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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Food as per Indian Traditions..

Food as per Indian Traditions..
by k v ananthanarayanan 

दीपो भक्षयते ध्वान्तं कज्जळं च प्रसूयते। यदन्नं भक्ष्यते नित्यं जायते तादृशी मनः॥ dīpo bhakṣayate dhvāntaṁ kajjaḻaṁ ca prasūyate| yadannaṁ bhakṣyate nityaṁ jāyate tādṛśī manaḥ||

"The lamp through its burning bright wick, feeds itself on the darkness outside, and in the process of burning gives out thick black soot.. In the same way our mental and physical output depends entirely on the quality of the food we consume.."
When a lamp is lit, the darkness outside disappears and bright light replaces the gloom.. The poet imagines that the darkness is gobbled up by the lamp.
And we know that the burning lamp gives out a lot of soot.. or fine carbon granules.. This is compared to the output in terms of activities or behaviour of a person.. Blackness delivers blackness.. And bad food brings out the worst in a human being..
This is true in many ways. .
If the food is not properly digestible, is stale or contaminated and not exactly in agreement with the needs of the body, such food causes untold physical misery and destroys our mental peace too.
It is also an established fact that our body grows and maintains itself utilizing the energy-producing starch and hydrocarbons, minerals, proteins and vitamins ingested mainly through the food we take..
There is the normal metabolism which happens when the biochemical and electrical balance of the human body is maintained..
However, lack of nutrition, as well as intake of the wrong food and beverages whether deliberately or innocently, turns the activities of the body haywire, and the body becomes sick and the organs do not function optimally..
The bad food habits can affect the secretion of hormones by the glands too.. which again affects the physical activities and the functioning of the sense organs and the mind too.. It is a vicious circle..
If necessary corrective steps by changing or adjusting food habits and often taking drug supplements too. the activities of the body would in general return to normalcy.
But if we ignore the warning signals indicated by minor ailments and just fill our stomach with the same garbage as ever, and fill up our fluid tank with spirited potions, we reach some point of no return at some stage or other..
It is a fact that mental stress too causes disease of the mind and body, but even that happens through the interference of food.. because we over eat or under eat under stress, we take wrong food when our digestive system is disturbed by tension, and our hormonal balance is badly affected through emotional disturbance.. causing severe impediments to the metabolism and hormonal activities..
So let us ensure that we eat diligently, and we avoid eating and drinking the wrong food and beverages..
The above discussion would sum up our ideas about food in a general way..
But in India, all through ages, we were treating food not just as a nourisher and provider of health, but as a part of the Divine..
When we say हरिर् धाता हरिर् भोक्ता हरिरन्नम् प्रजापतिः
harir dhātā harir bhoktā harirannam prajāpatiḥ Hari is the giver, Hari is the one who parakes in or enjoys everything, Hari is Annam(the food) and Hari is the creator we are assigning the most superior position of Hari to food too..
The Blessed Lord Krishna declared in Gita, as to how he prepares the food Himself. अहम् वैश्वानरो भूत्वा प्राणिनाम् देह आश्रितः। प्राणापान्समायुक्तः पचाम्यन्नम् चतुर्विधम्॥ भगवत् गीता॥१५-१४ aham vaiśvānaro bhūtvā prāṇinām deha āśritaḥ| prāṇāpānsamāyuktaḥ pacāmyannam caturvidham|| bhagavat gītā||15-14 this great Slokam from Gita is interpreted in so many ways by thousands of scholars.. Bhagavan Krishna says,
I, incarnating as Vaishvanara.. fire the source of eternal energy, reside in the bodies of living beings and with the assistance of Prana (the vital life giving gas Oxygen) and apana ( the exhaust gas.. Carbon di oxide) am cooking or making or digesting food all sorts..
Two processes can be envisaged here.. As the sun, entering the bodies of the plants through his rays, using Carbon Dioxide and the vital fluids of the plant is generating food for the consumption of all.. This process was defined by science as Photosynthesis
Residing inside the body as the digestive energy.. the Jaadaraagni, He is converting or cooking the food consumed to energy that sustains the living bodies.. using Prana, the Oxygen and giving out the Apana or Carbon dioxide and other products of such burning.
