7 Types Of Indian Vegetarians That We Have All Come Across
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In recent days, a comment made by Indian author and philanthropist Sudha Murthy has brought back the spotlight on Indian vegetarianism and the wide spectrum of practices it represents. In an episode of a YouTube series called Khaane Mein Kya Hai with Kunal Vijayakar, the wife of the Infosys founder revealed that she is a “pure vegetarian” and is concerned about ending up using the same spoon that has been used for non-vegetarian foods. This sparked some very divided conversations and reactions on social media about vegetarianism and the "purity" associated with it.  

Truth be told, this is not the first time such a comment by a public figure (and a woman) about “pure vegetarianism” has sparked controversy. In 2019, during an onion price inflation crisis, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also came into focus for confirming that she comes from a “pure vegetarian” family and has very little to do with onions and garlic. Back then and now, the conversation on social media was focused on what “pure vegetarianism” even means and how it may be related to casteism. However, that might be a very selective way of looking at it all. 

The fact is that while the world at large thinks of vegetarianism and veganism in the same breath today, Indian culinary traditions and practices shaped over centuries have proved that vegetarianism is not a homogenous category. Modern Indian vegetarians have very little to do with caste and religious practices—though in some senses that is the predetermining factor for many on the family and community levels—and a lot more to do with personal choices. This is primarily the reason why “pure vegetarianism” is now known as just one type of vegetarianism. 

Wondering what the whole spectrum of Indian vegetarianism looks like? Here are some key subcategories of Indian vegetarians you are most likely to have already met.  

Video Credit: YouTube/Chef Ranveer Brar

Pure vegetarians 

Pure vegetarian Indians are individuals who follow a strict vegetarian diet, abstaining from all forms of meat, fish, poultry, eggs and even onions and garlic to a large extent. The history of “pure vegetarianism” in India is largely associated with Vaishnavism sect of Hinduism, so whether South Indian, East Indian or North Indian, a “pure vegetarian” person will likely focus on plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy products (if they consume dairy). 

Jain vegetarians 

Jain vegetarian Indians are individuals who follow a strict vegetarian diet as part of their Jain religious belief of Ahimsa or non-violence. Jain dietary guidelines are among the most stringent of all vegetarian diets. Jain vegetarians abstain not only from meat, fish, and eggs but also avoid consuming root vegetables such as onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, etc. as well as certain plant parts believed to have a higher number of living organisms, like some fruits and leafy vegetables. This is to minimize harm to living beings during food consumption. Instead, Jain vegetarians primarily rely on a diet consisting of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and green leafy vegetables that can be consumed without harming the plant. 

Sattvik vegetarians 

Sattvik vegetarian Indians are individuals who follow a sattvik diet, which is a specific type of vegetarian diet based on the principles of Ayurveda and Hindu philosophy. The term sattvik is derived from the Sanskrit word sattva, which means purity or essence. So, the sattvik diet primarily consists of foods that are considered pure, wholesome, and nourishing for both the body and mind. It emphasizes consuming fresh, seasonal, and natural plant-based foods while avoiding foods that are considered harmful or heavy on digestion. Sattvik vegetarians avoid tamasic as well as rajasic foods, including onions, garlic, all sorts of animal and seafood meats, many spices along with alcohol and caffeine. 


Lacto-vegetarian Indians are individuals who follow a lacto-vegetarian diet, which is a type of vegetarian diet that includes dairy products but excludes meat, fish, eggs, and other animal-derived ingredients. The term lacto in lacto-vegetarian refers to the inclusion of dairy products in the diet. In a lacto-vegetarian diet, individuals consume a variety of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, and ghee. Lacto-vegetarians is largely followed by Hindu Vaishnavites as well and Jains and many Buddhists. 


Ovo-vegetarian Indians are individuals who follow an ovo-vegetarian diet, which is a type of vegetarian diet that includes eggs but excludes meat, fish, and poultry. The term ovo in ovo-vegetarian refers to the inclusion of eggs in the diet, and you might often this group of people also calling themselves Eggetarians. Ovo-vegetarianism is a less common form of vegetarianism in India compared to lacto-vegetarianism, where dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are also included in the diet. However, some individuals choose to be ovo-vegetarian for various reasons, such as personal preferences, ethical considerations, or health requirements. 


Flexitarian vegetarian Indians are individuals who follow a predominantly vegetarian diet but occasionally include small amounts of meat, fish, or poultry in their meals. The term flexitarian is a combination of flexible and vegetarian, indicating that these individuals have a flexible approach to their dietary choices. Flexitarianism is a relatively recent dietary trend that emerged as people sought to reduce their meat consumption for various reasons, such as health, environmental concerns, or ethical considerations. Flexitarians aim to prioritize plant-based foods while occasionally incorporating animal-derived proteins in a mindful and conscious manner.  

Clearly the most balanced of all vegetarian diets, the reasons for adopting a flexitarian vegetarian diet can vary widely among individuals. Some may do so to improve their health by reducing meat consumption, while others may be motivated by environmental concerns, as livestock farming has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions and land use. 


Vegan Indians are individuals who follow a vegan lifestyle, which goes beyond just a dietary choice and extends to all aspects of their lives. Vegans avoid the use of any animal products or by-products, not only in their diet but also in clothing, personal care products, and other daily practices. In the context of Indian culture, vegan Indians abstain from consuming all forms of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and other animal-derived ingredients. They also seek alternative plant-based sources for essential nutrients typically found in animal-derived products, such as protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.