Jains are present across India and Jainism is the sixth largest religion in India. Jains are also considered to have the highest literacy %age amongst all India based religions.
Jain Food culture:
“Non-violence is the highest religion” — Lord Mahavir.
Jain food culture is based on strict non-violence. They are hard core vegetarians who are much disciplined about their eating habits and hence it makes their life style very difficult to follow.
Theirs is the most basic and functional eating culture that I have come across and believe me, they are healthy human beings able to sometimes achieve a difficult fasting routine of only boiled water once per day spanning over a period of 30 days (the period can be less or more too).
The Jain’s do not believe in harming any animal or for that matter the smallest of the organisms present in the universe and since the culture comes from non-violence, animal flesh is a complete “NO” for any Jain. Animal based food products are completed avoided and that throws out a lot of dairy products, cosmetics etc out of the window for them.
My view is that veganism is probably something which has come out of the Jain Vegetarians book.
What they do not eat:
During the course of deciding what to feed on and what is appropriate for a Jain to eat in vegetables; they very easily throw out anything which is available from under the soil like garlic, onions, potatoes, beet, etc. The reasons for them to not eat the roots are not to harm any organisms which survive under the soil and also plucking the root will ultimately kill the plant.
Onions & Garlic are considered inappropriate to have in Strict vegetarian Hindus too, as it is meant to be tamasic food as per the Geeta. Details on this will come some other time ☺
Sprouts are not consumed because they are considered to be a new life and while the pulses are being soaked and sunned to be converted to sprouts there could be other micro-organisms which would be taking birth in that process.
Even some very obvious vegetables which go beyond our thinking are avoided like cabbage, cauliflower, Brinjals / eggplant, tomatoes, ladies finger (Okra). These are avoided because they have multiple leaves or multiple seeds and are considered to have multiple lives in them. The most intriguing thing about this concept is that it comes from an era when biology was possibly not known in the way it is known now; no wonder they say that Jainism was the first religion handed over by the gods.
Parasites like mushrooms, fungus and yeasts do not find a place on the plate of a Jain and so is honey for obvious reasons.
What they do eat:
A diet heavily leaning on fruits or vegetables which grow on a tree and fall down to be collected and hence do not cause harm to the tree per se say. Cereals or pulses which require the plant to dry off completely before the the pulses or cereals are pulled out are also consumed.
|Least Eaten||Oil, Sugar, Salt|
|Green tea / Lemon tea|
|Soya based dairy products|
|Whole wheat, semi polished rice, ragi, bajra, maize, jowar and oats, Soya, Whole dals|
|Most eaten||Vegetables, Fruits|
Spices : Only spices which have more health benefits like; cardamom, cumin seeds, cloves, fenugreek, cinnamon turmeric and tulsi.
Salt is used for taste purposes only in cooked vegetables. Salts are avoided in salads and juices etc.
Some other interesting facts:
Stale food is also avoided as it tends to have high micro-organisms built up over a period of time.
Food is not eaten after sunset. Food should only be eaten during sunlight. Micro-organisms grow on food after sunset. Digestive system also is healthy if food is eaten during the day. Jain monks do not walk in the night because accidentally they may kill insects etc.
Some useful links