About early 2015, the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam Adheenam in Bengaluru, South India, made a surprising discovery – the existence of a Vedic age cookbook, revealed by Mahadeva himself – the Bhaga Shastra, or textbook for cooking.
Mahadeva revealed the secrets of the Bhaga Shastra to his consort Parvati, who in turn revealed it to Nala, the king of Vidarbha. Nala, an expert charioteer and well-known culinary expert is the main protagonist in the ancient romantic tale of Nala-Damayanti.
The Bhaga Shastra may have been written 2000 years ago but its wisdom and culinary secrets date back nearly 60,000 years! The only available copy of this book was printed in the year 1851 in Madras (current day Chennai) in South India. This book, in the Tamil language, is now with Nithyananda Gnanalaya (library), Bengaluru Adheenam.
An Astounding Discovery
What makes the Bhaga Shastra so remarkable is that every sphere of cooking is explained in minute and meticulous detail. One daresay, no cookbook exists today that can match the depth and breadth of wisdom on the science of cooking in this text, directly from God.
No facet of cooking is overlooked. Here are some samples:
– Detailed properties of grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, their qualities and impact on health
– The shape and size of utensils for cooking and storage
– The shape and size of the hearth
– The method of cleaning, pounding, grinding, frying, cooking
– The physical and mental health of the cooks
– Variety of 400 original recipes from across the sub-continent
Hindu Food, Taste and Tridosha
Six types of tastes are described in the Bhaga Shastra – salt, sweet, sour, hot, bitter and pungent. It states that every meal should include all these tastes, so that the appetite is satisfied and the tongue is neutralized by all the tastes being together. As per the instructions in Bhaga Shastra, in order for all parts of the body, mind and brain to function properly, a balanced diet of all these tastes is a must.
Further, the purpose of having all six tastes is to balance the tridoshas in the body, namely vaata (acidic), pitta (alkaline) and kapha (phlegm). Every ingredient used in Hindu cooking is classified as per their dosha properties. For e.g. too much of vata foods such as flat beans, corn, jackfruit, Bengal grams, will lead to belching, itchiness or prickliness on the skin. Excess of pitta foods results in giddiness, acidity and imbalance in the brain and mood disorders. Excess kapha food leads to chills and cold.
Benefits of Sattvik Food
Bhaga Shastra further classifies foods into rajasik, tamasik and sattvik types. Rajasik food makes one feel agitated, aggressive, lustful and egoistic. Tamasik food makes a person lazy, sleepy and depressed. Satvik food gives clarity to the person and brings him peace of mind leading to bhakti (devotion), tripti (fulfillment) and ananda (bliss).
Hindu Cooking Methods
The method of cooking every ingredient, grain, herb and spices are meticulously recorded. Bhaga Shastra insists on hand pounding and hand grinding to retain the subtleness, aroma and qualities of the ingredients used in the recipes. Many of the recipes and method of cooking have survived in rural kitchens of Hindu homes and temples. A well-known example of traditional cooking is the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple, Dakshina Kannada District, in South India, which has also been documented by the National Geographic Channel. Closer home, the Bhaga Shastra is followed to its minutest detail in the kitchens of the Nithyananda Sangha. Along with the cooking methods, traditional utensils of cooking, cleaning, grinding and storage are also being revived here.
The Perfect Cook
The Bhaaga Shastra also gives clear instruction about the mental and physical state of the person who cooks in the kitchen. The person must be disease-free, in sound physical and mental health, bathed and clean to enter the kitchen. For e.g. the lady of the house must first clean the kitchen thoroughly, set aside all ingredients for the day’s menu in a tray. After this she must bathe and do the agni puja (fire worship) of the hearth and only then start the cooking process!
A Veritable Feast of Recipes
The most delightful part of the Bhaga Shasta is the 400 varieties of recipes, from all regions of the sub-continent. It is indeed interesting to know that many of the chutneys, spiced rice, flat rice, idlis, dosas, laddoos, payasam/kheer, raitas, papads in Hindu homes come from recipes that are 60,000 year old! So is the mention of ingredients such as rice, wheat, pigeon peas, black gram, and spices such as pepper, fenugreek, asafetida, mustard, etc. It will hearten many to know that cocoa and coffee too find mention in this text.
In forthcoming issues we will not only reveal the secrets and wisdom of the Bhaga Shastra but also bring you recipes from its treasure house.
[Based on interview with Ma Sheela Rani, translator of the Bhaga Shastra from Tamil to English language, Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, Bengaluru, South India]
Source: Bhaga Shastra