So food is God Himself and appears in its form in which we can consume it is presented to Us again by the God Himself.. And our Holiest Scriptures always worshipped the Food..
Bodhaayana quotes from Vedas..
Anne Shritaani Bhootani Annam Praanamiti..
अन्ने श्रितानि भूतानि अन्नं प्राणमिति
All beings depend of food for their existence.Food is verily out life itself.. And we believed that as the Gods provided us with the food, it was our duty to offer the same food to Gods in Yajnas.. Our worship of the Eternal Being always took the shape of offering food as Naivedyam to Divine beings..
Our propensities to take various types of foods depended on our basic natures, which varies from persons to person. At the same time the type of food we take affects our activities, mental setup health and well being..
The Blessed Lord Krishna in the Seventeenth Chapter gives a precise classification of the nature of people as Sattwik, Rajasik, and Tamasik.. and he describes about the food which are relished by the respective type according to their basic Nature..
The people with Sattwik Gunas are steadfast, clear in thought and action, love being in empathy with others, wishing always for the good of others the same way they would wish for themselves.. and their presence would spread only peace and amity all over the world..
The people with Rajasic Gunas are also hardworking , but apply such hard work only on issues which they consider beneficial to their own interest, tend to feel overly self sure about beliefs and creeds they have took fancy for and intolerant to variant views, and they would not mind co operating with others or even showing peripheral love for others as long as their own comforts are not disturbed, who put their own interest ahead of all others, and their presence would spread competitions and moderate to stiff intolerance all over.. The people with Tamasic Gunas just do not care for anything else other than the fulfilling of their own short-lived pleasure, they never care for the misery they cause to other fellow beings, and they are even oblivious to the dangers that would befall them through the actions in furtherance of their pleasures of the present.. They are lazy and would expect and fancy for results without any efforts, and have no sense of propriety.. ( The three gunas are defined in great detail in Shastras so minutely.. and sure, the classification is not water-tight.. The Sattwic might have Rajasic and Tamasic qualities in him in small qualities.. and the other two types too might have some sort of cross mixing.. But for our limited understanding of the subject, the above definitions must suffice)
Gita Chapter 17 Shraddhatrayavibhaagayogam… श्रद्धात्रयविभागयोगः śraddhātrayavibhāgayogaḥ sloka 7 आहारस्त्वपि सर्वस्य त्रिविधो भवति प्रियः। यज्ञस्तपस्तथा ज्ञानं तेषां भेदमिमं शृणु॥
āhārastvapi sarvasya trividho bhavati priyaḥ| yajñastapastathā jñānaṁ teṣāṁ bhedamimaṁ śṛṇu||
The blessed Lord is telling Arjuna.. Do hear from me, Arjuna, the favourite food for the three types ( of Sattwa, Raja and Tamas qualities) varies according to the respective types.. Their mode of sacrifice, penance and acquiring enlightenment also do vary..
Here were restrict ourselves to the food habits..
In the next slokam the Blessed Lord proceeds to describe the food relished by the Saattvikas.. आयुः सत्त्वबलारोग्य सुखप्रीतिविवर्धनाः। रस्याः स्निग्धाः स्थिराः हृद्याः आहाराः सात्विकप्रियाः॥८
āyuḥ sattvabalārogya sukhaprītivivardhanāḥ| rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirāḥ hṛdyāḥ āhārāḥ sātvikapriyāḥ||8
Foods relished by Saatwik people are those which augment and sustain longevity, mental strenghth and purposefulness, health and firmness of the body, easy comfort in actions and movements, pleasantness of the mind, foods which are very tasty, which are soft especially as a result of the presence of nourishing oils, foods which take reasonable and predictable time to digest and would supply nutrition and strenghth to the body for prolonged periods, and foods which are eminently suited for the functioning of the body organs including the heart, Food relished by people with Rajasic turn of mind is described by the Blessed Lord in sloka 9
कट्वम्ललवणात्युष्णतीक्ष्णरूक्षविदाहिनः। आहाराः राजसस्येष्टा दुःखशोकामयप्रदाः॥९ kaṭvamlalavaṇātyuṣṇatīkṣṇarūkṣavidāhinaḥ| āhārāḥ rājasasyeṣṭā duḥkhaśokāmayapradāḥ||9
Foods that are by nature very bitter, extremely sour or acidic, very salty, very hot to the body system, severely pungent, dry and lacking in softness, causing burn, producing short and long term pains and consumption of which cause various ailment are classified as Rajasic Foods. And then the Blessed Lord describes the repugnant qualities of Tamasic food.. the food relished by people with Tamasic qualities..
