for vegetarianism is shakahara, and for vegetarian, shakahari. Similarly, the Sanskrit word for meat eating is mansahara, and for meat eater, mansahari.
It is a myth to think the practice of vegetarianism as essentially a religious issue. But since ahimsa is central to Hindu religion, people refrain from killing animals and refrain from using them as food. At the time of the Vedas, the people’s lives were centered on sacrificial offerings to deities. The offerings were vegetables and meats; often, the offerings were given to the priests and others who paid for those sacrifices. In other words, the Brahmins were meat eaters, and the others were vegetarians. In the course of hundreds of years, the trend was reversed; Brahmins became vegetarians, and the others, some of them, became meat eaters.