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Thread: Food and what we take in

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    Food and what we take in

    Hari Om

    Hello and Namaste,
    I thought to add to this conversation of what we take in. The notion of sattvic food extends beyond the the nourishment of the 6 tastes in Ayurved.
    The notion of 'food' and 'eating' in the ved extends to all the senses. That is, what we take in. Food is considered ahara or what is brought near to us. It has come to be called food as we ingest it.

    We also ingest conversations and speech (vak), we ingest touch, smell, taste, sight though our senses. So, just as we have concern to eat the best food-stuffs , we need to consider the best company, the best entertainment, conversations, surroundings , site and smell, as we eat these too.

    It is also said it is He (Vaishvanara) who its the food (Chandogya Upanishad 5.18.1).
    So, as one gets a better appreciation of this, and grows in upasana, then ahara shuddi or what is brought near in purity becomes important as it becomes the offering to Vaishvanara.

    What we eat, we become....

    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva


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    Re: Food and what we take in

    Quote Originally Posted by Yajvan
    What we eat, we become....
    1. A classic affirmation of this truth came from the great Bhishma Pitamaha who was lying on his bed of arrows in the Mahabharata warfield. When Pandavas sought his guidance in politics, and Bhishma obliged them, Darupati laughed. When Bhishma asked her the reason for her laugh, she said the old man had remained mute and passive when she was being insulted by the Kauravas and her sari was snatched. She laughed at the glaring incongruity that a man who submitted to the policy of muteness at that critical time should advise Pandavas to be fair and honest in politics. Bhishma replied that his behaviour was due to the food he ate sitting with the Kauvaras, which was not procured, prepared and served with good intentions.

    2. Jawaharlal Nehru was well known for his disregard of Sanatana Dharma. In his speech on Hindu Code Bill (2-10-1951) he referred to our shastras and Acharams as indicative of a kitchen religion. Kanchi Paramacharya Sri Chandrasekarendra Sarasvati took exception to Nehru's speech and said that our rishis have given us the shastras and acharams for our spiritual progress after intense tapas; without following and enforcing them life, simply saying that they are the hurdles of a kitchen religion shows only our ignorance.

    3. An article titled Blessed Rice talks about rice mahAtmiyam in this partial quote. The rest of the article can be read at

    Deep down beneath the granite mountains of Colorado, where you might expect to find a secret US Defense Department stockpile of missiles awaiting the end of the thaw from some awful nuclear winter, lies another kind of reserve. It is a dark, clinically sterile cold room, kept meticulously at 42 degrees and a relative humidity between 25 and 30. This is not the vault for a lethal chemical gas antidote or a vaccine for some exotic virus. These chambers, maintained by the United States Department of Agriculture, hold one of the strategic guarantors of human survival--16,474 varieties of rice. If that sounds like a lot, it's a mere fraction of the planet's diversity. India alone (where rice is said to have originated) had 50,000 varieties under cultivation over the centuries. Today most of India's rice comes from fewer than ten varieties.

    Dr. Charles Balach, the Texas-based guru of America's rice breeding program, now retired ... observes, "Rice has been cultivated for at least 7,000 years in China. Farmers spent generations selectively getting the bad' genes out of a strain, and it's very easy for us to introduce those back inadvertently as we try to improve a strain."

    Rice history: Although it is still unknown exactly when and how people started growing rice, archaeologists have uncovered evidence that rice was present in Indian civilizations 8,000 bce, according to Tuk-Tuk Kumar, author of The History of Rice in India. She argues that rice husks used to temper clay pottery at Koldihawa and Mahagara sites indicate that a domesticated rice was grown at that time. Other researchers document a slender, wild strain called Indica growing on Himalayan slopes about 4,000 years ago. Extraordinary in yield, nutrition, resistance to disease, adaptability and savor, rice migrated around the globe with little promotion. Today, India's prized aromatic rice, Basmati, is found as far from its birthplace as Kenya and California.

    Hinduism's ancient scriptures have many references to rice. Kumar notes that the Yajur Veda describes the preparation of rice cakes as a ritual offering. In the Atharva Veda, rice, along with barley, are described as "healing balms, the sons of heaven who never die." Smritis tell how Goddess Devi Lalithambika is known to be especially fond of payasa annam, sweet rice. Indeed, husked rice is always present in even the simplest Hindu puja as one of the offerings. So revered is rice that, if mixed with turmeric powder, it can substitute if necessary for an offering of costly items for the Gods such as dress, ornaments, even flowers.

    South Indians call rice Anna Lakshmi. Anna means "food" and Lakshmi is the Goddess of Prosperity. From ancient times, Dhanya Lakshmi has been depicted holding a few sheaves of rice in her hand.

