I have been with some Brahmins, and I was told that along with meat, they are also prohibited from eating onions and garlic.

I can understand the meat prohibition because of cows, but what is the reason for the prohibition on onions and/or garlic?

  • This will answer your question – Sisir Jun 19 '14 at 8:01
  • @Sisir you can include that answer here too. Because they are relatively answered but they are different. – Ankit Sharma Jun 19 '14 at 8:07
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    Actually, it is prohibited for every Hindu. But ain't nobody follow rules? – user3459110 Jun 19 '14 at 8:25
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    @AwalGarg I agree - it is meant for all Hindus but only some practice it. In fact, a great saint, Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society describes it being even worse than eating meat. – Kapil Vyas Jun 26 '14 at 4:27
  • Only because you asked a question here, you are trying to look for a way to get this question closed and more audience there? Nice! :) @Akshay – Afzaal Ahmad Zeeshan Aug 8 '14 at 18:17

There are many beliefs about it:

  • According to Ayurveda, foods are grouped into three categories - sattvic, rajasic and tamasic - foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other alliaceous plants are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance.

  • Ahinsa - In Hinduism, killing is prohibited (even of microbes). So ground food needs proper cleaning, which causes the death of micro-organisms.

  • Some even say that meat, onion, and garlic can cause behavioural changes if consumed in high quantity. It's also related to Ayurvedic categorization.

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    Additionally Onion is supposed to be an aphrodisiac and would stimulate a person. Hence it is to be avoided for people involved in spiritual practices. – Bharat Jun 20 '14 at 5:39
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    Yes, I believe in the last thing you said, the behavioural changes. I eat meat and I can understand that! :D – Afzaal Ahmad Zeeshan Jun 20 '14 at 10:42
  • I am not arguing but just trying to learn and understand. Do you have any source for the last point you made? It is interesting and would love to read more if it is actually true. – Venkatesh Kumar Nov 12 '14 at 8:36
  • @VenkateshKumar i know this part from people(verbal). Will try to integrate source if got any. – Ankit Sharma Nov 12 '14 at 9:59
  • i am curious to know,Even if killing microbes is a sin, How come a hindu survive without committing a sin. – Avis Nov 21 '14 at 21:41

As per the scripture, garlic, onion and mushroom are prohibited for Brahmins because they are considered impure as they generally grow in the place of impurity. Brahmins need to maintain purity as they worship gods who are sattvic (pure) in nature.

Garlic, leeks and onions, mushrooms and (all plants), springing from impure (substances), are unfit to be eaten by twice-born men. [Manu Smriti - 5.5]

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    I think this is typical of our Indian hypocrisy. Impure places, really? So treating cow dung and urine as gold is correct? – a20 Oct 8 '14 at 22:08
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    @a20 and others, the corresponding Sanskrit is "amedhya-prabhavani" which means arising from impurity. It's not that these food items are grown in dirty places, but that they are borne of tamaguna or the impure element. As the accepted answer explains - all food items are borne of one of the 3 elements – user1993 Mar 14 '18 at 1:48
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    @a20, good point. This would help me explain my point even better. There are 2 main processes of acquiring knowledge - ascending (using our own senses) and descending (based on wisdom texts). The idea is that for spiritual progress, the latter is better, and it specifies what is pure and what is impure. By mundane logic, cowdung is impure (just like any animal's stool) and so is the conchshell (as it is the bone of an animal) but they are considered pure because of the supremacy of descending knowledge, i.e. our texts say so. The fact that cow-dung/urine has medicinal properties is secondary – user1993 Mar 14 '18 at 2:04
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    @a20 I don't want to elongate this thread, but I do want to make a few points. One, cow-dung is not supposed to be a food item but rather for applying on walls, for cooking etc. Secondly, most naturopathic/Ayurvedic medicines in market have cow-dung/urine in them for medicinal purposes, so it's benefits are apparent. Third, not saying anything about you, but just know that almost all meat products have feces in them. Also, ironically the most expensive coffee is basically a type of cat's poop. Just some facts. – user1993 Mar 14 '18 at 2:29
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    @user1993 Hah. That bit about shit in meat is definitely disgusting and enlightening. No arguments here - lacto-vegetarian diet is definitely much more agreeable to the human body in the long run than meat based diet - especially considering the steroids and feed given to the animals. Anyway - yup lets not go on with this .. fun over. Have to get back to work. Have a good day ahead :-) – a20 Mar 14 '18 at 2:37

Brahmins are the ones who do the rituals, so they need goodness in their souls; no passion for money (raja guna); very reduced, controlled involvement in sex (only for child birth) (reduction of raja guna); no fighting or hatred (tama guna).

Onions and garlic cause tama guna. God (supreme god) and Dev-Devis don't take offerings by humans who have uncontrolled raja and tama gunas. So, onions are prohibited for Brahmins, or anyone who wants to become a Brahmin (Brahmacharis).

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  • Asafoetida is also a spice in tamo guna, but can be used in deity worship. – user3603546 Jun 20 '14 at 1:11
  • "Onions and garlic cause tama guna." Lol. So if I eat onions, I'm going to be a trouble maker? That makes so much sense. /sarcasm. – a20 Oct 8 '14 at 22:10
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    @a20 - Actually, tama guna causes ignorance - meant to be read as "spiritual ignorance". The same for meat, which makes you more passionate (increases testosterone, for example) which makes you less likely to think about spiritual matters - which is something only those with sattva can. – arviman May 27 '15 at 3:07
  • @a20 That is not what tamo guna means. Please do read the Bhagavad Gita, especially the chapters towards the end. There are many good translations and exegeses online. – Aravind Suresh Sep 6 '19 at 11:24
  • @AravindSuresh It's been 5 years since I wrote the comment above (time flies!). I think both the comment replies above are very good. Thank you. – a20 Sep 12 '19 at 10:33

Found useful answer on Quora:

As per ancient Indian knowledge Ayurveda, All kind of food is divided into three categories viz namely Sattvik (are those that lead to clarity of mind and physical health), Rajasic (are those that have a stimulating effect on the mind and body), Tamasic (are those that have a sedative effect on the mind and body).