यातयामं गतरसं पूति पर्युषितं च यत्। उच्छिष्टमपि चामेध्यं भोजनं तामसप्रियम्॥१०
yātayāmaṁ gatarasaṁ pūti paryuṣitaṁ ca yat| ucchiṣṭamapi cāmedhyaṁ bhojanaṁ tāmasapriyam||10
Food not properly cooked including food which has been remaining cooked for three hours, Food which has lost its natural nutrient values and taste too, Food so decayed that putrid smell is emerging from it, Food that has been cooked and kept to decay overnight, Food that is left over after partially being used by someone else, Food that is of such low quality that it cannot ever be used for any religious purposes These items of Food used as staple meals are the favourites of a person with Tamasic turn of mind..
The individual items of food which can be classified in any of the above categories have been considered in Dharmasastras by one and every great sage including Vyasa, Yajnavalkya, Vasishta, Vishnu, Yama, Apastambha, Bodhayana, and so on..
The items which were relevant at the time when the Dharmasastras were written may not be accepted by the man of today, for various reasons..
Various lists have garlic, onion, raddish, some meats, frothing fresh milk and such items in common..
Listing of such items can by itself form subject matter of a long article… And the names of various items of vegetables, liquids and meats are not amenable to translation..
In fact in the Smritimukthaphalam of Deekshita, he has cited many names givng their Tamil, Marathi or Telugu names.. But a detailed analysis is too far beyond the scope of this article.
However, we know by experience that many food items are hot, dry, itchy .. many food items kept longer than a couple of hours would become stale.. And we know that mere refrigeration is not the panacea for this.. We can use our discretion.. in proper quantities..
But a reading of the ancient texts revealed on interesting fact..
Our ancestors were extremely hospitable.. and sharing of food was not considered as a matter of coutesy but was accepted as a beholden duty.. and a man who has some means under his disposal was warned of grave sins if he permitted anyone, of any caste or creed, or any living being existing around him or coming his way as a guest or a stray visiter, to starve and suffer without shelter..
That was the greatness of our civilization and culture.
The five duties of a Grihastha or householder, as per our Vedic traditions are Vaishvadeva, Devayajna, Pitruyajna, Bhuta yajna and Manushyayajna..
Vaishvadeva again consists of oblations for Pitrus, Gods and Bhuthas.. In all these rituals, food plays a vital part.. It is offering morsels of food in fire, for Devas, offering morsels of food as pindams for the departed souls.. Bhuta yajna involves Baligrahana.. offering food to all living beings living just in the surroundings, and also to the aboriginees and people with lesser social privileges..
देवतातिथिभूतानं पितृनामात्मनश्च यः न निर्वपति पञ्चानामुछ्वसन्न स जीवति॥। मनुस्मृत्याम् devatātithibhūtānaṁ pitṛnāmātmanaśca yaḥ na nirvapati pañcānāmuchvasanna sa jīvati||| manusmṛtyām
It is said in Manusmrithi that those who do not discharge their duties by offering proper food to the Gods, The Guests, the bhootas.. or other beings, the manes or pitrus, and also to oneself, will be taking their breaths but cannot be considered a living.
A householder is dutybound to wait for the arrival of a guest for taking food..