    But this reverence for rice is not restricted to India. The Angkabau of Sumatra use special rice plants to denote the Rice Mother, Indoea Padi. The people of Indochina treat ripened rice in bloom like a pregnant woman, capturing its spirit in a basket. Even the Sundanese of West Java, who consider themselves Muslims, believe rice is the personification of the rice Goddess Dewi Sri.

    Good eating: Dietetically, rice is cherished as a cholesterol-free, protein and calorie cornucopia. Most people in Asia obtain 60 to 80 percent of their calories from rice. Rice becomes a "complete protein" when eaten with beans or lentils because the enzymes in rice help to process the proteins in the lentil. As a result, rice is rarely served in India without some kind of lentil or dal.

    And now there are attempts to genetically engineer an improved rice, attempts being embraced in India while being rejected out of hand in Europe and attracting ever-increasing opposition in America. Perhaps the saying, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" should be applied to this already miraculous plant.

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    Food in Our Scriptures

    A collection of quotes on food from our scriptures:

    From Chandogya Upanishad

    "From purity of food follows the purity of the internal organ" -- CU Vii.26.2
    [Note:Mind is the internal organ]

    "Mind is surely made of food, vital force is made of water, and speech is made of fire" -- CU VI.6.5

    "Of curd when it is churned, that which is its subtle part rises upward. That becomes clarified butter. In this very way, of food when it is eaten, that which is the subtle part, that rises upward, and that becomes mind" -- CU Vi.6.1 & 2

    "When nourishment is pure, reflection and higher understanding are pure, memory becomes strong. When memory becomes strong, there is release from all the knots of the heart." -- CU I. vii.

    From Taittiriya Upanishad

    Out of Brahman, who is the Self, came akasha (space);
    from akasha, air; from air, fire; from fire, water; from water, earth; from earth, vegetation; out of vegetation, food; out of food the body of man. The body of man, composed of the essence of food, is the physical sheath of the Self. -- TU II.i.3

    Let him (the knower of Brahman) never condemn (deprecate) food; that is the vow.

    The prana (vital breath or vital energy) is, verily food; the body is the eater of food; for the vital force is lodged in the body. The body rests on the prana; the prana rests on the body. Thus food rests on food.

    He who knows this resting of food on food is established; he becomes a possessor of food. He becomes great in offspring and cattle (prosperity) and in spiritual radiance (luster of holiness) and great in fame. -- TU III.vii.1

    Of all the restrictive rules, that relating to the taking of sattwic food in moderate quantities is best; by observing this rule, the sattwic quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry. -- Sri Ramana Maharshi

    From Samaveda, Uttararchika, Book 5, IX :
    Translated by Devi Chand, M.A.

    O learned persons, free from partisanship towards other wise men, in your non-violent religious dealings, appoint him as your messenger, who is learned, renowned, virtuous, firm and patient among mankind, truthful, austere, forbearing, leader of men, taker of non-stimulating diet like ghee (clarified butter), and ennobling. (1219).

    From Mahabharata

    A Brahmin (priest) should abstain from meat. -- The Mahabharata Anusasana Parva, Section XCIII

    The sin of eating meat is ascribed to three causes. That sin may attach to the mind, to words, and to acts. It is for this reason that men of wisdom who are endued with penances refrain from eating meat. -- The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Section CXIV

    Well-dressed, cooked with salt or without salt, meat, in whatever form one may take it, gradually attracts the mind and enslaves it. -- The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Section CXIV

    [Note: By eating meat, one feels the desire for meat increasing. A taste or predilection for meat is thus created. Hence the best course is total abstinence from meat.]

    From Bhagavad Gita

    The food also which is dear to each is threefold. -– Gita,17.7

    That food which increases life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness, which are savoury and oleaginous, substantial and agreeable, are dear to the Sattwic (pure) people. -– Gita, 17. 8

    The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, pungent, dry and burning are liked by the Rajasic and are productive of pain, grief and disease. -- Gita 17. 9

    That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten and impure refuse, is the food liked by the Tamasic. -– Gita, 17.10

    From Sattwa (purity) arises wisdom or knowledge; from Rajas (passion) arises greed; and from Tamas (inertia) arises heedlessness, delusion and ignorance. -- Gita, 14.17

    Verily Yoga is not possible for him who eats too much, nor for him who does not eat at all, nor for him who sleeps too much nor for him who is always awake. -- Gita 6.16

    Yoga becomes the destroyer of pain for him who is moderate in eating and recreation, who is moderate in exertion in actions, who is moderate in sleep and wakefulness. -- Gita 6.17

    From Manu Smriti

    Garlic, leeks and onions, mushrooms and (all plants) springing from impure (substances) are unfit to be eaten by twice-born men.

