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Influences On Gujarati Cuisine

The influences on Gujarati cuisine, that has made quite a place for itself in the internationally famous Indian cuisine list, can be traced to two prominent movements in history. First is the influence of Jainism and second, that of Vaishnavism. The Jain influence came in even earlier than 6th century BC when the teachings of Mahavira had considerable influence on the common people as well as the royalty.

King Kumarapala, who indulged in consumption of meat in his youth, renounced it later under the influence of Jainism. In the 12th century AD, he prohibited the slaughter of animals within his territory. Jain scholars like Hemachandra who lived during the 11th century AD also had strong influence on the society. The Jains not only discouraged the consumption of meat, they also prohibited animal slaughter as part of the practice of non-violence they preached. The Jain Gujarati cuisine even discourages the inclusion of spices like onion and garlic, which are believed to generate heart in the body.

Other influences on Cuisine of Gujarat in India include the Vaishnav influence. The Vaishnavs were worshippers of Lord Vishnu and preached vegetarianism. The preaching of Vallabhacharya who formed the Pushti-Marga in the 15th century AD, gave strong impetus to the movement of Vaishnavism in Gujarat.

Currently about two-thirds of the population in Gujarat are vegetarian. Though slight variations in the modes of cooking, in terms of use of spices and ingredients, can be traced in the various parts of Gujarat- North Gujarat, Kathiawad, Kutch, and South Gujarat; certain ingredients are commonly to be found in the cuisine of Gujarat. Milk, yoghurt, ghee (buttermilk), resins, flour, sugar, pickles, coriander, sesame seeds, etc. are commonly to be found.

The famous chaats that top the charts as snack items in India have also gained considerable ground among the Westerners who could not resist their tangy sweet and sour taste either. The papdi chaat that single handedly rule the chaat family is made of fried flour flakes, yoghurt, gram, chickpeas, potatoes, Bhujia, tamarind water, sauces, spices and pickles. The other types of chaat are kachori chaat, samosa chaat, etc. Dhokla made of fluffy gram flour and curd is another popular snack item.

Talking about influences on Gujarati cuisine we also must consider influence of the high rate of dairy farming business notwithstanding the success of the Anand Dairy Cooperative movement. Dairy products like milk, yoghurt, etc. are to be found in large proportions in Gujarati cuisine.

The dry climate conditions of Gujarat again, do not facilitate the cultivation of rice. Instead, wheat, bajra, maize are found more easily and therefore the predominance of rotis or chapattis in the Gujarati Thali. Also, sugar content in Gujarati cuisine is very high usually. Not only desserts, even curries contain sizeable amount of sugar. To talk of Gujarati sweet dishes, halwa, malpuwa, kheer, sweet stuffed ghari-puri, thandai, lassi, are some of the common popular sweet dishes.

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