Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Food is an essential ingredient need for our existence and for the life processes to keep going on in a smooth way. Ahara or food is a basic instinct needed for survival of life. Human beings have survived and evolved from being hunters to organized and trimmed food makers, from eating raw and unprocessed foods to making processed delicious recipes in innumerable and unimaginable varieties.
Ahara is one of the supporting pillars for life sustenance and has been included as an important member of Traya Upastambha (3 supporting pillars), the other two being Nidra (sleep) and Brahmacharya (celibacy). Skillful use of these 3 supporting pillars will put us in a state of balanced and comprehensive health.
For intake of ahara or food, Ayurveda has enlisted some special conditions which need to be followed to obtain complete benefits of the food. They are called as Ahara Vidhi Vishesha Aayatanaani.
In this article I will discuss in detail about these eight special conditions for intake of food.
Ashta Ahara Vidhi Vishesha Ayatana
The below mentioned eight factors should be essentially considered before taking the food. They are –
- Prakriti – Natural quality of food
- Karana – Processing the food
- Samyoga – Combination of substances
- Rashi – Quantity of food
- Desha – Place where the food is grown and cultivated
- Kala – Time of intake of food
- Upayoga Samstha – Rules of taking food
- Upayokta – The person who consumes the food
1. Prakriti – Nature of the food
Prakriti means natural quality which is inborn. Here Prakriti denotes the natural quality of the food (and medicines) like Guru (heaviness), Laghu (light) etc.
Masha or black gram is said to be Guru or heavy in nature, therefore it is heavy to digest. Similarly Mudga or green gram is laghu or light in nature; therefore it is light and easy to digest. Shukara (pork) is guru (heavy) and Ena (meat or flesh of deer) is laghu (light) in nature.
Knowing the nature of the food or medicine will help in choosing the foods according to our digestion capacity and also to eat the foods which are easily digestible and hence conducive to our health. This also depends on one’s constitution. If your digestion capacity is good, you can take laghu as well as guru ahara. If your digestion is poor, guru ahara may cause difficulty in digestion and cause many disorders pertaining to errors of digestion and metabolism like indigestion etc.
2. Karana – Method of processing the foods
Some foods may not be suitable for direct consumption. Their form and inherent characters should be changed in order to make the foods suitable for consumption. In order to do this the food need to be processed and transformed into a usable form (consumable form) such that it is easily digested in the body.
Karana means processing the food substances which leads to transformation of their inherent qualities and characters so as to make them ideal and good for consumption. This transformation is called as Samskara or Abhisamskara. Samskara is said to bring about Gunantara aadhaana or change in characters and qualities of the food substances.
The below mentioned methods are used for processing the foods –
- Toya sannikarsha – cleansing and treating with water
- Agni sannikarsha – application of heat, heat processing (heating, boiling, cooking the food on fire)
- Shoucha – cleaning and washing
- Manthana – churning, grinding
- Desha – place, region of food (the food properties can be changed or preserved by changing its place), the nature of food also will change according to geography
- Kala – Time period, season etc too will bring in the changes in the food substances
- Vasana – Adding the flavoring agents or preservatives or sweet smelling agents
- Bhavana – impregnation, leaving the food or medicines dipped in certain liquids, titration
- Kala prakarsha – passage of time, change of season
- Bhajana – container in which the foods are stored, vessels, storage and preservation of food
3. Samyoga – Combination of food substances
Samyoga means combination or mixing of two or more substances. When more than two substances are mixed together (food or medicines), the quality of the combination will be totally different from the individual components. The qualities which were not present in the individual component or substance are induced in the combination. Sometimes the combination may be extremely beneficial, sometimes it may be dangerous.
Therefore it is important that one thoroughly knows about the individual food substances and also should have knowledge of what qualities are inherited when different food substances are combined. Example, honey and ghee when mixed in equal proportions or when fish is taken along with milk will prove lethal and are dangerous for health.
4. Rashi – Quantity of food
Rashi means quantity of food. Quantity of intake of food is very important for conducive and comprehensive health and should essentially be taken into consideration. There is a particular fixed quantity of food which needs to be consumed and that shall not be breached at any cost. The quantum of food for every individual is different and is fixed for that particular individual. More than the desired and permissible quantity or less than that, both are not good for health. Ideal food should be taken in proper quantity.
There are two types of Rashi –
- Sarvagraha Rashi – In this, the quantity of the food is taken in its totality (entirety), i.e. all the substances, ingredients and inclusions of the food to be served will be considered in totality.
- Parigraha Rashi – In this, the quantity of each of the ingredients or portions of the food are considered separately.
One should have a thorough knowledge of Rashi and its types. They should know which portion and in what quantity is beneficial for them at a given point of time. This also depends on ones capacity and choices. Example, if there are 8 food items served on a table, consuming all of them is called Sarvagraha. One can chose 3-4 portions or types of items as per his or her choice and few can take only one item in excess. This is called Parigraha. This depends on their choices and capacity to eat. These factors are individual and not universal. But ultimately understanding the rashi which is suitable to self is the key for good health. The rashi should be filling to one’s capacity and should provide essential energy needed for life processes.
5. Desha – Place where the food items are grown or cultivated
To know about the place or region from which our food comes, to have knowledge about their cultivation is important. Places related to habitat, in fact natural habitat in which a food grows or is cultivated. Desha covers the place where the food (or medicinal herbs) is grown, place to which they are exported, the place where they are utilized.