    [Note: Twice born are Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas. Physical birth by biological mother is the first birth. Spiritual birth is the second birth.]

    Ayurveda and food
    A fleeting glimpse of Ayurveda
    The Science of Life and Health

    By Dr.Robert E.Svoboda
    Dr.Svoboda acquired proficiency in Ayurveda at the Tilak Ayurveda Medical College in Poona, India.

    Although meat is mandated in Ayurveda for debilitated patients, for warriors (Kshatriyas) and for those who overexert themselves, it is very heavy for digestion, putrefies faster than other foods and produces Ama (internal toxins) quickly...

    Esoterically, the fear felt by the animal as it waits to be slaughtered and the hatred it feels for the human who slaughters it change the composition of its flesh and increase fear and anger in whoever eats it. The more the violence involved in the collection of our food, the greater the violence in our lives. Also, because digestive wastes are partly excreted in sweat, a meat-eater sits in his or her own odour daily, breathing in chemicals which promote fear and anger, and projecting this fear and anger out at others.

    Food articles to which you should never become habituated because they are too heavy to be properly digested include unchurned yoghurt, pork, beef, mutton, dried meat, dried vegetables, molasses, and cheese, as well as any foods which are very cold, very hot, thoroughly tasteless, or too intense in taste.

    Garlic and onions are both Rajasic and tamasic, and are forbidden to Yogis because they root the consciousness more firmly in the body.
    For other discussions that include:

    The Ritual of Eating
    Elements, Doshas and Tastes
    Destructive Emotions
    Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
    The Hunza Health Secrets
    Faulty Food Disease
    Natural Food Cures Psoriasis
    Oxidation of foods
    Diet Classification
    Microwave Ovens (Milk reheated in microwave ovens could damage baby's brains)
    The Poisons in Your Food

    please read at

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    A Humble Vegetable

    Speaking to students in Kodaikanal, Bhagavan Baba once narrated a parable:

    "Once all vegetables in the world entered into a dispute about which of them was the greatest. Unable to come to an agreement they prayed to Lord Brahma, Lord Maha Vishnu and Lord Maheshwara to intercede and decide. Responding to their prayers, the three Gods came down to earth. They heard every vegetable with all the sympathy, patience and understanding that the sensitive issue deserved. Finally, they decided that a particular vegetable was the greatest. What is that? The humble onion!

    "All other vegetables were astounded. Each of them possessed admirable qualities. How could these Gods decide that onion was the greatest? Sensing their grievance, the Gods spoke up. They said, "There is no doubt that all of you possess commendable qualities. But onion has one additional and special trait which none of you can boast of. That is to retain the same smell unchanged throughout its life! That is why we have decided in its favour. Be like the onion. Whether you are happy or unhappy, comfortable or suffering, never abandon your trait of being devoted to God.' This explanation satisfied all the aggrieved vagatables.

    "Softly stroking his beard, Lord Brahma wished the winner, 'As long as I exist, may you possess a beard like me.' If you look closely at an onion you will find a thin beard adorning it. Lord Vishnu blessed the onion, 'Cut vertically you will display one of my insignia, the Sankha (conch, shell). Cut horizontally, you will reveal another of my insignia, the Chakra (disk).' Cut open an onion and you will notice this. Lord Shiva blessed it, 'I will give you a guarantee. Anyone trying to harm you is condemned to shed tears.' This too is well within the experience of everybody!"

    Sri Sarabhanga has rightly said: "onion (fondly known as 'Ram Laddu') and garlic are not objected to by Shaiva Sadhus." In Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu, onion raita (onion soaked in curd) is served almost daily in their satvic free meal around eleven in the morning.
    Last edited by saidevo; 21 September 2006 at 11:27 AM.

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    Other Food Links

    The Ways and Joys of Eating With Your hands
    In our July/August issue, Maya Tiwari introduced the myriad benefits of using the hands in cooking and eating. In this article she continues her explanation of the Vedic hands-on approach to nourishment.

    Hands are considered our most precious organ of action. Our hands and feet are said to be the conduits of the five elements--space, air, fire, water and earth. One of the five elements courses through each finger. Through the thumb, angushtha, comes space; through the forefinger, tarjani, air; through the midfinger, madhyama, fire; through the ring finger, anamika, water and through the little finger, kanishtha, earth.

    In Vedic tradition, we eat with our hands because the five elements within them begin to transform food and make it digestible even before it reaches the mouth. This transformation also heightens the senses so that we can smell, taste and feel the texture of the foods we are eating. We can also hear the sounds of eating. All of these sensations are a necessary prelude to beckoning agni, the fire of digestion, to ready itself for the meal to come.

