Jain Food Restrictions


Why Jains dont eat Potatoes, Onions, Garlic or any underground vegetables ? Why do Jains refrain from eating after daylight ?  Why do they drink boiled water ?

These are some of the questions that you always have in mind but dont know whom to ask and sometimes the answers are not convincing enough. I will try to resolve all those queries for you.

If you have more questions, ask them in the comments below.

Jain vegetarianism is the diet of the Jains, the followers of Jainism. It is the most strict form of religiously-motivated diet regulation in the Indian subcontinent.

Jain objections to the eating of meat and fish are based on the principle of nonviolence (ahinsa, literally “non-injuring”). Every act by which a person directly or indirectly supports killing or injury is seen as violence (hinsa), which creates harmful karma. The aim of ahimsa is to prevent the accumulation of such karma.

The extent to which this intention is put into effect varies greatly among Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Jains consider nonviolence to be the most essential religious duty for everyone (ahinsā paramo dharmaḥ, a statement often inscribed on Jain temples). It is an indispensable condition for liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, which is the ultimate goal of all Jain activities. Jains share this goal with Hindus and Buddhists, but their approach is particularly rigorous and comprehensive.

Their scrupulous and thorough way of applying nonviolence to everyday activities, and especially to food, shapes their entire lives and is the most significant hallmark of Jain identity.

A side effect of this strict discipline is the exercise of asceticism, which is strongly encouraged in Jainism for lay people as well as for monks and nuns.

Practice

  • For Jains, lacto-vegetarianism (generally known simply as vegetarianism in India) is mandatory.  Food which contains even small particles of the bodies of dead animals or eggs is absolutely unacceptable. Some Jain scholars and activists support veganism, as the production of dairy products involves significant violence (himsa) against cows.
  • Jains go out of their way so as not to hurt even small insects and other tiny animals, because they believe that harm caused by carelessness is as reprehensible as harm caused by deliberate action. Hence they take great pains to make sure that no minuscule animals are injured by the preparation of their meals and in the process of eating and drinking.
  • Traditionally Jains have been prohibited from drinking unfiltered water. In the past, when wells or baolis were used for the water source, the cloth used for filtering used to be reversed and some filtered water was poured over it to return the organisms to the original body of water. This practice termed as ‘jivani’ or ‘bilchhavani’, is no longer possible because of the use of pipes for water supply.
  • Jains today may also filter faucet water in the traditional fashion, and a few Jains continue to follow the filtering process even with commercial mineral or bottled drinking water.
  • Jains make considerable efforts not to injure plants in everyday life as far as possible. but they only accept such violence inasmuch as it is indispensable for human survival, and there are special instructions for preventing unnecessary violence against plants.[10] Jains don’t eat root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, roots and tubers, because tiny life forms are injured when the plant is pulled up and because the bulb is seen as a living being, as it is able to sprout. Also, consumption of most root vegetables involves uprooting & killing the entire plant. Whereas consumption of most terrestrial vegetables doesn’t kill the plant (it lives on after plucking the vegetables or it was seasonally supposed to wither away anyway).
  • Honey is forbidden, as its collection would amount to violence against the bees.
  • Food items that have started to decay are prohibited.
  • Traditionally cooking or eating at night was discouraged because insects are attracted to the lamps or fire at night. Strict Jains take the vow (called anastamita or anthau) of not eating after sunset.
  • Strict Jains do not consume food which has been stored overnight, as it possesses a higher concentration of micro-organisms (for example, bacteria yeast etc) as compared to food prepared and consumed the same day. Hence, they do not consume yogurt or dhokla & idli batter unless they’ve been freshly set on the same day.
  • Jains do not consume fermented foods (beer, wine and other alcohols) to avoid killing of a large number of microorganisms associated with the fermenting process.
  • During some specific fasting periods in the Jain religious ‘Panchang’ calendar, Jains refrain from consuming any green coloured vegetables (which have chlorophyll pigment) such as okra, leafy vegetables, etc.

Influence on vegetarian cuisines in India

The vegetarian cuisines of some of the regions has been strongly influenced by Jainism.

These include

  • Gujarati Jain cuisine
  • Marwari Jain cuisine of Rajasthan
  • Bundelkhandi Jain cuisine of central India
  • Agrawal Jain cuisine of Delhi/UP

In India, vegetarian food is regarded to be appropriate for everyone for all occasions. This makes vegetarian restaurants quite popular. Many of the vegetarian restaurants and Mishtanna (sweet)shops (for example the legendary Ghantewala sweets in Delhi  or Jamna Mithya in Sagar ) in India are run by Jains. Some restaurants in India serve strict Jain version of vegetarian dishes that leave out carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic. A few airlines also serve Jain vegetarian dishes upon prior request. The Japanese Shojin Ryori is similar to Jain cuisine in leaving out onions and garlic. The term satvika often implies Indian cuisine without onions and garlic, the strict Jain cuisine also excludes other root vegetables like potatoes.

