The word vegetarian, coined by the founders of the British Vegetarian Society in 1842, comes from the Latin word vegetus, meaning “whole, sound, fresh, or lively,” as in homo vegetus-a mentally and physically vigorous person. The original meaning of the word implies a balanced philosophical and moral sense of life, a lot more than just a diet of vegetables and fruits. Most vegetarians are people who believe that to contribute towards a more peaceful society we must first solve the problem of violence in our own hearts.
Each religion has its own rules when it comes to food preparation and eating, which is mostly governed by cultural and religious history. Majority of Indians are vegetarians. The rise of vegetarianism in India goes back to more than 500 BC, when India saw the rise of Buddhism and Jainism. These religions preached the principle of ahimsa or “non-violence.” Saints and reformers like Shankara, Ramanuja, Kabir, Tulsi Sahib, Mira Bhai, Sant Tukaram always encouraged and preached Vegetarianism to their followers. In the recent past, Mahatma Gandhi had also encouraged vegetarianism.
In general, vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Some people who call themselves partial vegetarians eat fish and chicken but no red meat such as beef, pork and lamb. Others come under the category of lacto-ovo-vegetarians, include eggs along with milk and milk products in their diet; lacto-vegetarians include milk and milk products but no eggs in their diet while fruitarians live on fruits, seeds, grains and vegetables only. It has been observed that the food we eat affects not only our bodies but also our mindset, our attitude and thinking. Vegetarians are noted to be less aggressive than their non-vegetarian counterparts.