    The Science of Taste
    The rishis have categorized the food we eat into six different tastes: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. These tastes become "tastes" only after they contact the tongue. Their qualities may change according to which phase of digestion they are in; for example, on the tongue the effect is called rasa, as the food enters the stomach we call it the virya or energy, and the post-digestive effect is the vipaka. Usually the rasa and vipaka are the same, with different energies shown by the different tastes.

    Healing--A Contented Cow's Milk: Part 1
    Cow's milk is light, astringent, sweet and cold. It is a tonic for all. It tends to calm all the doshas. It is able to detoxify the body and is well known for reducing the "heat" of peppers, onions, garlic and other strong spices.

    The Hindu Meaning Of Food
    Seen from the Hindu perspective, food becomes part and parcel of the overall system of body, mind, spiritual development and society. This sophisticated way of dealing with the body, food and medicine has generally persisted up to the present, although technological and foreign influences (such as taking stimulants like coffee, processed 'convenience' foods, etc.) have eroded beliefs in those values.

    Blessed Rice
    Meet the wonder grain that feeds our families, blesses our ceremonies and decorates our homes.

    Lotus: Food For the Body
    Good nourishment and medicine lurk beneath those pretty petals
    Besides its sanctity and beauty, the lotus is extensively used as both food and medicine in India. In fact, five thousand years ago verses of the Rig Veda extolled the lotus for its food value in the first literary reference to the flower. Almost every part is edible.

    Food and Breath: Sustaining the Body
    The following experience illustrates instant and profound benefits. Recently, Joyce attended a food sadhana workshop. Throughout, she was uneasy and distracted in her seat. Afterwards, Joyce told me she had a history of chronic migraines. ... I gave her this simple food sadhana regime:

    Be mindful in your approach and attitude toward food. These simple steps will help you: 1. Make your kitchen a sacred, simplified space. 2. Know where your food comes from. Use fresh, seasonal and organically grown foods. 3. Grind fresh spice seeds in a mortar and pestle for everyday use. 4. At the same times everyday, prepare and eat two ample meals. 5. Practice gratitude before imbibing a healthful meal by offering food to Mother Nature. Traditionally, a small portion of each cooked food is offered to the fire before tasted or served. The offering may be accompanied by any prayer you choose. 6. Observe silence during meals. 7. Following meals, while your food is being digested, take a brief stroll or sit on your heels for 20 minutes.

    Two months later, I received a letter from Joyce with a recent photograph of herself. She glowed with good health. She was still on her sadhana program. Her migraines had disappeared. Joyce had only one brief setback one week after she started the program. Immediately after a junk food binge, she experienced a migraine again. This convinced Joyce to stick to her healthy regime. Two months later she was free from migraines and had even lost weight.

    From The Vedas: Graduates, Feed the World!
    Swami Chinmayananda expounds Vedic hospitality
    ...The duties of a householder instill into him the idea of charity and the spirit of hospitality. A duty unavoidable to a householder is that he should entertain every guest that comes to him 'without date or invitation' (atithi). Thus, the householder student, during his upasana, was told to consider this atithi seva as his vow.

    Hindu Hospitality
    The glories and woes of a gracious tradition

    Ayurveda: Childhood Nutrition
    Don't just feed your children good food, teach them how to eat right their whole life

    A Spicy History
    The foremost spices of history were black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Less major players were ginger, cardamom, mace and saffron. Black pepper (piper nigrum) came from India, principally Kerala.

    Five Simple Home Remedies
    Here we list the five most important herbs and foods to have on hand. With these, you can create quick and effective remedies.

    Cautionary Note: It is important to remember that if you suffer from a serious ailment you should seek the advice of a trained physician

    How About a Diet to Die For?
    As I have mentioned in the past, the traditional South Indian vegetarian diet is an excellent balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates with no emphasis on undesirable fats.

    Dangers of Food Irradiation
    Keeping food fresh is a major problem, and the food industry is always looking for new ways to prolong the shelf life of our food supplies. In the past the industry has used various processing techniques: cooking, salting, drying, bottling, canning, freeze drying, smoking, chilling, freezing, dehydrating and addition of chemical preservatives. None of these methods have been 100% successful, and with each method there are variable effects upon the nutritional value of the food.

    The newest technique of prolonging shelf life is food irradiation...

    McDonald's Supersizes Hindu Endowment
    $10 million settlement-includes $255,000 for Hinduism Today, an international magazine published by Kauai's Hindu Monastery
    They deceived the public about beef flavorings in their "vegetarian fries." They got caught. They were sued. They settled in court. This week the food giant McDonald's mailed a check for $254,773.19 to Hinduism Today magazine's endowment fund (Hindu Heritage Endowment), one of a handful of elite vegetarian-friendly institutions in America chosen as recipients of the court-ordered $10 million settlement.

