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Ayurvedic Principles



Aahaara Vidhi (Rules to get food)


Aahaara vidhi means rules for taking food.It is about how, when, and where one should eat.
By Vaagbhatta (Ash. San. Sut. 10/4),the factors in determining utility of food are:
UJpayogavyavastha Charaka (Cha. Sam., Vim. 1/21)


These factors are explained as below.

1. Swabhaava or Prakruthi : The inherent attributes of food articles like gurutwam (heaviness) etc. e.g. the gurutwam of milk, maasha (blackgram) and flesh of sookara (boar) and laghutwam (lightness) of rainwater, mudgam (green gram) and flesh of ena (deer)
2. Sam yoga :It is the combination of two or more substances,of which they manifest different, but they do not manifest their specific attributes as individual substances.i.e.When two substances mixed together they attain different qualities,by losing some and by gaining some newer Laaja (puffed rice) which is laghu when soaked in milk becomes guru. a combination of ghee and honey (in equal quantities) is toxic.
3. Samskaara or karana :This means processing by which transformation of the inherent qualities or gunas occurs and is by the following ,
 1. Toya    Adding water / Dilution
 2. Agnikarsha    Application of heat
 3. Shwaacha    Cleansing
 4. Manthan    Churning
 5. Desha    Place (of storage)
 6. Kaala    Time (Maturing)
 7. Vaasana    Flavouring
 8. Bhaavana    Impregnation
 9. Kaalaprakarshana    Presentation
 10.Bhaajana    Container

Eg. Uncooked rice is not good as it cause stomach pain and diarrhoea, but subjected to toya and agni (i.e.) after cooking with water is good because of change in its quality.
4. Maathra:It is also called as aahaara raashi and is the quantity or amount of food based on quality like gurutwarn and laghutwam.Ashtaanga Sangraham and Charaka Samhitha - states whenever one takes food it should be of a proper quantity. Here the ‘quantity” of food or “proper quantity’ of food may vary from person to person depending upon their power of digestion.

Proper Quantity

What is the proper quantity?

According to the strength of agni which depends on the season and the age of individual,the proper quantity of food varies.It is the amount of food without disturbing the equilibrium(of dhaathus and doshas) gets digested and metabolized in proper time.If the food gets proper digestion within a time limit,we can conclude maathra is correct for the individual.The proper maathra for a person is nothing but the food taken in the evening/night gets digested and metabolised by morning, without disturbing the equilibrium of the doshas and dhaathus.The maathra will definitely be different to each individual based on age, prakruthi, agnibalam etc. It is difficult to standardize because it is based on digestive capacity.

Types of maathra to be considered

The food can be measured in two ways.One is maathraa and the other is the individual components/ingresients of different tastes.The food as a whole may be of the proper maathra but when taken individually as per their tastes they may not be in a proper proportion or the prescribed ratio. Thus, they could cause an imbalance in the equilibrium state of the doshas and dhaathus, which would in turn affect the digestion.

Role of the guna in determining the maathra: The qualities of gurutwam and laghutwam is important in determining the maathra. Vaagbhalta says “Tribhaagasowhityam, ardhasowhitam vaa gurunaam samupadishyathe laghunaamapi cha naathisowhit yam” (Ash. San., Sut. 11/7) i.e. heavy food articles, are to be taken only to 1/3 or1 /2 satisfaction or urge to eat, which means if a person has an appetite to eat 1 seer of a food article, he should take only 1/3 or1 /2 of a seer if the food article is guru.

Laghu dravyas :
Being predominant in vaayu and agni mahabhoothas increase the power of the agni (agni pradeepanam) and so even if taken in excess, they cause no major damage. Though laghu aahaaras are easily digested, they are not to be taken in excess as a regular habit, because they are not conducive to tie maintenance of the agni.

Amaathra : It stands for improper quantity and is of two types: Heenamaathra or decreased level and Athimaathra or increased level.

Improper Quantity

The signs of food taken in improper quantity

Heenamaathra becomes a seat of ill health by reducing body strength, complexion, health, mental strength, intelligence, power of the sense organs, reduces the formation of urine and faeces, virility and life span,impairment of Dhaathus,leads to vaathika diseases,weakens Ojas, rakthadhi seven saaras and twagsaara.
Athimaathra aahaara has symptoms to vitiate all the doshas, Vaatha causes colic pain, constipation, malaise, dryness of mouth, fainting, giddiness, vishamaagni, rigidity in the sides, back and waist, contraction and hardenning of srothases, visuchika, alasakam and aamavisham..Pittha causes fever, diarrhoea, internal burning sensation, thirst, intoxication, giddiness and delirium. Kapha causes vomiting, anorexia, indigestion, sub-normal temperature, laziness and heaviness in the body.

5. Desha - Place / Habitat : It determines the qualities of a substance due to its growth or movement in a particular area.

The uses of knowing the desha :
a. helps in knowing the quality of drugs, food etc. grown in a particular region.
b. quality of the animals grazing in different lands is different .
c. helps in adjusting one’s system to a new place or in the place we live .
d. help us to know the course that a disease would take in a particular region.

6. Kaala – Time : Kaala means the choice of food according to seasons, state of disease, the state of proper and improper digestion,the age of the person. kaala stands for both the time in the form of day and night and the states of individual (which are pertaining to health and age).