Some Rajasthani dishes such as gatte ki sabzi (or gatte ki kadhi ) and papd ki sabzi were invented for Jain festivals during which the orthodox may avoid eating green vegetables.

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73 Comments on “Jain Food Restrictions

  1. SHUD NOT BE COMMENTING ON FOOD WITHOUT TASTING IT….
    BUT WILL SURELY COMMENT ON THIS SITE. NICE SITE….. needs nore colours…….
    ans suggestion : –
    THE COMMENT BOX NEEDS WHITE BOXES….. CANT FIGURE OUT EASILY WHERE TO TYPE……….

    waiting to taste the best on mount everest hahahahahah

    1. Yes paneer is absolutely edible to jain diet. You can make it at home. Well for Cheese there r some controversies being jain or not, but i consider it to be jain. Cheese is actually kept for many days to ferment n so debated whether acceptable to jain diet or not.

  2. ginger and turmeric after dried becomes achit and also use for ayurvedic purpose,you can’t eat in quantity,rather dried potato can eat in quantity.

  3. plz let us know the packed food which we eat in our daily life.. are they free from animal fat like bun burger dairy chocolates gelllies biscuits etc.,

    1. hello anitha,
      about the items that u have listed above, it depends on where do you live and buy that from. In india i think these things are eggless but abroad you need to read the ingredients before buying it.

  4. Really nice and helpful site.. With so many varieties it encourages our jain people to eat our own “jain traditional food”.
    But there is a suggestion that spellings should be checked. At many places i found the wrong spellings resulting into double/ wrong meaning.
    but i really appreciated your hard work for spreading jainism.

    1. AG, cheese can be made easily at home, I recently heard a session at our local deraser where they taught how to make cheese, bread and butter at home. I will put up the recipe soon.

      Sejal.

    1. Hi Ishan, Ideally it is not included. To be honest recently we had a session at our local derasar where they showed us how to make butter and cheese at home. I will be putting up the recipes for the same soon as well.

  5. Thank u so much…
    Really a wonderful site….
    Specially in this modern times,it is very much required…
    Jai Jinendr….

  6. nice site i always knew we should not eat shoots and roots but never knew the exact reason why not to eat today i can give reply to the people who always asked me why you dont eat etc thanks a lot.

    1. Hi Purvi,

      Ground Nut even though is rooted does not generate as many micro organisms as other roots and the outer layer is thick enough to protect the nuts from any organisms. We usually eat the Nuts removing the outer layer hence it is okay to have Ground Nuts. This is not the case with Potatoes, Onions, Garlic or any other roots where the outer layer is too thin to expose micro organisms

      I hope this solves your query.

  7. nice informatory site…am doing a presentation on jain culture especially diet…so plz suggest me the best recipe i can make…and prove to non veges dat even veg and jain food tastes awesome…

    1. Hey Forum,
      Thanks for all your appreciation. Good luck for your presentation I would sugest tai pai paneer chily recipe, sprout bhel,kelawada etc will taste good. Do let me know how it goes.

  8. I believe all should be aware that in America (USA) nearly all cows are raised in horrible conditions in “factory farms” and also fed drugs and hormones. Thus to consume dairy products is to torture the cows and consume unhealthy substances as well. Everyone should know the terrible things that happen in American farms!

  9. Hello, i never knew the reason for not eating potato,onion ,garlic and roots. i could never answer my friends y v don’t eat all this n v used to always fight on dis topic. now i can answer her. thank you for this information.n i make Jain cakes. if i can help u.let me know.

    1. As per Jainism, Milk and Milk Products are okay to be consumed.. I have not heard of any such restrictions within Jainism by our elders who follow the religion very dedicatedly. However it is always a personal choice to be a vegan and not consume milk and milk products.

      1. Don’t you think any religion and practice will lose meaning if it doesn’t change with time? The underlying principle of Jainism is ahimsa, and the goal should be to see how to lowest possible cruelty footprint. Consuming milk is as good as eating meat these days – do you know that Indian is number 1 beef exporter today and dairy industry is the biggest supplier to beef industry? What about mental himsa caused due to confinement, separation of mother and calf, and so on?

        Most of the modern day developments causes himsa in various forms – enjoying modern amenities causes billions-trillions of microorganisms and more evolved living beings suffer and die. But at least when we talk about diet, milk is 100 times more cruel than potato, onion etc. I really wish more and more Jains come out of the blind traditional mindset and see the truth, in the true spirit of ahimsa.