    And there may be other several useful links given by this search:

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    A Virtual Dinner with Kanchi Paramacharya: annam Atma paripAlanam

    Kanchi Paramacharya, Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Swami took sannyAsam and ascended the throne of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham at the age of thirteen. From that day, until he attained videha mukti at the age of 100, he lived an exemplary life of strictest austerity.

    His daily main meal was often astonishingly simple: a small handful of puffed rice soaked in buttermilk. Even this was not taken when he went on fasting for days together. Occasionally, he took bhiksha from his devotees, but it was more to satisfy their desires than for his own welfare.

    Therefore, in the virtual dinner we are going to have with him now, he plays only the part of a host. A host giving us food for body, mind and soul. He is the very embodiment of Ambal Kamakshi, who took avatar in Kanchi and did tapas to be joined with her Isha, while conducting the thirty-two kinds of dharmas in Kanchi, starting with the anna dhanam. We are his atitis (guests) who are well taken care of by him in body and spirit.

    Paramacharya's spiritual discourses are well known, and have been published as a collection of seven volumes titled Deivatthin Kural (The Voice of the Divine) in Tamil by Sri Ra. Ganapathi, his eminent devotee. The English collection of his discourses is available under the title 'Hindu Dharma' at

    To the awe and amazement of his devotees, Paramacharya often discussed about down-to-earth laukika matters with keen interest, deep understanding and knowledge. In this lecture, he explains the origin and meaning of the names of common Indian dishes and their connection to spirituality. In these explanations, I have mostly used the translated words of what Paramacharya actually spoke, extracted from the Tamil publication titled Sollin Selvar (The Expert of Words), Sri Kanchi Munivar by Sri Ra. Ganapathy.

    A South Indian Meal
    A typical South Indian meal is served in three main courses: sambar sAdam, rasam sAdam and more (buttermilk) sAdam. Sambar is also known as kuzhambu in Tamil, a term that literally translates to 'get confused'. Paramacharya explains how these three courses are related to the three gunas of spirituality: the confusion of sambar is tamo guna, the clarified and rarified flow of rasam is rajo guna and the all-white buttermilk is satva guna. Our meal reminds us of our spiritual path from confused inaction to a clear flow of action and finally to the realized bliss of unity.

    Cooked rice, the main dish of a South Indian meal is called sAdam. That which has sat is sAdam, in the same way we call those who are full of sat, sadhus. We can give another explanation for the term: that which is born out of prasannam is prasAdam. What we offer to Swami (God) as nivedanam is given back to us as parasAdam. Since we should not add the root 'pra' to the rice we cook for ourselves, we call it sAdam.

    Rasam means juice, which is also the name of filtered ruchi. We say 'it was full of rasa' when a speech or song was tasteful. Vaishnavas, because of their Tamil abhimAnam, refer to rasam as saatthamudhu. It does not mean the amudhu (amrita) mixed with sAdam. It was actually saatramudhu (saaru or rasam + amudhu), which became saatthamudhu.

    Vaishnavas also have a term thirukkann amudhu that refers to our pAyasam. What is that thirukkann? If rudrAksham means Rudra's eye, does 'thirukkann' mean Lakshmi's eye? Or does the term refer to some vastu (article) added to pAyasam? No such things. Thiru kannal amudhu has become thirukkann amudhu. Kannal means sugercane, the base crop of suger and jaggery used in pAyasam.

    I was talking about rasam. If something is an extraction of juice, then would it not be clear, diluted and free of sediments? Such is the nature of our rasam, which is clear and dilute. The other one, served earlier to rasam in a meal, is the kuzhambu. Kuzhambu contains dissolved tamarind and cut vegetable pieces, so it looks unclear, its ingredients not easily seen.

    buttermilk as our dessert
    A western meal normally ends with a dessert. In a South Indian meal, desserts such as pAyasam are served after the rasam sAdam. Any sweets that were served at the beginning are also taken at this time. After that we take buttermilk rice as our final course. Paramacharya explains that since sweets are harmful to teeth, our sour and salty buttermilk actually strengthens our teeth, and this has been observed and praised by an American dietician. We gargle warm salt water when we get toothache. The buttermilk is the reason for our having strong teeth until the end of our life, unlike the westerners who resort to dentures quite early in their life.

    vegetable curry
    Although cut vegetable pieces are used in sambar, kootoo and pacchadi, in curry they are fried to such an extent that they become dark in color (the term curry also means blackness or darkness in Tamil). May be this is the origin of the name curry.

    uppuma (kitchadi)
    If the term uppuma is derived from the fact that we add uppu or salt, then we also add salt to iddly, dosa and pongal! Actually, it is not uppuma but ubbuma! The rava used for this dish expands in size to the full vessel where heated up with water and salt. The action of rava getting expanded is the reason for the term ubbuma.

