World Food Day
World Food Day is observed every year on 16th October, the day the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was found, in 1945.
Process of Eating
Eating is an important aspect of our daily living. The way we eat, facilitates our health to a great extent.
The process of eating has multiple levels.
- Paaka – Cooking
- Patra – Plate, Vessel in which we consume and cook our food
- Asana – Posture in which we consume our food
- Parisheshanam – Purification and offering of food
- Sparsh – Feeling the food before eating
- Agni – Digestion
Paaka – Cooking
Firstly, the food is cooked. This is known as Paaka. The Hindi words Paka, Pakana for cooking have the same roots.
The food that we eat should have purity in three aspects,
- Patra Shudhi – Purity of Vessels in which the food is cooked
- Paaka Shudhi – Purity in the cooking process. The one who is cooking should cook in a good frame of mind.
- Padartha Shudhi – Purity in ingredients.
The cooking process is sanctified only if these three aspects are taken care of, resulting in a clean, tasty and healthy food.
Asana – Posture in which we eat
Sitting on the floor and eating has been one of the important traditions of this land.
The posture of sitting down while eating is called Sukhasana. There are some benefits in sitting in this pose while eating.
- In this posture, each time we take a mouthful, we have to bend over. In this front and back movement while bending, we activate the enzymes in the stomach, to be released for the digestion of the food.
- It also facilitates blood circulation from heart to the digestive organs.
- In this pose, we can eat only what we can, because of this front and back movement, and we cannot stuff ourselves with food, beyond our digestion capacity.
Sitting down and eating
Patra – From where we eat
Eating on leaf, especially banana leaf is another tradition in India. When food comes in contact with the leaf, potassium is generated, an important mineral for our body.
Parisheshanam is the act of purification of food. This act involves circling our cupped right palm, with water, around the leaf plate, before consuming food.
This has multiple purposes.
- It helps the person consuming to focus on the food
- In this process, we thank all those people and creatures, due to whom we have food in our plates. The prayer one chants is Anna Data Sukhi Bhava.
- In this act we also offer food to the Divine. One of the popular mantra chanted before taking food, is a sloka from the Bhagavad Gita.
Brahmārpañam Brahma Havir
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
The act of offering is God. The oblation is God. By God it is offered into the Fire of God.
God is That which is to be attained by him who performs action pertaining to God.
This prayer wards of any ill effects of food poisoning that may have crept in in the process of bringing or making of the food
Sadham is food. Prasadham is Divine food. When you go through the process after offering to Divine, it is Prasadham.
4. Since the practice has been to eat with the leaf, placed on the floor, this encircled water will desist stray ants or insects from walking into the leaf.
5. This demarcation helps the person to clean up a place post the partaking of the food.
Sparsh – Feeling the Food
Eating food from hands has been one of the ancient ethos of India.
Among the Panchabhuta, the five elements. Sparsh, touch is one of the senses, unique to air, apart from sound which it derives from the preceding element Akasa, Space. We can not only hear the wind but also feel it when it touches you.
It is important to mash the food in our hands first. This lends Prana to the food, through the Naadi in our finger tips.
Feel the Food
We need to feel the food with our fingers and palms, before eating. Feeling is an integral part of life, without which there is no spice in life. Thus our food should reach our mouth from our hands, and not with a spoon or fork.
Eating food with our hands
In Yoga, Mudra is a specific pose in a human body, and are known by different names. For example, Namaste s the name Anjali Mudra, Anjali meaning homage.
Namaste– greeting the Divinity in the other
Similarly, there are various mudra of our fingers such as Chin Mudra and Chimaya Mudra. The fingers have Prana, and they are activated by these mudra. Hence eating by hands is highly recommended.
Agni – Digestion
Samskrt word for digestion is Pachan, meaning digestion. From this word Pachan is derived the word Paaka, for cooking.
The digestive process is primarily of Agni and to an extent Vayu – Prana.
Digestion – A Process of Agni
3 levels of digestion
There are 3 levels of digestion,
- Digestion in Hand
- Digestion in Mouth
- Digestion in stomach.
The first level of digestion is in the hands, and the second is in the mouth. This makes it easier when the food reaches the stomach enzymes.
Then the food is properly chewed & munched in the mouth. The ptyalin enzyme in our saliva does activity of digestion of the food in the mouth itself.
Unfortunately we have bypassed the first 2 levels by eating with spoon and by eating very fast. This has affected our digestion and health.
Food based on phases of the Moon
Food digestion is not limited to the body that takes food. It extends to the body of environment that surrounds this body, the climate, the heat, the wind, the water, and all these factors have a role to play in our digestion. The Moon too has a role to play in our digestion. For example, on Amavasya day, we enjoy a traditional feast. On Ekadasi, the 11th phase of the Moon, we keep Upavas and do not eat solids the whole day. On Dwadasi, on 12th phase of the Moon, the succeeding day, we start our meal with lemon and Amla – gooseberry, for, lemon juice, or lemon Rasam helps a person break the Upavas. And Amla is spiritual vitamin C.
Similarly, for each phase of the Moon, for each region of topography different foods have been suggested so that our food intake and digestion are in sync with the rhythm of Nature.
Phases of Moon – Krishna paksha (waxing) & Shukla paksha (waning)
Make Bhog into a Yog
Eating food the right way and in right quantity will ensure a good health. There is a popular saying which says, “Those who eat once in a day is a Yogi. Those who eat twice is a Bhogi. Those who eat thrice is a Rogi.”
There is a Tamil saying Marinde Unavu, meaning “If you eat properly, food itself is a good medicine that will keep you healthy.”
The act of consuming food is known as Bhog. By following the above the right process of eating, we convert Bhog into a Yog, so that we are not effected by any Rog, disease.