    1. Hi Krishaa, Never heard of this before. I can confirm that Cheese definately does not contain Eggs. However Some of the Cheeses like Parmesan (rarely used in India) contains Rennet which is not jain. I suggest you should check the ingredients correctly before using any cheeses. The best way is to make it at home :)

  10. Hi I m shruti Shah. I just read your article and comments on that too.. It’s great…for them who actually don’t know the basic values and reasons of Jainism and Jain food it’s encyclopedia…keep it up.. Great job..thanks..

  11. Does it all really matter ?eat 100organisms or 1lakh….these are small organisms u can’t think of such small microorganisms in ur daily life?Instead people should change there views n focous of good deeds n helping poor n do something for the society .

    1. Hi Pranay, I appreciate your views – Though if you understand closer – The issue is not about how small the micro organisms are or how many do we kill – but to reduce harm to any living organisms as much as we can. The Good Deeds and Helping Poor is anyways a Priority for Any religion as it is out Jainism.

      1. What is Jainism and how a person being called as jain .. is it one has to belong to jain family means by birth the person should be Jain or following Jainism things is ok ? For Eg if a girl who belongs to jain family following Jainism and now if she marries non jain guy and still follow Jainism, She will be jain or just because she is married to non jain guy she is non jain? And what is consider as sin or felony , eating/ making non jain food or going to non jain temple.

      2. Dear rajeev

        u dont need to be jain to follow jainism it can be followed by anyone even if he or she is nt jain. god is fr all n its nt binded anyone to worship any god they want. Mahavir bhagvan ll nt say ur nt jain dont worship me or
        follow me nor ganpati bhagvan ll say tht dont cm to my temple. Its per ur beleif whom u want to worship

  12. In Digamber Jainism, the reason for not eating root vegetables is because of the anant (infinite) one-sensed jivas living in just a tiny part of the vegetable. There are other unconsumable foods that are not root vegetables e.g. Mushroom, aubergine, figs. Hope you can add this to your site.

    1. Hi Aneeka,

      Ginger is generally not allowed however Dried form of Ginger (Soonth) is often used due to its health and medication values. You can use Dry Ginger as an alternative to Ginger.

      Thanks

      Jain Foodie

  13. hi,

    my question is ,anyway for eating we have to kill someone(ekendriya jeev)

    so rather than killing thousands of ekendriya jeev (e.g rice) why should not we kill only one jeev (e.g. chicken)?

    1. Hi Sunny, The concept of Jainism is to reduce killing / harm as much as possible. This also means refrain for harming / killing or consuming any living organisms with 2 or more senses. Living micro-organisms have 1 or 2 senses, while Chicken or any other animals have 5 senses similar to Humans. This does not mean we can keep killing microorganisms or 1 or 2 senses… This is why we do not consume Leaf vegetables and Fruits / Vegetables with many seeds on certain days and monsoon season.

      1. Thanks, that means killing 1 animal with 5 senses is more sinful than killing 1000 animal with 1 senses, right??

  14. Hi,
    Quite informative, but it would be more effective and convincing for the young generation if it is backed by scientific knowledge. Almost all the concepts in jainism has a logical and practical base too.
    For Ex. Chouviaahar ,Not eating or drinking anything after sunset.
    Scientifically, If you do so, it gives enough time to your body to digest the food properly. If you eat at nite n sleep, your metabolism rate slows down resulting into the body weight gain. so Chauviaahar is healthy.
    Practical aspect, the ladies in the house used to / still spend a lot of time in kitchen. So if the family dinner is done early, even she can wrap up her kitchen chores early and gets time off for herself or family. She can also utilise this time for Pooja, Samayik, Pratikraman etc.
    Also the used kitchen utensils can be cleaned the same day, so no chance of developing organisms in the left over food.
    And such few more reasons for eating early.

  15. I have one question.

    jain dharm says non-violence due to this they will not eat meat ,fish, eggs.

    But eating rice, wheat or it’s product also violence because we are cutting that plant.

    So why in jain dharm allowed this food?

    1. Hi Chandrakant, Jain Dharma specifies reducing killing or harming living organisms as much as possible. Eating Meat, Fish, Eggs directly relates to living beings which have 5 senses which is as good as killing human beings. Plants or flowers are 1 sense beings however they are essential for human survival and hence is allowed. The whole point is to reduce harm and killing as much as possible.

    2. Thank you very much for your answer ………….

      Please clear me some debut ,
      1)what is the problem to wear the cloth for munni(maharaj)?
      2)If cloth is not allowed in Jain then why shewtabhar wearing cloth to god ,For some festival?

      1. There are various views within Jainism. Digambar Munnis do not wear clothes and Shwetambar Munnis believe in wearing a simple unstitched white cloth. Gods are never covered with clothes – they are glorified with flowers, colourful glasses or diamonds which is called “aangi”.

  16. Hello Palak,
    I think you are talking about 8-10 hrs of time that boiled water is used and then re boiled. This is because after certain time organisms start to grow back in water. I think its 6 hrs in winter and 8 hrs in summer. I hope this answers your question.