    The term iduthal (in Tamil) refers to keeping something set and untouched. We call the cremation ground idukaadu (in Tamil). There we keep the mrita sarira (mortal body) set on the burning pyre and then come away. The term iduthal also refers to refining gold with fire. The (Tamil) term idu marunthu has a similar connotation: a drug given once without any repetition of dosage. In the same way, we keep the iddly wet flour on the oven and do nothing to it until it is cooked by steam.

    (This is rice noodles cooked in steam). Brahmins call it seva while others call it idiyaappam. But unlike an appam which is a cake, this dish is in strands. The term appam is derived from the Sanskrit ApUpam meaning cake. The flour of that cake is called ApUpayam. This word is the origin of the Tamil word appam.

    appalaam (papad)
    The grammatical Tamil term is appalam. This dish is also made by kneading (urad dhal) flour, making globules out of it and then flattening them. So it is also a kind of appam. Because of its taste a 'la' is added as a particle of endearment!

    ladanam (in Sanskrit) means to play, to throw. ladakam is the sports goods used to play with. Since the ball games are the most popular, ladakam came to mean a ball. The dish laddu is like a ball, and this term is a shortened form of laddukam, which derived from ladakam.

    Laddu is also known as kunjaa laadu. This should actually be gunjaa laadu, because the Sanskrit term gunjA refers to the gunjA-berry, used as a measure of weight, specially for gold. Since a laddu is a packed ball of gunjA like berries cooked out of flour and sugar, it got this name.

    The singer of mUka panca sati on Ambal Kamakshi describes her as Matangi and in that description praises her as 'gunjA bhUsha', that is, wearing chains and bangles made of gunjA-berries of gold.

    pori vilangaa laddu
    Made of jaggery, rice flour and dried ginger without any ghee added to it, this laddu is as hard as a wood apple, though very tasty, and hence got its name from that fruit and the original pori (puffed rice) flour used to make it.

    Indian Dishes of Turkish Origin
    Our halwa is a dish that came from the Turkish invasion. bahU kalam (long ago) before that we had a dish called paishtikam, made of flour, ghee and sugar. But then the Arabian term halwa has stuck in usage for such preparation.

    sUji is another name from the Turkish. It has become sojji now. It is mostly referred to these days as kesari. In Sanskrit, kesaram means mane, so kesari is a lion with kesaram. It was a practice to add the title 'kesari' to people who are on the top in any field. Thus we have Veera Kesari, Hari Kesari as titles of kings in Tamilnadu. The German Keisar, Roman Caesar and the Russian Czar -- all these titles came from only from this term kesari.

    What is the color the lion? A sort of brownish red, right? A shade that is not orange nor red. That is the kesar varnam. The powder of that stone is called kesari powder, which became the name of the dish to which it is added for color.

    A Tamil pundit told me that the name vada(i) could have originated from the Sanskrit mAshApUpam, which is an appam made of mAsham or the urad dhal. He also said that in ancient Tamilnadu, vada and appam were prepared like chapati, baking the flour cake using dry heat.

    dadhya araadhana
    Someone asked me about the meaning of this term. He was under the impression that dadhi was curd, so dadhiyaaradhana(i) was the curd rice offered to Perumal. Actually, the correct term is tadeeya AradhanA, meaning the samaaradhana(i) (grand dinner) hosted to the bhagavatas of Perumal. It got shortened in the habitual Vaishnava way.

    Vaishnavas offer the nivedanam of pongal with other things to Perumal in their dhanur mAsa ushad kala puja (early morning puja of the Dhanur month). They call it tiruppakshi. The original term was actually tiruppalli ezhuchi, the term used to wake of Perumal. It became 'tiruppazhuchi', then 'tiruppazhachi' and finally 'tiruppakshi' today, using the Sanskrit kshakara akshram, in the habitual Vaishnava way. It is only vegetarian offering, nothing to do with pakshi (bird)!

    The term dhanur mAsam automatically brings up thoughts of Andaal and her paavai (friends). In the 27th song (of Tiruppaavai), she describes her wake up puja and nivedanam with milk and sweet pongal to Bhagavan, which culminates in her having a joint dinner with her friends. Vaishnavas celebrate that day as the festival koodaara valli, following the same sampradhAyam (tradition). The name of this festival is from the phrase koodaarai vellum seer Govinda, (Govinda who conquers those who don't reach Him) which begins the 27th song. It was this 'koodaarai vellum' that took on the vichitra vEsham (strange form) of 'koodaara valli'.

    payas (in Sanskrit) means milk. So pAyasam literally means 'a delicacy made of milk'. This term does not refer to the rice and jaggery used to make pAyasam. They go with the term without saying. Actually pAyasam is to be made by boiling rice in milk (not water) and adding jaggery. These days we have dhal pAyasam, ravA pAyasam, sEmia pAyasam and so on, using other things in the place of rice.

