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why are indians vegetarian

An indian man eating mango

Why Are Indians Vegetarian?

Vegetarianism, a lifestyle that excludes the consumption of meat, has been widely practiced in India for thousands of years. According to a 2014 survey by the Registrar General of India, 28.4% percent of the Indian population follows a vegetarian diet. But what motivates such a large portion of the Indian people to adopt a diet devoid of meat? Here are some fundamental reasons explaining why Indians are vegetarian.

Religious Beliefs

Religious belief is a primary factor contributing to vegetarianism in India. In India, the majority of the population follows Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism – religions that advocate non-violence and kindness. These religions emphasize ahimsa (non-violence), which extends to not causing harm to animals.

In Hindu scriptures, the cow is regarded as a sacred entity and is often worshipped, which is why beef is rigorously avoided. Similarly, Jainism, another prevalent religion in India, follows strict vegetarianism spurred by doctrines of non-violence and respect for all forms of life.

Cultural Context

India has a diversified cultural fabric where dietary habits are passed from one generation to the next. Vegetarian food has been part of Indian culture for centuries, creating a tradition of vegetarianism. Hence, many people are vegetarian because their family has been vegetarian for generations.

Ayurveda and Health

Ayurveda, India’s traditional medical system, has a massive role in shaping the dietary habits of Indians. According to Ayurveda, a balanced diet promotes good health, and this balance is achieved by including a variety of vegetables, fruits, and grains in the diet. Furthermore, meat is considered tamasic, meaning it can lead to lethargy and sluggishness. Thus, many Indians choose vegetarianism for a healthier lifestyle and enhanced well-being.

Economic Factors

While religion and health are substantial factors, it is also crucial to note that economic reasons also play an integral role. In many parts of India, especially the rural areas, people cannot afford meat due to its high cost. Therefore, they rely mostly on a plant-based diet.


In summary, the reasons for vegetarianism in India range from religious beliefs to health considerations and economic factors. While not all Indians are vegetarian, a significant proportion adheres to a plant-based diet. With increasing awareness about animal rights and the environmental impact of meat production, more and more people globally are exploring vegetarian and vegan diets. In that regard, India, with its deep-rooted tradition of vegetarianism, offers a rich repertoire of plant-based culinary delights.