Diwali: Can You Eat Meat? Diwali Dietary Restrictions
Diwali, the Indian festival of light, is a joyful celebration. But can you eat meat on Diwali? This questions comes from non-vegetarians who are not sure how they should feast on Diwali. Diwali feasting is generally associated with sweets and fried snacks, which are vegetarian, but do you have to be vegetarian in Diwali? Are there any Diwali dietary restrictions? Today The Indian Rose will uncover all of those questions. So, let’s get started with our tutorial on: Diwali can you eat meat?
Can You Eat Meat on Diwali
Technically, you can eat meat on Diwali, there is no codified restriction on meat eating for such festival. However, the common practice is to eat vegetarian food for Diwali.
Reasons why eating vegetarian food for Diwali is the norm:
- Regional customs: in the regions where Diwali is more intensely celebrated (Northwestern and Central India) there is a high percentage of vegetarians, so it makes sense to stay vegetarian for Diwali too
- Tamasic food: the other reason why meat is not eaten during Diwali has to do with the difference between satvik and tamasic food. Meat is a tamasic food, as such, it is believed not to encourage positive feelings and a spiritual mind. So, many prefer not to consume them on special religious occasions.
- Health: ancient scriptures advice against tamasic food, and recommend eating vegetarian food, when season changes for health related reasons. Diwali, in the north, corresponds with the beginning of winter. It is thus believed to be healthier for the body to not be overloaded with difficult to digest meat dishes.
- Religion: many people see Diwali as pious festivity, and they think it is worth making an effort to stay as pure as possible on such occasions
Having said that, can you eat meat during Diwali is not a question for someone else to answer, it really depends on how comfortable you feel with eating meat, you won’t find any rule against it!
In short, are you allowed to eat meat on Diwali? Yes, you are allowed, there is no rule against it.
But apart from the matter of being or not allowed to eat meat on Diwali, there is another aspect to be considered: community and family. If you are going to share your Diwali celebrations with your family and community, like most people do, asking can you eat meat on Diwali also means asking can WE eat meat on Diwali, meaning that other people’s habits and beliefs must be taken into consideration. It would be offensive to some if you just start eating meat at the table or cooking it for yourself in the kitchen. So you might want to take that into consideration. If, on the other hand, your family eats meat for Diwali and you are comfortable with that, there is no reason why you shouldn’t eat meat during Diwali.
So, can you eat meat on Diwali? You can, but you must take religious, customary and family aspects into consideration.
Diwali Dietary Restrictions
While there aren’t any mandatory dietary restrictions for Diwali, many people stick to a vegetarian diet, and many Indian mothers would not approve if their sons and daughters eat meat during Diwali, so we can say there isn’t any written Diwali dietary restriction, but there is a de facto Diwali dietary restriction for many families. So, do you have to be vegetarian on Diwali? Let’s explore the topic in more detail.
Do You Have to Be Vegetarian on Diwali?
Vegetarianism is never an obligation in Hinduism, it is however considered healthier, purer and better for the karma. If people are not vegetarian they are not violating a rule. However, in practice, many people who are not vegetarian in their everyday life, would choose to eat vegetarian food for certain occasions, for example before visiting a temple, on some days of the week, or before and during certain festivities. Diwali is one of them, but not for everybody, as we will see in the “is meat eaten in Diwali” chapter. Some devotees who are not normally vegetarian only eat vegetarian food for nearly a month before Diwali starts.
If you look at the traditional dishes eaten for Diwali, most are vegetarian. For example, dahi-bhalle, pakora, aloo tikki, deep fried breads, vegetable curries and dals as main courses etc… And sweets! Eating sweets is certainly not a rule, but definitely a pan-Indian custom for diwali. So, there are no Diwali dietary restrictions, and you don’t have to be vegetarian on Diwali, though most people are, but you definitely have to eat sweets!
Now that the answer to the question can you eat meat on Diwali is clear, let’s explore the topic of meat eating during Diwali.
Is Meat Eaten on Diwali?