    Vaishanavas have a beautiful Tamil term akkaara adisil for pAyasam. The 'akkaar' in this term is a corruption of the Sanskrit sharkara. The English term 'sugar' is from the Arabian 'sukkar', which in turn is from this Sanskrit term. The same term also took the forms 'saccharine' and 'jaggery'. And the name of the dish jangiri is from the term jaggery.

    kanji (porridge)
    Before we become satiated with madhuram (sweetness), let us turn our attention to a food that is sour. As an alternative to sweetness, our Acharyal (Adi Sankara) has spoken about sourness in his Soundarya Lahiri.

    Poets describe a bird called cakora pakshi that feeds on moon-beams. Sankara says in Soundarya Lahiri that the cakora pakshi were originally feeding on the kArunya lAvaNyAmruta (the nectar of compassion and beauty) flowing from Ambal's mukha chanran (moon like face). They got satiated with that nectar and were looking for somthing sour, and spotted the full moon, which being only a reflection, issued only sour beams!

    Acharyal has used the term kAnjika diya, which gives an evidence of his origin in the Malayala Desam. He said that since the cakora pakshis were convinced that the nectar from the moon was only sour kanji, they chose to feed on it as an alternative.

    The term kAnjika means relating to kanji, but the word kanji is not found in Sanskrit. It is a word current only in the Dakshinam (south). There too, kanji is special in Malayala Desam where even the rich lords used to drink kanji in the morning. This was the variety came to be known as the 'Mayalayam Kanji'.

    Kanji is good for deham as well as chittam. And less expensive. You just add a handful of cooked rice rava (broken rice), add buttermilk, salt and dry ginger, which would be enough for four people.

    The buttermilk added must be a bit more sour. The salt too must be a bit more in quantity. With the slight burning taste of dry ginger, the combination would be tasty and healthy.

    It is customary to have tAmbUlam at the end of a South Indian dinner. In the North, tAambUlam is popularly known as paan, which is usually a wrap of betel nut and other allied items in a calcium-laced pair of betel leaves. In the South, tAmbUlam is usually an elaborate and leisurely after-dinner activity. People sit around a plate of tAmbUlam items, drop a few cut or sliced betel nut pieces in their month, take the betel leaves one by one leisurely, draw a daub of pasty calcium on their back and then stuff them in their month, chatting happily all the while.

    The betel leaf is known by the name vetrilai in Tamil, literally an empty leaf. Paramacharya once asked the people sitting around him the reason for calling it an empty leaf. When none could give the answer, he said that the usually edible plants don't just stop with leaf; they proceed to blossom, and bear fruits or vegetables. Even in the case of spinach or lettuce, we have to cook them before we can take them. Only in the case of the betel leaf, we take it raw, and this plant just stops with its leaves, hence the name vetrilai or empty leaf.

  7. #7
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    August 2006
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    Re: Food and what we take in

    'Annadhana Sivan'
    (from the book titled Maha Periyavalh Virundhu by Raa. Ganapathi)

    "The cooked rice (sAdam) would have been gathered into a very huge heap, looking dazzling white like the Himalayas. Even if an elephant drowns in the sAmbAr andA (huge vessel containing sAmbAr), you wouldn't know. It is said that Himalachala Sivan created a huge pit of food for the sake of Gundodaran during the Meenakshi Kalyanam (Shiva's celestial wedding with Meenakshi at Madurai). In the same way, this poor brahmana Sivan did a marvellous and mighty task."

    Kanchi Paramacharya was reminiscing about the annadhAnam festivities of Sri Ramaswamy Iyer of Tepperumal Nallur, Tamilnadu, who was more popularly (and appropriately) known as 'Annadhana Sivan'. These food festivities took place in Kumbakonam during the Mahamaham festivals in the years 1921 and 1933, and fed several thousand people.

    Since the middle of the eighteenth century until the middle of the twentieth, Kumbakonam was the headquarters of Kanchi Matam. Sivan virtually made the Matam his home from 1916 since his demise in 1939.

    Paramacharya continued his reminiscences about the big event thus:

    "It was during the 1933 Mahamaham annadhAnam. The wood brought for fuel was a hundred cartloads. For pickles, ten cartloads of the amala fruit ( phyllanthus emblica) were received. He would just smell the vapours of the dishes being cooked and say correctly what needed to be added to a dish. From the vapours of rasam, he would order the amount of coriander yet to be ground and added. Not just a handful of corianders. 'Ground a large pan of coriander and add to the rasam', he would shout to a cook. If a large pan of coriander was to be added more than what has already been done, imagine the quantity of rasam that would have been made. And there ware two cartloads of broomsticks (of the coconut tree) that were used to clean the floor after a dining session.

