George Hart ghart at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU
Mon Feb 18 02:46:48 UTC 2002

Well, let's see.  Virtually no one in Bengal is a vegetarian by tradition.
In South India, the traditional vegetarians are Brahmins and a very few of
the other high castes -- certainly under 10%.  I don't know who K T Achaya's
(K. T. Acharya?) is -- but it sounds as if he is a Brahmin.  Perceptions
vary according to one's group -- I have a Tamil Brahmin friend who is quite
convinced that 25% of the Tamil population is Brahmin -- just because he
sees mostly Brahmins.  He is a quite honest, decent man -- and this
impression of his is not based on any kind of prejudice, just his own
experience, which, of course, is misleading.  Surely, there is no part of
India that is more than 20% vegetarian.  I'm not sure about Gujarat -- not
long ago, a Gujarati told me that most people (not the Patels and Brahmins)
do eat meat.  In any event, Dalits aren't vegetarians, and most middle
castes are not.  That, together with the Muslims, surely makes up 80% of the
Indian population.  My point is just that, as India is still a highly
cellular society, most people see it from their own particular perspective.
One has to be quite careful with testimony from a particular group --
whether Brahmins or Dalits or anyone else -- as they tend to reflect the
views, prejudices, and convictions of the cell to which they belong.  I do
certainly agree that most non-vegetarians eat meat rarely.  But it should be
pointed out that many groups eat all sorts of things -- termites, a kind of
vegetarian bat, blood fried with masala and the like in Tamil Nadu.  Some
dalits apparently eat rats.  Hardly surprising for semi-marginal groups that
have trouble getting enough protein.  The Sangam poems are full of
descriptions of various kinds of meat, including termites.  They are
actually detailed enough that one could almost recreate the dishes (if one
wished).  I don't suppose we want to get into whether Rama eats meat in the
Valmiki Ramayana....  George Hart

On 2/17/02 4:48 PM, "Dominik Wujastyk" <ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK> wrote:

> On Sun, 17 Feb 2002, George Hart wrote:
>> and that over 90% of South Indians are non-vegetarians.  Chakravarti is also
>> From memory, K T Achaya's book "Indian food : a historical companion" says
> that 50% of the population of India is vegetarian at the present time.
> So I think more than 10% of S. Indians must be vegetarian.  Perhaps it's
> hard to judge precisely.  I once asked my Kannadiga driver whether he was
> vegetarian: "Yes, completely vegetarian.  Except on Sundays when my wife
> cooks mutton."
> DW

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