Ever Wondered Why Are Most Gujarati Foods Vegetarian?
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Within three hours of landing in Ahmedabad, we understood that finding non-vegetarian food in the city would be a task. Since we are a family that really loves to eat local food, we weren’t complaining; the array of options presented to us for lunch at a local vegetarian restaurant had spoilt us by now. From sev tamatar ki sabzi, farsan, shaak, khatti meethi dal to bhakri, there was just too much on our plate to make room for meat anyway. After a long day of sightseeing, when we stepped out for dinner, my father asked a local if there was indeed a non-vegetarian restaurant around? “None that I know of in this area”, he replied. “Maybe you’ll find it around the railway station”, he added. We didn't bother to go that far, of course, we had pav bhaji and chaach for dinner from a street-side stall and headed back without regrets. 

When And How Did Gujarat Become A Haven For Vegetarians

Gujarat has been synonymous with an enormously vast cuisine replete with snacks, greens, vegetables, lentils, and legumes of many kinds. Even though a significant part of Gujarat is not very blessed in terms of vegetation, Gujarati cooks have mastered the art of making the best of what is available. But the lack of notable meat preparations makes you wonder, at which point did the majority of Gujarat decide to banish meat as a whole?

The Role Of Vaishnava Community And Jain Preachings 

Vegetarianism in Gujarat can be traced back to the prominent Jain influence before the 6th century BC. Teachings of Mahavira, propagated by his disciples, influenced a big part of West India. Food Historian KT Achaya in his book, ‘Indian Food: A Historical Companion', writes that even King Kumarapala of the Chalukya dynasty, who happened to consume meat in his youth, had a change of heart affter being influenced by Jainism. He voiced against the animal slaughter in his edicts called ‘amarighoshnas’. Besides Jainism, even the Vaishnava school of thought preached against eating meat. Vaishnava scholar who formed the Pushti-Marga sect in 25th century A.D, proved to be pivotal in turning the majority of the population vegetarian, notes Achaya. Vallabhacharya’s second son Vitthal Natha, his disciples Surdas and many other Vaishnavites, including traders and nobility, worked tirelessly to make the community abstain from meat, even if that meant spending copious amounts of money to campaign for the same. 

Are There Any Non-Veg Dishes To Look Forward To In Gujarat?

Till today, Gujarat is one of the states with the most significant number of pure vegetarian people. About two-third of Gujarat practices vegetarianism. The rough estimate rules out many communities such as Bohri Muslims and Parsis, who have not only been an integral part of Gujarat since ancient times but have also managed to retain a part of their culture and culinary habits they brought from their ancestral lands. Take the Bohri Thal, for instance; some notable items on this gigantic thali are keema samosa, lagaan nu seekh (a kind of kebab), mutton khichda and biryani, in addition to many vegetarian dishes that you find across Gujarat such as Gujarati kadhi and dal. The Paris fare is also a healthy mix of non-vegetarian and vegetarian delicacies such as salli boti (a Parsi mutton curry), dhansak, patra ni macchi (steamed fish) etc. 

Gujarat is a kaleidoscope of culture, with food playing one of the leads. And while most people in Gujarat love their vegetarian fare, there are plenty who enjoy their meat. What is your all-time favourite Gujarati food? Do let us know.