The earliest record of human inhabitation in the Indian subcontinent dates back some 2 million years to a remote site near Rawalpindi in Pakistan. Since these early beginnings, the Indian subcontinent has hosted a battery of invasions. Firstly from the Aryans (1150 BC) followed by a smaller extent the Greeks, romans and Chinese (1150 BC to 658 ad). Then the Turks (1175) followed the Mongols led by the Chengis khan (1206), afterwards the moguls from Persia (1526) and finally the British (1818). What had emerged from all this was a great melting pot of cultures, ideologies and beliefs culminating into the development of Indian cuisine as we know it today.
Indeed these influences were strong but unquestionably the most remarkable contribution is made by the Ayurveda, and ancient body of knowledge on health, upon which the philosophy of Indian cuisine is based. "ayur", in Sanskrit, meaning span of life. And "Veda" meaning knowledge, is concerned about maintenance of long life.. Ayurvedic texts, originally written in Sanskrit, date from around 1000 BC. Ayurveda understands properties and actions of food differently of western science.. Diseases, it stipulates, should be treated with food first and medication later if necessary, Ayurveda identifies various elements that underlines its system of beliefs.
The human body is said to be composed of seven elements or tissue layers. These are plasma, (skin) blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerves, marrow and reproductive secretions. Connecting these tissue layers co/exists a complicated array of channels that supply the tissue constituents. Good health implies not only proper flow through these channels but also an equilibrium in the proportions of the seven body elements.
Additionally, Ayurveda recognises the existence of three primary life forces or biological humours (dosha) in the body. Namely; vata, pitta, and khapa which roughly translates to air (breathing), fire (digestion) and water (phlegm) respectively. In the event of an imbalance or aggravation the excess humours move into the body's channels disturbing normal flow to manifest symptoms leading to diseases.
Ayurveda classifies humans into three mental types; satva (intellect - philosopher - just), rajas (practical - industrious - domineering) and tamas (idle - un/intellectual - negative). These constitutional types, it is said, are derived from the intake of different types of food. Fresh, ripe, simply cooked and easily digestible food contributes a satvic trait. Highly spicy food produced by suppressive means (this surprisingly includes meat) is rajas dominant. Overcooked, oily and stale food (basically all of today's junk food) contributes tamasic characteristics.
Ayurvedic texts distinguish food as having three different characters; Firstly by the six tastes; (rasa); sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent, each having specific therapeutic actions. Either, increasing or decreasing bodily humours. Sweet tastes which include rice, ghee (clarified butter) and fruits gives strength to tissue elements whilst sour tastes such as from lime and tamarind stimulates digestive fire and is good for the heart. Salty tastes are also good for digestion but is particularly good in clearing the body's channels. Pungent tastes as in onions, pepper and garlic improve metabolism and also dilate channels in the body. Bitter tastes as in most green vegetables can heal ulcers and dry up moisture and fat in the body.
Secondly, by potency (veerya) of the action on the body. As an example ghee and oil; the former cools the body and the latter heats it. thirdly by virtue of the special actions on the body (prabhava). An example is that of figs whilst being sweet and heating have purgative qualities.
"He alone, can remain healthy, who regulates his diet, maintains regular exercise and recreation and can control his sensual pleasures, who is just, truthful and forgiving". It is surprising that only recently modern scientists and thinkers have recognised that many diseases emanate from pent-up emotions, grief and dark thoughts, and yet these texts were written some thousand of years ago. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribing diets adopt a contingency approach taking into account the individuals constitutional type, the dominating humour, state of health and even seasons. Too much of any one taste is harmful to any constitutional type and conversely the lack of any of the six tastes aggravates the relevant humours. Perhaps then, this some what explains the perplexity and diversity of indian cuisine.
We at the bilash restaurant do not claim to be ayurvedic pundits nor practitioners, but one thing is certain, the recipes we use in this restaurant have been handed down from a hundred generations and more and these did most certainly evolve from ayurvedic influences. So, whether you portray satvic, rajas or tamas (hopefully not!) Traits we hope you will have a great joy in selecting the dishes of your choice from our compilation of dishes from all regions of india including many from important epochs of history.
Thank you for choosing to order from our restaurant.
Mr. A. Matin