Example, the food or medicinal herbs grown naturally in Himalayas are said to be very potent in their properties, the food grown in desert regions are light in nature etc.
There are three types of desha i.e. Jangala (desert region or dry regions, vata predominant), Anupa (Marshy regions, kapha predominant) and Sadharana desha (moderate zones). Foods grown in Jangala Desha are said to be light in nature and vitiate Vata. Therefore it is not beneficial for those having vata prakriti (vata constitution) and vata vikritis (diseases caused due to vitiated vata). They are beneficial for people having kapha vikriti (diseases caused due to kapha vitiation) as these foods are antagonistic to kapha. At the same time, Jangala desha ahara may be suitable or conducive to a person living in Jangala pradesha (native of that region), by practice.
Similarly the impact of food in other deshas also should be understood and the food should be consumed accordingly.
6. Kala – Time of consumption of food
The time factor for consumption of food also should be considered and utmost priority should be given to it. Some people follow and are very particular and punctual with respect to time of consumption of food. They do not prefer to miss out the timetable of food. Such people are perfectly healthy. Their appetite, digestion, assimilation and excretion are also proper and balanced. Some people follow their hunger and eat food when they feel hungry. In these people the time of consumption of food differs from day to day, though not by large proportions. Their point of hunger is also proportional to the digestion of previously taken food and the quality of excretion. These people are also reasonably healthy. Those who do not address their hunger and time of food and give priority to something else, doing different activities at the point of time of consumption of food will definitely disturb their natural biological clock of metabolism in the body and become victims of various diseases in the long run.
Kala is of two types: Nityaga and Avastika Kala
Nityaga Kala –
Nityaga means daily. Day and night, portions of a day can be considered as Nityaga Kala. Similarly different seasons of a year are also considered as Nityaga Kala. Seasons too come in a particular chronology.
In relation to ahara or food, Nityaga Kala is important because there are certain times in a day where we consume food and at certain times (like midnight) we do not consume food. According to the rules, one should consume food for two times in a day by those desirous of good health.
Similarly there are certain rules and regulations for food intake according to different seasons. These rules differ from season to season and also in the junction periods of the seasons (Rutusandhi). These rules should be strictly followed as explained in Rutucharya (Chapter covering the activities to be done and avoided during particular seasons).
Avasthika Kala –
Avasthika means situational or conditional. This term is applicable to the different stages and conditions of diseases and also to the stages of one’s life. There are certain aharas prescribed to be taken during various stages of diseases and they should be followed accordingly. This helps in quick healing and recovery from the disease. Knowing the stages of diseases and also the right food or diet to be prescribed during these stages will help in treating the diseases comprehensively.
One should see the avasthika kala of his or her age while consuming food. The quantity of food will vary from age to age and should be consumed accordingly. The vaya kala can be divided into Bala (child and youth), Madhyama (middle age) and Vardhakya (old age). These avasthika kalas should be considered especially when deciding the nature and quantity of food.
7. Upayoga Samstha – Rules and regulations for consuming food (dietetic rules)
There are certain rules and regulations for intake of food and they should be strictly followed. The dietetic rules or Upayoga Samstha are totally dependent on the Jeerna Ahara Lakshanas i.e. symptoms of proper digestion.
Jeerna Ahara Lakshanas –
Below mentioned are the signs (features) of proper digestion.
- Udgara Shuddhi – Cleanliness of belching (no taste in belch)
- Utsaha – Enthusiasm
- Vega Utsarga – Proper evacuation of urges (like those of stools, urine, fart etc)
- Laghuta – Lightness of the body
- Kshut – Manifestation of hunger
- Pipasa – Manifestation of thirst
Rules of taking the food –
One should consume food substances which are wholesome and good for the body. Below mentioned are the rules and regulations for intake of ahara (food) and are applicable for both diseased persons as well as healthy people.
One should eat proper quantity of food while following the below mentioned rules –
- Ushnam Ashneeyaat – Eat hot and fresh food
- Snigdham Ashneeyat – Eat unctuous food
- Matravad Ashneeyaat – Eat according to proper quantity
- Jeerne Ashneeyaat – Eat after feeling hungry, after the digestion of previously consumed food
- Veerya Aviruddham Ashneeyaat – Eat food which is not contradictory in potency
- Ishta Deshe, Ishta Sarva Upakaranam Cha Ashneeyaat – Eat in desired place with desired articles
- Na Ati Dhrutam Ashneeyaat – Do not eat in a hurry
- Na Ati Vilambitam Ashneeyaat – Do not eat very slowly
- Ajalpan, Ahasan, Tanmanaa Bhunjeeta – Eat with utmost concentration without talking or laughing
- Aaatmanam Abhisameekshya Bhunjeeta Samyak – Eat after self analysis
Related Reading – Rules and Regulations of Eating Food
8. Upabhokta / Upayokta – The person who consumes food
Upabhokta is the consumer, the person who takes the food. Since Upabhokta takes the food, he is very important. He is the one responsible for the habitual intake of things i.e. Okasatmya. This also means that the person who takes food should be accustomed to intake of food as a regular habit, at right times, in proper quality and quantity.
Just Before Finishing
In this article I have covered in depth about Ahara Vidhi Vishesha Ayatanaani, the special conditions for consumption of food. These conditions play a major role in selection and intake of our food, helps us know about the wholesomeness of food and also the foods we need to take, the quantity, quality and combination of different foods, the place and time related to food and the rules to be followed while consuming foods. Therefore it becomes very important for everyone to know these conditions thoroughly.
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