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What's vegetarianism in India?

Vegetarianism is a big part of Indian culture.
However, determining exactly why it is so popular in India is a difficult task.
India is a large country, and as a national personality trait,
we are not the most precise people.
It is difficult to be precise when there is literally so much ground to cover!
One way we break-down different aspects of our culture,
is by simplifying things in terms of the state borders
and the unique cultures of the 29 states of India.

The culture of vegetarianism, like most other things, is diverse in all states.
In India, we have many religions, cultures and diverse and abundant nature.
We also have a lot of landforms of Indian terrain, which include mountains,
plateaus, canyons, and valleys, as well as shoreline features like bays and peninsulas.
Each state with its diversities, is conducive to the vegetarian diet in a different capacity.

The Indian states with most vegetarians are Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.

Rajasthan is roughly 65% desert and therefore, not very suitable for cattle breeding.
It also has a population with strong faith in sects of religions, which suggest a vegetarian diet.
Punjab is a major milk producing state in India and Punjabi food is traditionally rich in milk,
cream and a type of cottage cheese called “Paneer”.
As a norm, “Vegetarian” means “Lacto-Vegetarian” in India. Hence,
this abundance of dairy might be a factor keeping the diet meat-free in the state of Punjab.

Indian food culture strongly influenced by religion

Religion plays an important role in making India known as a country of vegetarians.
Jainism and some disciplines of Hinduism prescribe
to the vegetarian diet due to notions like “Ahimsa” (Avoidance of violence),
nature-worship and cow-worship.
In Hinduism, cow is considered to be a sacred animal for sustaining the humans with milk.
Killing cows is against Hinduism because cow is deemed as a goddess
and therefore beef is not eaten by devout Hindus in India.

Tradition and heritage are important to Indian people,
but so is adapting to globalization.
In this process of globalization,
young generations of Indians are influenced
by the western culture and as a part of it,western food habits.
American Chain restaurants like McDonald’s and
Kentucky Fried Chicken are popular among the youth.
Although, the chains have vegetarian menu items catered towards vegetarians,
these establishments are also responsible
for increasing meat consumption in traditionally vegetarian communities of India.

Vegetarian Mark / Symbol for packaged food:
Packaged food products in India are required
to be marked with a mandatory mark in order to identify them
as Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian.
The symbol is in effect following the Food safety and standards
(packaging and labelling) act of 2006.
The symbol consists of a green color filled circle inside a square with green outline.
This symbol is also used in most restaurants in India to mark vegetarian items on the menu.
This little symbol makes lives of millions of vegetarians in India easy
and I personally feel appreciative of it being a unique characteristic of Indian food.

For tourists visiting India,
you will be able to observe a clear division of vegetarian
and Non-vegetarian food in many cities across India.
I will be a happy if the visitors tasted
the delicious, diverse, colorful and healthy vegetarian food when they visit India.