Discussion Of The Varieties Of The Food And Drinks

The Nilamat Purana is a very important book for the Hindus living in the Kashmir Valley. They follow various instructions prescribed in it very religiously. I was too anxious to read the contents of the book and learnt a lot from it. One of the themes that really attracted me in the book is the description of the different kinds of food to be consumed essentially during the important religious ceremonies and rituals. In this article, I would be focusing exclusively on the varieties of food discussed in it.

One important fact to be noted is that the living beings are classified into different kinds and they are the following:

a) Gods and Goddesses

b) Deities

c) Beings of the Naga Lok (serpent family)

d) Demons(Asuras and Rakshasas)

e) Pisachas (Beings that might enter into the bodies human beings and perform evil actions)

f) Danavas

g) Yaksas,

h) Daityas

Subsequently, the consumption of the food varieties also depends on this classification. There is a stanza wherein it is clearly mentioned that there are beings consuming human flesh. The text is very ancient one and literally and vividly gives the description of the formation of the Kashmir Valley and about the different kinds of the beings living in the respective place. It was amazing to discover that there were beings depended upon the flesh of the human beings. These beings were called as the “EATERS OF THE FLESH”.

Apart from this, there are discussions on the non-vegetarian food. This means that there were individuals who consumed non-human flesh in various ways in their menu. Apart from this, there are clear indications that individuals relishing non-vegetarian food might invite their family members, relatives, friends, and neighbors for dinner and parties. There are special festivals on which non-vegetarian dishes might be cooked and enjoyed by all. Consequently, this tradition is still followed in the Kashmir Valley (till date). People celebrate Shiva Ratri with non-vegetarian delicacies and prepare many dishes from chicken, mutton and fish.

There is lots of importance given to the PURE VEGETARIAN FOOD in the Nilamat Purana. The text discusses about the various occasions, festivals, ceremonies and rituals wherein the individual and immediate family members need to utmost take care and prepare only vegetarian food. There are times wherein the individuals need to take extra precautionary measures so that the food is not falling under the categories of impure, unclean and irreligious by nature. The reason is that there are important repercussions of it on the family members and the future generations also.

Different food delicacies or items mentioned in the Nilamat Purana are the following (I would not be giving the recipes for these dishes in this article):

a) Honey mixed with nectar

b) Milk mixed with nectar

c) Various kinds of fruits

d) Eatable offerings to the Gods and Goddesses

e) Krsara(rice mixed with the pulses)

f) Cakes(sweet and salty ones)

g) Various kinds of Vegetables

h) Rice boiled in the milk(different varieties of this are present)

i) Preparations of/from sugar cane

j) Honey

k) Grapes

l) Pomegranates

m) Holy Basil

n) Salt

o) Clarified butter

p) Oil

q) Curd

r) Milk

s) Five preparations of cow’s milk

t) Various kinds of grains (both parched and unparched ones)

u) Rice boiled in milk(differences are present when too much of rice is mixed in some milk, equal amounts of rice and milk and more milk with less rice)

v) Half ripe barley

w) Cakes of sugar covered with seeds(especially with sesame)

x) Gifts of salt

y) Different kinds of the herb and shrub roots

z) Varieties of pulses

We are not limited with the vegetarian and non-vegetarian food in the Nilamat Purana. There are clear discussions on the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages also. The religious text does not restrict the individuals from consuming the alcoholic drinks. It gives a vivid description wherein individuals essentially consume the alcoholic drinks and invite others for the indoor and outdoor parties. There are occasions on which the family members are necessarily indulge in such preparations and asked to enjoy themselves. It is religiously correct action.

A very special mention is made for the “new wine on snow fall” in the Nilamat Purana. In this description, it clearly specifies how an individual should dress up and sit outside in the snow to enjoy the wine after the first snowfall. This is not restricted to one individual only. However, it is a merry time for inviting the family relatives and friends to be together and be happy.

There is also mention of AUSPICIOUS AND NON-AUSPICIOUS DRINKS. There are certain instructions provided as the guidelines for the consumption of the drinks. These must be consumed on the specified days and times only. Otherwise the consumption of such drinks would be labeled as THE NON-AUSPICIOUS ONES.

Other food items mentioned in the text are the following:

1) Oblations of half ripe barley

2) Food preparations of half-ripe barley plus purified butter

3) Special meals should be prepared from animal flesh

4) One must eat special food on certain occasions

5) The death anniversary called Sraddha must be celebrated with preparations from the vegetables

6) Preparations of the cakes of flour(different kinds of flours are mentioned at different places)

7) Powder of white mustard

8) Purified butter

9) Eat preparations of purified butter and milk

10) Preparations from large quantities of rice mixed with the pulses

11) Dish with rice mixed with the pulses

12) Food consisting of pious offerings

13) Caru (grain boiled in milk or butter or water)

14) Caru of all grains must be prepared

15) Eatables made of mixed with honey

16) Rice of various types

17) Eatables offerings for Sankara (Lord Shiva)-animals should be made of flour

18) Meals of half ripe barley

19) Cakes of sugar covered with sesame(black and white)

20) Garlands of grains

21) Meals consisting of a medicinal plant Parpata( Fumaria parviflora)

22) Special preparations of cow’s milk

23) Eatables of triangular shape made of ground Phaseolus Mungo(mudga)

24) Food preparations from Husked or unhusked rice

25) Moon must be worshipped with the flesh of water born animals

26) Various of kinds of cakes of meat

27) Dishes made from non-vegetarian food

28) Fish

29) Special food to the dogs

30) Solid food

31) Sweetmeats

32) Cakes

33) Dried food

34) Eatables which last long last

35) Special drink containing Ira flowers

36) Dishes with the Ripened barley

37) Black or other sesame mixed with honey

38) Barley food cooked in proper procedure

39) Various types of ground parched grains

40) Ground parched grains mixed with milk

41) Food cooked from snow, sugar, green vegetables

42) Eatables made of barley and wheat

43) Eatables mixed with the cow’s milk

44) Eatables made of barley along with preparations of sugarcane, pepper and purified butter

45) Gourds

46) Rice mixed with sugar and the preparations of all other grains

47) Dishes prepared from Ground parched grains

48) Curries from Bauhinia variegate (kovidara or kachnar) and feronia elephantum(kapittha, kath bel, kabeet or kaitha or velugu pandu)

49) Food mixed with the sugars

50) Saffron

51) Drinks of various types

52) Food mixed with curd

53) Meals consisting of grapes