    "However much the number of cooked rice vessels or however long the serial wood furnaces be, they couldn't just meet the amount of rice required. So what he would do is to first cook ten or twenty bags of rice, spread the lots over long mats, cover the steaming, cooked rice (anna pAvadai) with a thin, white cloth and spread bags of raw, uncooked rice over the cloth with the cooked rice under. Then he would cover this uncooked rice with long jute sacks and fold them tightly under the mat. In the next half hour, when the sacks were removed, all the upper layer of uncooked rice would have been cooked, soft like flowers! Such was his technique to speed up the rice-making task.

    "Where did he go for all the milk required for curd to serve the multitudes of diners? Sivan had another technique for this requirement. In those days when there were no refrigerators, Sivan had invented his own! Weeks or even months before the samArAdhanA (food festival), Sivan used to go about the task of collecting milk and making curds. He would pack the curd in wooden barrels, seal them with wax and drown the barrels in deep ponds. When the barrels were extracted and opened, the curd would be just like it was formed yesterday! We should say, it was not just the coolness of the pond, but the cool compassion of his mind also that made the task possible."

    Though Sivan conducted the festivities on behalf of Kanchi Matam, the 1921 and 1933 Mahamaham samArAdhanAs were eventful in the sense, Paramacharya was not there in Kumbakonam at that time, as he had undertaken the ganga yAtra (pilgrimage to the banks of Ganga) in the year 1919, which lasted for twenty-one long years. During the Mahamaham of 1933, Paramacharya had camped on the outskrits of Kumbakonam, in Patteesvaram and Tiruvidai Marudhur, en route to Ramesvaram, from where he was to proceed to Varanasi. Observing the tradition, he did not enter the Kumbakonam matam until his yAtra was completed. He would go to the Mahamaham pond to take bath or to the temples of Kumbakonam from his camp and return. It was during the year 1933 that the renovation work of the Matam was completed, under the supervision of Sivan.

    A speciality about Sivan's annadhAnam festivities was that until the evening of the previous day there were no signs at the place of dining of any activity of food preparation. The articles would start arriving only in the night. In the 1933 festival, it was past midnight and yet not a cartload of articles arrived! Even the fearless taskmaster Sivan started worrying over the actual time left for arranging the things and start cooking to feed a lakh of people on the next morning.

    The news reached the camp where Paramacharya was staying. In the next few minutes, the carts started arriving.

    The carts that were usually exempted from the traffic regulations during the Mahamaham festival were at that time held up by the traffic police, who were not aware of the relaxation of rules for Sivan's carts. The circle inspector suddenly had a flash at one-thirty at night and proceeded to the scene of holdup. Thereafter, the carts that were parked outside the city moved in, and Paramacharya's blessings saw to it that everything went on well from that time.

    A most notable thing about the festivities was that neither the 'Walking Sivan', nor the 'Annadhana Sivan' ever tasted a morsel of the food served! Paramacharya usually took the flattened rice offered to Sri Chandramouleesvara, even that when he was not on fast. Annadhana Sivan would go a friend's house and take just curd rice, which was his usual, favourite dish, which he took even on normal days after offering it to his ishta devata (personal God) Sri Dakshinamurthi.

    Paramacharya said later, that contrary to the popular perception that Sivan did the annadhAnam on behalf of the Kanchi Matam, it was his festivities that restored the financial status of the Matam during those difficult days.

  8. #8
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    October 2006
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    Re: Food and what we take in

    How can u enjoy food without onions?

  9. #9
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    March 2006
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    Re: Food and what we take in

    Quote Originally Posted by vcindiana
    How can u enjoy food without onions?
    Someone else may ask - How can u enjoy food without meat? Vegetarians only smile at this question.

    How to enjoy food without onions? Well, I have never taken it and have no idea how tasty it is. I have no need for it either, nor do I miss it. As far as I know, it smells bad and you cannot sit comfortably near those who consume a lot of onions and garlic and these people need to use perfumes to save their jobs at work.
    Guard your Dharma, Burn the Myth, Promote the Truth, Crush the superstition.

  10. #10
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    March 2006
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    Re: Food and what we take in

    Quote Originally Posted by Sudarshan
    As far as I know, it smells bad and you cannot sit comfortably near those who consume a lot of onions and garlic and these people need to use perfumes to save their jobs at work.

    are you joking!

    I eat a ton of onions in food and along with my food. I can not enjoy my food without raw onions!
    I also never use any perfumes but fortunately still employed since graduation!


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