That’s a more complex question than “can you eat meat on Diwali” as it comes down to family and regional traditions. You might have noticed that many Diwali traditional dishes are vegetarian. However, while there is a range of typical Diwali sweets and savoury snacks, there isn’t such a codified set menu for main courses.
One thing most Diwali menus across India have in common is that the dishes are richer and more articulate than during the rest of the year. Vegetable curries have more variety of vegetables in them, the quantity of ghee is enormous (see vegan alternatives to ghee), and women spend ages in the kitchen. Diwali is also a festival of feasting, so it makes sense if for some non-veg families that involves eating rich meat dishes. So, is meat eaten in Diwali? Yes, sure, buy some.
Do not forget that regional differences are important when it comes to Diwali, as we have seen in why Diwali is not celebrated in Kerala. We will generalise a bit and see by whom is meat eaten on Diwali:
- In Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka some people eat meat on Diwali. In fact, Diwali falls on the first day of the Tamil month of Aippasi. On the previous month, people had been eating only vegetarian food, so when Diwali comes some prefer to celebrate it with the first non-veg meal of the month. On other Diwali days such as the day of Laxmi puja in the North and Nonmbu Puja in Tamil Nadu, only vegetarian food is eaten. So, can you eat meat on Diwali? Definitely for some Tamilians!
- In Nepal some people eat meat on Diwali. Since meat is a luxury for some Nepalese, they like to celebrate the coming of the new year with something special. So, is meat eaten on Diwali? In Nepal, yes!
- Eastern Indian States such as Assam are known to consume meat for Diwali.
- The Pathare Prabhu community of Mumbai is known for its meat preparations, sometimes consumed during Diwali.
- In Punjab, some non-vegetarians cook mutton or chicken.
- In some Eastern parts of India there’s a traditional goat sacrifice carried out during the time of Diwali, mutton curries are common…
- In some regions where Diwali is not traditional, people do not attach much religious importance to it, consequently they might eat meat on Diwali.
So, is meat eaten on Diwali? While we cannot claim it is traditional or common to eat meat on Diwali, as you can see, some people do eat meat during Diwali.
To complete this “Diwali can you eat meat” tutorial, let’s list a few Diwali meat dishes.
Diwali Meat Dishes
While not the norm, some of these dishes are part of the Diwali diet of some Indians.
- Idly with mutton gravy in some parts of Tamil Nadu
- Mutton keema filled shingdya for some Maharashtrian communities
- Tandoori chicken
- Lamb biryani for some Punjabis
- Chicken gassi in Mangalore
- Dosa with mutton kulambu in Tamil Nadu
These are only a few of Diwali meat dishes because, as we explained, there is no codified main courses menu on Diwali.
Last question we want to answer in this “can you eat meat on Diwali” tutorial regards fasting: do you have to fast on Diwali?
Do You Have to Fast on Diwali?
We have until now talked about food, so it might come as a surprise that some people wonder: do you have to fast on Diwali.
Diwali is regarded as a festival of feasting during which joy is expressed through food and people eat disproportionate amounts of sweets. Also, lots of activities revolve around cooking, a very important social aspect of Diwali.
But there are people who fast also! For example, some devotees of Rama see Diwali as a spiritual celebration rather than a pleasure indulging one. They fast, or have strict food restrictions, for the all period going from Navaratri throughout Diwali. Others only fast the day prior to Diwali, it really depends. Jains also fast for Diwali.
However, let’s say it is not common for people to fast during Diwali. What is more customary is to fast, or have some kind of food restrictions, during the month preceding Diwali, especially Navaratri. It is also common to fast for Karwa Chauth, some 10 days before Diwali.
In short, do you have to fast on Diwali? You do not have to fast, it is not common, unless you belong to certain communities who fast during Diwali.
We hope everything is clear now with regards to can you eat meat on Diwali. If you enjoyed this Diwali: can you eat meat article, like it and share it!
If you want to tell us about your Diwali food traditions, comment below, or drop us an email!