Vegetarianism in India and Russia

500 million vegetarians in one country – can you imagine it? It is 42% of the total population of India. According to statistics, there are more vegetarians in India than in the whole world combined. However, the statistics of the states of India itself aren’t equal. In the south India, for example, people consume a lot of fish due to their proximity to the seas.

India called to be a paradise for vegetarians. It is, in fact, really easy to be a vegetarian here: they have so many vegetarian recipes, vegetarian cafes and restaurants are everywhere, but meat and fish products are not being sold in every shop. Even McDonald’s and KFC have many vegetarian options, unlike the same branches in another countries. All the products and even medicines in India have a label – a green circle means a product is vegetarian and a red one means non-vegetarian (some medicines may contain gelatin, for example). Local doctors don’t say to pregnant women and children that eating meat is mandatory. But if in many countries in the world vegetarianism is something modern while in India it can be said that the opposite happens – being a vegetarian here means being an orthodox and switching to meat can be called modern by some people.

In India religions did and do play a great role in it. Vegetarian non-alcohol weddings are very normal here (how untypical it wouldn’t sound for people from another countries). But, well, historically India could become a vegetarian country, unlike many other countries, due to its climate. Vegetables and fruits were always available here during whole year while in the countries with colder climate people could not survive in the past if not for meat. Like, as well, in Russia – the country during it’s history didn’t have fruits and vegetables available almost whole year, except for summers, late springs and early autumns. In the history Russian people created many ways to preserve vegetables as pickles, which are being a part of traditional Russian food now.

Russia has a small amount of vegetarian people yet, like most of other countries in the world. People in Russia are often scared to become vegetarians as their relatives keep telling them that it is unhealthy, they will get sick, won’t be able to have healthy children (doctors say meat is important during pregnancy and early years of children development). People say that men can’t do without meat, that men will be weak, that our ancestors were eating meat etc. But if someone decides to become vegetarian, they often do it against of their family will and fears – like I became vegetarian more than 10 years ago. They also often become not just vegetarians, but vegans, raw-eaters or even fructorians, will stop eating sugar. Most of these people will appreciate healthy eating and stop wearing leather clothes, shoes, bags despite of the better quality of it for Russian winters and will judge going to the zoos and circuses as well. It is mostly young people.

While in India most of the vegetarian people don’t keep healthy diet and eat a lot of fried food, even though people question it these days. Indian people normally consume more sugar than Russian people do, everything is way more sweat. Also Indian people are very rarely vegans: typical vegetarianism here is a rejection of meat, fish and eggs, but not dairy products. On the contrary, people in India consider milk as very important to consume daily. Not every vegetarian in India will refuse wearing leather clothes, shoes, bags and going to the zoos/circuses also because this concept isn’t very famous here and people don’t think from this point, mostly aware people do only. Indian people are usually vegetarian because of their families and here opposite happens: if they want to start eating meat/ fish or even eggs, their families will be very against of it and may agree in the end only if person will do it outside of the house. In fact, not only this happens. If in Russia and other not-very-vegetarian countries, vegetarian people use to get a little bit aggressive (I have been to, so I am not judging) trying to make people around to understand why they need to be vegetarian, for what people usually think that they just impose their opinions on them. But in India it’s way more:

  • A vegetarian may not give his/her apartment for a rent to a non-vegetarian;
  • At work, vegetarian boss may forbid non-vegetarian employees to eat meat in his/her building;
  • A vegetarian can refuse to eat from the dishes which have ever had meat on them – even when they make a guest visit to non-vegetarian relatives or friends. For the same reason they can deny going to restaurants that have non-vegetarian options at all (that’s why it’s many “pure vegetarian” restaurants in India);
  • Vegetarian people in India can even make their pet cats and dogs to be vegetarians – they believe it will not harm them if they are taught to this from a small age. Otherwise, they can be allowed by the most strict about it family member to feed dogs and cats by non-vegetarian food outside of the house, again.

Non-vegetarian food is a huge deal for vegetarian people in India, it’s like an abuse. If some restaurant will mistakenly put a paper of non-vegetarian food on their vegetarian order, people may pick up a huge fight, without even checking if only the paper was a mistake and not the order.

Indian airlines (and all airlines on the way to/from India) have veg and non-veg options for people, not just meat and fish (like other countries and vegetarian option only as special menu and not always available even). Indian person will not just remove a ham out of sandwich and consider it vegetarian without it, because “it’s been there”.

Fasting in western cultures is, roughly speaking, a vegetarianism for a certain period. However, when Indians fast, it is much stricter. On some fasting days, they may not only eat nothing, but not even drink.

I have written this post not to start an aggressive discussion on “what is better?” and “who is right?”, but to show a psychological differences and the historical reasons of development of certain lifestyle in both countries. Maybe it will help somebody to avoid judgments and misunderstandings.

Vegetarianism is growing and, in fact, being in fashion in Russia, so the amount of vegetarian restaurants and people is increasing every year. I have made a list of them for you, you can find it Here (I am still working on it, so the list is not complete).

To see some Indian and Continental vegetarian recipes please Click Here.

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