The uses of Kaala:
a. we can avoid disturbance in doshas
b. we can avoid foods like tilam (sesame) and kulattham (horsegram) which are pittha vitiating during yowvana kaala (youth) as this is a pittha predominant kaala in one’s life.
c. tells us about the state of digestion.
d. Also timely meals would prevent vishtabdha / sthabda (stagnation of food) difficulty in digestion with symptoms of pain etc, loss of appetite with emaciation and all other symptoms caused by untimely food habits.

7. Upa yoga vyavastha/upayogasamstha : This stands for dietetic rules. They are mostly dependent on the symptoms of digestion.

8. Upayoktrn : It is the habit of the individual. The user or upayoktrn also plays an important role in determining the utility of food because his prolonged use or disuse of a food would change its action (on him) in some ways.

Rules for taking Food

There are certain rules of food intake even if he takes food substances which are most wholesome in nature. (Cha. Sam., Vim. I and Ash.San., Sut. 10) .They are:

1. Ushnam : Food should be taken warm so that the food is delicious and also it kindles the agni.
2. Snigdham : Food should be unctuous because unctuous food is also delicious and it provokes the agni, increases plumpness of body, strengthens the sense faculties, improves strength and complexion.
3. Maathravat : Food should be taken in proper quantity to promote longevity without vitiating or disturbing the equilibrium of the tridoshas.
4. Jeerne : One should take food only after the previous meal has been digested, if not, the immature rasa gets mixed up with the product of food taken afterwards, resulting in the provocation of all the three doshas. It also promotes longevity.
5. Veeryaaviruddham : Food having no contradictory potencies or veerya, when taken together cause diseases which are caused by viruddhaahaara This can be avoided by food which is not veerya viruddha.
6. Ishte deshe : In a proper place - clean and pleasing to the mind.
7. Ishtasarvopakaranam : Well equipped with all the accessories.
8. Naathidrutham : Not consumed very fast/or hurriedly because it can enter or displaced into the wrong passage.
9. Naathivilambitham : Not consumed very slowly as it will become cold leading to irregularity in digestion.
10. Ajalpan : Not taken while talking
11. Ahasan : Taken without laughing
12. Tanmana : Taken with concentration because if the mind is elsewhere one would not know how much one is eating or what one is eating.
13. Aatmaanam samyak, abhisameekshya : Intake with regard to himself - one should take food following all the rules and give due regard to himself.

According to Vaagbhatta one should not take food before bath, nor when fully naked, nor wearing only dhothi or the lower garment or with dirty clothes, without doing sacrifice to Gods and forefathers, before feeding the parents, elders, teachers, guests, the cows, dogs and other pets at home,select a correct place,time, accessories, reheated food, very hot food and burnt food should not be taken, even well prepared food should not be taken in large quantities.

Food should not be taken too late in the evening or too early in the morning,open to sky and sunlight,in darkness,under tree,in an open space,in broken plate or plate used by others. One should not take stale food, means not fresh. One should not eat everything that is served without leaving remains, except in the case of curds, honey, ghee, water, sattu, gruel, sour gruel and kheer (thickened milk) etc. These food stuffs should not be wasted (i.e.) should be taken or served only as much needed.

One should eat facing the eastern direction, with a happy mind and should be served by clean satisfied persons who should not be hungry and desirous of eating.

Food and Religion

All religions seem to lay a great stress on food habits as an aid to spiritual progress. In India there is a keen awareness of the relationship of the food to the mind and a discipline in the intake of food is held to be indispensable for the purity of the mind. Our Dharmashaasthras have laid great emphasis on the need for purity of food habits. Bhagavad Geetha and the Upanishads speak at length about food and prescribe various do’s and don’ts. The Bhagavad Geetha defines and classifies foods based on their saatvic, raajasic and taamasic qualities. Aside from such regulations, fasting in one form or the other is also prescribed by many religions - Hinduism, Islam, Jainism etc. The basic idea seems to be that control of the palate aids/leads to control of the senses and the mind.

Substances which may rate very highly as food or medicines may be forbidden or restricted for saadhakaas (spiritual aspirants) based on these gunaas. An example is garlic.

The Garlic Plant

As is well known, when the Devaas and the Rakshasaas churned the ocean, Amrit came out of it. When the Rakshasaas were running away with the vessel containing Amrit, the Devaas appealed to Vishnu; Vishnu came on to the scene in the shape of Mohini and offered to resolve their quarrel by serving Amrit to them all. They agreed. While serving it to the Gods first, it appeared that there might not be enough to go round for the demons and so one of the latter got into the line of the Gods unobserved by Mohini and was swallowing the Amrit, when the Sun and the Moon noticed it and gave her the hint. Mohini threw the ladle, with which the Amrit was being served, at the demon in such a way as to cut off his head. The ladle became the Chakra (the invincible lethal weapon of Vishnu) and cut off his head but as Amrit had already gone down his throat, the head became a graha (planet).

Now, when the head of the demon was severed, the trunk fell down and, in this process, a few drops of Amrit fell on the ground, and it is said that those drops became the garlic plant. That is why it is said that garlic has some of the properties of Amril.


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