In fact all kind of food including meat is considered and put into these categories. The basic concept is whatever you eat will affect your body and mental health. Bhagvad Gita chapter 17 (verse 7 to 10) explain it.

āhāras tv api sarvasya tri-vidho bhavati priyaḥ yajñas tapas tathā dānaṁ teṣāṁ bhedam imaṁ śṛṇu

Even the food each person prefers is of three kinds, according to the three modes of material nature. The same is true of sacrifices, austerities and charity. Now hear of the distinctions between them.


āyuḥ-sattva-balārogya- sukha-prīti-vivardhanāḥ rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛdyā āhārāḥ sāttvika-priyāḥ

Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart.

Sattvic diet places emphasis on lacto-vegetarian ingredients that is fresh, seasonal, and naturally sourced. Oils and spices are considered sattvic, if naturally sourced and used in moderation. Examples include: water, cereal grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, unpasteurized and unhomogenized fresh milk and all fresh milk derivatives (mostly ghee, but also butter, cream, fresh or cottage cheese (paneer), and yogurt (lassi)), and raw honey. Sattvic foods are considered as those that help restore and maintain harmony and balance in one's body and mind. Sattva is Calm, Saintly. Sattvic food brings up quality that allows humbleness, forgiveness.


kaṭv-amla-lavaṇāty-uṣṇa- tīkṣṇa-rūkṣa-vidāhinaḥ āhārā rājasasyeṣṭā duḥkha-śokāmaya-pradāḥ

Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.

Rajasic foods lead to aggressiveness and irritability. If a person or thing tends to be extremely active, excitable, or passionate, that person or thing could be said to have a preponderance of rajasic. Rajasic food should be consumed to attain above qualities. But like everything these have side effects too Such foods cause distress, misery and disease. Examples include: caffeinated drinks (such as coffee, tea (both black and green), cola drinks, and energy drinks), brown or black chocolate, paan, ginkgo biloba, overly spicy food, over salty food.


yāta-yāmaṁ gata-rasaṁ pūti paryuṣitaṁ ca yat ucchiṣṭam api cāmedhyaṁ bhojanaṁ tāmasa-priyam

Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness.

Tamasic foods are those that have a sedative effect on the mind and body. In general, they are considered detrimental. According to yoga, these foods are to be avoided as they can cause mental dullness and physical numbness. However, in times of pain they are allowed to alleviate suffering. Tamasic food promotes dissolution, death, destruction, ignorance, sloth, and resistance. Examples include: meat of an animal, fish, the fertilized egg, onion, garlic, scallion, leek, chive, mushroom, alcoholic beverages, durian, blue cheese, eggplant, opium, and any food which has been kept overnight before consumption. In Chapter 14 verse 8 of Gita Krishna also says

You should know, O Arjuna, tamas as the cause of delusion enslaving all embodied beings born of nescience; by negligence, listlessness and somnolescence

Onions and Garlic lead to ignorance, lethargy, anger, aggression, over stimulation of the senses, increase in sexual desire and anxiety. Root vegetables like carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and turnips are not considered tamasic in Hinduism way of classification. botanical members of the alliaceous family (alliums) are not considered pure in Jainism based on the principle of nonviolence, which is different from Hinduism reason.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca paraṁ bhūyaḥ pravakṣyāmi jñānānāṁ jñānam uttamam yaj jñātvā munayaḥ sarve parāṁsiddhim ito gatāḥ The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Again I shall declare to you this supreme wisdom, the best of all knowledge, knowing which all the sages have attained the supreme perfection.

Reference: Vibhor Jajoo, Why are onion and garlic considered non-vegetarian by some Hindus?

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    The answer is plagiarised from quora. Plagiarism is not allowed. Visit How to reference material written by others. Plagiarised content may be deleted. – Pandya Jan 6 '18 at 12:43
  • > Examples include: meat of an animal, fish, the fertilized egg, onion, garlic, scallion, leek, chive, mushroom, alcoholic beverages, durian, blue cheese, eggplant, opium, and any food which has been kept overnight before consumption. In Chapter 14 verse 8 of Gita Krishna also says Source?? Eggplant is considered Tamasic? I think you don't like eggplant so you added it to this list right? – a20 Mar 14 '18 at 1:59

Q: Why not to have garlic & onion?

A: Garlic & onion make you little dull. Creates tamogun. For meditators it’s not very good. For gastric problem- garlic, for heart problem- onion. But as a regular diet, take everyday I would not advise. It makes consciousness dull. This universe is filled with Prana, life energy. If you area good meditator, nothing can make you unhappy. Even if you are unhappy, it immediately gets removed.

From a Q&A with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:


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Every food which covers other food fragrance was regarded as non-deity. This can be easily understood by observing that the presence of Garlic in a dish would rectify almost completely the fragrance offered by other spices or a vegetable. Same goes with Onion. Due to this property, these were discarded as impure in our scriptures.

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  • It has nothing to do with fragrance but elevation of consciousness – Akhil Apr 11 '18 at 21:06

According to ayurveda, foods are classified by their rasa (taste), vipak (aftertaste), virya (energy) and prabhava (specific qualities). The specific qualities of onion and garlic are that they carry the energy of anger. Anger pollutes memory and therefore increases bodily consciousness (Bhagavad-gita 2.63).

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