Influence of Caste / Religion on Food

by Annamma Philipose

Influence of Caste / Religion on Food


The Hindus in ancient times ate meat but later were influenced by the ideals of non-violence gave up meat. This led them to devise the tastiest vegetarian cuisine in the world. They used a wide range of legumes for proteins. They perfectly cooked countless vegetable recipes and dairy products.

The Hindus who still continued eating meat gave up beef as cattle was important for milk and use in farms. The Brahmins’ class in the Hindus observed strict vegetarian rules with the members of other classes allowed to eat meat.

Goddess Annapurna who is the reincarnation of goddess Parvati is worshipped as the Hindu Goddess of food and nourishment. Hindus take on the personification of Annapurna cooking food with a spirit of holiness, love and divine energy while taking food.


Governed by the idea of non-violence or ahimsa, Jainism has made a tremendous influence on India's vegetarian cuisine.

Jainism takes non violence to a very strict level and so it is totally against consuming non-vegetarian food. The Jain diet has grains like wheat, rice, lentils or pulses and beans, oil-seeds as they fall under the category of non-injurious food.

Fruits and vegetables which become ripe on the plants or trees are used for food. They avoid root vegetables and also do not use any liquor. Their food philosophy is based on offering food to poor people regularly, fasting on certain days and no wasting of any food, drinking filtered water, and eating after sunrise and before sunset.


The Muslim culture added exotic Mughlai cuisine to Indian culinary culture. Rice pulaos of India with the mixture of meat became biriyani and meat roasts like lamb kebabs were flavored with Indian herbs, spices and seasonings. Due to this influence, Indian dishes became garnished with almonds, pistachios, cashews and raisins.

Muslims also introduced leavened breads and tandoor style of cooking. Meats were now marinated in yogurt and spices and also cooked in tandoors.  Both pork and beef were avoided to respect the traditions of both cultures. Apart from the idea of concluding a meal with sweetmeats, the Muslim culture also introduced the idea of community dinning and lavish and extravagant banquets in India along with serving dishes in jade, silver and Chinese porcelain.


Christians incorporated grilled pork chops after they were marinated in spices and chilies. Soups and salads were introduced. Whisky was brought to India and spicy tea came into existence. Many new recipes and dishes were influenced by Christians such as cutlets, croquettes, sausages, cakes, puddings, jams, and biscuits.


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