आचम्य च ततः कुर्यात् प्राज्ञो द्वारावलोकनं। मुहूर्तस्याष्टमो भागमुदीक्ष्यो ह्यतिथिर्भवेत्॥ व्यास
ācamya ca tataḥ kuryāt prājño dvārāvalokanaṁ| muhūrtasyāṣṭamo bhāgamudīkṣyo hyatithirbhavet|| vyāsa
After completing Vaisvadeva and other yajnaas, the householder should wait looking out through the front door for at least one eighth of a muhurtam.. ( it would be between eleven and twelve minutes as per present calculation) and whoever appears within that time should be received as an honoured guest..
If no guest appears, then too the duty of the householder does not cease..
He should offer the food meant for the guest to a cow.. He should ensure that the cow to whom food is offered does not belong to himself. Offering of food to the Cow is called Gavaahnikam..
This can be done every day in addition to offering of food to guests too. Sage Markandeya prescribes that the food should be offered to the Cow with the following prayer..
सौरभेय्यः सर्वहिताः सर्वपापप्रणशनाः। प्रतिगृह्णन्तु मे ग्रासं गावः त्रैलोक्य्मातरः॥
saurabheyyaḥ sarvahitāḥ sarvapāpapraṇaśanāḥ| pratigṛhṇantu me grāsaṁ gāvaḥ trailokymātaraḥ||
the Cows who are the daughters of Surabhi the Kamadhenu, the cows who live for the welfare of all the living beings, the cows who are capable of dispelling all the sins committed by the humans, the cows who are the Mothers of the three worlds, may be pleased to receive these morsels of food offered by me.. (graasam represent the quantity of food prepared by cooking two hundred pieces of full grains of edible cereal..like yava, rice, etc..) The cows should in addition be fed with grass to the best of their contentment.
The scriptures are very strict in instructing us that the food should not be for just consumption by the householder.. The food has to be used for Vaisvadevam, Pitruyjnam, Devayajnam, Bhootayajnam, and for feeding the guests, and only whatever is left over should be used to satisfy one’s personal hunger. It is declared by the Blessed Lord in Gita यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ति सर्वकिल्बिषैः। भुञ्चते ते त्वघम् पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात्॥गीता ३-१३ yajñaśiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyanti sarvakilbiṣaiḥ| bhuñcate te tvagham pāpā ye pacantyātmakāraṇāt||gītā 3-13
The virtuous people who partake in the food that is remaining after the performance of the yajnas (Vaishvadevam, feeding of guests etc) are freed of all sins and blemishes. But the sinners who cook for their own sake just eat their own sins.. The order in which a householder should distribute food in his household is also clearly stated by the ancient lawgivers.. Apastambha says.. अतिथीनेवाग्रे भोजयेत्। बालान् वृद्धान् रोगसम्ब्द्धान् स्त्रींस्चान्तर्वर्त्नी॥ atithīnevāgre bhojayet| bālān vṛddhān rogasambddhān strīīṁscāntarvartnī|| The guests should be fed first. Then the children, the elderly people, the people who are laid up with illness, the ladies and then the servants of the house.. ( The householder and his wife are expected to eat only after all these are fed in that order..)
