So, what's a Hindu "breakfast"?
It is not uncommon for Indians to get asked "So...what do you guys eat for breakfast in India?" The answer is not so straightforward because India has a diversity platter on almost everything. Only those who know about Indian culture really understand that there is no such thing as homogenous Indian food - be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. But there are some principles that make Indian cuisine unique, especially the so called 'Indian breakfast".
You are what you digest...
The traditional breakfast has a strong Hindu influence. To be precise it is based on principles mentioned in that part of the Vedic literature that deals with 'Ayuh'...life. There are some cardinal rules in Indian breakfast. Here they are: Authentic Indian breakfast is freshly cooked (cooked from scratch), almost always vegetarian, served warm, generally savory, spiced moderately and in small portions. There is a reason for this model and the credit goes to good old Ayurveda - the science of healthy life. Ayurveda is a 'Upa-Veda' meaning a branch of the Vedic knowledge that deals with medicine and lifestyle. There is no such thing as an ideal homogenous Indian breakfast as the authentic Indian food is highly individualized based on Ayurveda.
Ayurveda says that eating and digestion sustains life. Without food input body cannot get the right energy to survive. Ayurveda emphatically says, “YOU ARE WHAT YOU DIGEST AND NOT WHAT YOU EAT”. So basically Ayurveda says - what's the point of eating wonderfully nutritious food when you can't digest it properly and absorb the nourishment.
The Indian breakfast menu is not a one-size fits all and doesn't really work towards a daily calorie chart. It is based on how much energy one truly needs. So more physical labour means a king size breakfast. Dr. David Frawley, the famous Vedic scholar and Ayurveda physician confirms. "If you are going to sit in an office in front of a computer, a heavy breakfast will set you back." Sounds very logical I guess. In the good old days, a north Indian at breakfast used to eat two to three stuffed paraatha (gaining some 1000 to 1500 calories) and that too with butter. The reason: farming used to involve a lot of physical activity. But, in today’s sedentary lifestyle, Ayurveda is likely to discourage consuming that many paraathas.
The funda behind authentic Indian breakfast...
Ayurvedic lifestyle and Ayurvedic cooking are gaining tremendous popularity today. Our modern world that thrashes anything unscientific seems to slowly understand the science in Ayurveda. The funda behind cooked Indian breakfast is about following a natural order of things we see around. The Indian naashta follows the principle of 'agni' i.e. the fire element in digestion, as expounded in the Ayurveda texts. Agni is the digestive and absorption process called as Pakwagni (digestive fire) that drives all digestion and metabolism in our bodies. So if the breakfast doesn't kindle the digestive fire, it is not that good for the body. Spice is added to gently stoke the Agni.