Ahiṃsā and Vegetarianism in Bengal: A Complex Topic

How to Cite

Jeffery D. Long. (2022). Ahiṃsā and Vegetarianism in Bengal: A Complex Topic: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 26(2), 187–197. Retrieved from https://ivsjournal.com/index.php/jvs/article/view/418


Ahiṃsā—nonviolence in thought, word, and deed, an expression of compassion towards all life forms—has been a central virtue enjoined in the Vaiṣṇava tradition from its inception.1 One of the ways in which this virtue is enacted, not only in Vaiṣṇavism, but in the other Dharma traditions, such as Jainism, to which this virtue is central, is through the practice of vegetarianism: the practice of avoiding the consumption of meat or any animal product obtained through inflicting harm on a living being. Thus, wherever practicing Vaiṣṇavas are present in large numbers, vegetarianism typically emerges as a major feature of the local culture. To cite but one example, in Gujarat, which is home not only to a considerable Vaiṣṇava community, but also to the bulk of the world’s Śvetāmbara Jains (and a fair number of Digambaras as well), vegetarianism has been a widespread cultural feature. Whenever one thinks of Gujarati cuisine, the foods that typically spring to mind—dhokla, dahi vada, chana masala, and so on—are vegetarian in nature.

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