Gautama also reflects the same idea.. भोजयेत् पूर्वमतिथिकुमारव्याधितगर्भिणीसुवासिनीस्थविरान् जघन्यान्श्च। bhojayet pūrvamatithikumāravyādhitagarbhiṇīsuvāsinīsthavirān jaghanyānśca| The guest should be fed first and then the boys, person who are ill, the pregnant ladies, the Suvaasinees ( the sisters, and daughters of the house), the elderly persons and the servants too.. ( Of course the man and the lady of the house are expected to take food only after this.) Bodhayana quotes slokas from Annagita.. The food itself is supposed be speaking as follows. यो मामदत्वा पितृदेवताभ्यो भृत्यातिथीभ्यस्च सुहृज्जनेभ्यः। संपन्नमश्नन्विषमत्ति मोहात् तमप्यहं तस्य च मृत्युरस्मि। हुताग्निहोत्रः कृतवैश्वदेवः पूज्यातिथीन्भृत्यजनावशिष्टम् तुष्टः शुचिः श्रद्धधदत्ति यो मां तस्यामृतं स्याम् स च मां भुनक्ति॥ yo māmadatvā pitṛdevatābhyo bhṛtyātithībhyasca suhṛjjanebhyaḥ| saṁpannamaśnanviṣamatti mohāt tamapyahaṁ tasya ca mṛtyurasmi| hutāgnihotraḥ kṛtavaiśvadevaḥ pūjyātithīnbhṛtyajanāvaśiṣṭam tuṣṭaḥ śuciḥ śraddhadhadatti yo māṁ tasyāmṛtaṁ syām sa ca māṁ bhunakti||
Meaning.. A deluded person who eats me without first giving me to the Gods, the manes, to the servants, to the guest is really eating poison, in fact I am eating him, and I am death for him.. But if a person who performs agnihotra, vaishvadeva, worships the guests and eats with great reverence and with a neat body and happy mind, me, the food which is remaining after even his servants have eaten, I am amrutham or ambrosia for him and he is the one who really eats well.. There are ever so many rules regarding hospitality.. but the praise of hospitality to Bhikshus or mendicants is worth mentioning here..
Vyasa defines Bhikshus as follows.. यतिश्च ब्रह्मचारी च विद्यार्थी गुरुपोषकः अध्वगः क्षीणवृत्तिस्च षडेते भिक्षुकाः स्मृताः। yatiśca brahmacārī ca vidyārthī gurupoṣakaḥ adhvagaḥ kṣīṇavṛttisca ṣaḍete bhikṣukāḥ smṛtāḥ| Six categories of people are called Bhikshus or Bhikshukas.. 1. The Sannyaasin 2. The initiate student of Vedas who has to live on alms. 3. The student in general 4. The assitant or menial support of a teacher. 5. One who is on a long journey by foot , by way of pilgrimmage or migration 6. One who is rendered jobless. It is prescribed that if a Bhikshuka arrives even before the yajnas like Vaisvadeva are completed, food should be offered him even from that prepared for the yajna.. It is ordained that any shortcoming or sin arising out of incomplet yajna shall be nullified by the honour accorded to the bhikshuka, but if the bhishuka is neglected, any number of yajnas would not suffice to wipe of such sin.
Haaritha the lawmaker says. अकृते वैश्वदेवे तो भिक्षुके गृहमागते। उद्दृत्य वैश्वदेवार्थम् भिक्षाम् दत्वा विसर्जयेत्॥ हारीतः akṛte vaiśvadeve to bhikṣuke gṛhamāgate| uddṛtya vaiśvadevārtham bhikṣām datvā visarjayet|| hārītaḥ If vaisvadeva yajna is not yet performed when the Bhikhuka arrives in the house and the preparations are ready for the yajna, the things meant for Vaisvadeva should be given to the Bhikhu.. who should be offered Bhiksha and the yajna becomes complete.. Haaritha further States.
भक्त्या यः शक्तितो नित्यं विष्णुमभ्यर्च्य सादरम्। भिक्षां च भिक्षवे दद्यात् परिव्राड् ब्रह्मचारिणो॥ विष्णुरेव यतिश्चायमिति निश्चित्य भावयेत्। यतिर्यस्य गृहे भुङ्क्ते तस्य भुङ्क्ते हरिः स्वयम्।
bhaktyā yaḥ śaktito nityaṁ viṣṇumabhyarcya sādaram| bhikṣāṁ ca bhikṣave dadyāt parivrāḍ brahmacāriṇo|| viṣṇureva yatiścāyamiti niścitya bhāvayet| yatiryasya gṛhe bhuṅkte tasya bhuṅkte hariḥ svayam| One should worships Lord Vishnu with great reverence and according to his own capacity, and also feed the Bhikshus who graces his home in the shape of Parivraajakas (Sannyasins) and Brahmacharis.. One should realize in his mind that the Sannyaasi is Lord Vishnu Himself and that when a Yati eats food in a house, it is actually Lord Hari Himself who is taking for there.. The subject is so vast and the discussion can never conclude.. Krishno rakshatu..