My Indian Thali : A Classic Combination Of Tradition And Nutrition

Diet or Ahaar always plays a key role in our day to day routine and wellbeing. Thali has been used traditionally to serve an entire meal and is the big platter that is used to accommodate all the food preparations of a certain mealtime. 

In India, Thali is a popular assembly of different food items and varies from region to region. It represents India’s dining culture and is an integral part of every festival, celebration and Dincharya. 

It is a balanced and nutritious meal that offers all the key nutrients needed by an individual such as carbohydrates, fibres, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.  

The  Panchamahabhoota theory of Ayurveda says that the human body is composed of the five elements(the Pancha Mahabhootas), namely Earth (Prithvi), Water (Ap), Fire (Teja), Air (Vayu) and Ether (Akasha).

In addition to this, proper time (Kala Yoga), particular disposition of nature (Swabhava Samsiddhi), excellence of properties of food (Ahara Sausthava) and absence of inhibiting factors (Avighata) are the factors responsible for the growth of the body. So, a diet is planned with an aim to maintain a balance in these 5 elements so that a state of homoeostasis could be achieved.  

According to Ayurveda, a normal Thali contains all the 6 Rasas namely  sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.  

The Shada Rasa (6 tastes) according to Ayurveda

“Rasa” in Sanskrit means taste. In Ayurveda, it plays a very significant role  as it helps in determining the overall effect of various food items, herbs, spices and beverages on the state of body, mind and spirit. The six rasa are-

  • Sweet (Madhura)- These food items help the body with its energy levels. This includes the food items made from grains, fruits like mango, banana, litchi, grapes, dates, natural sugar, jaggery and vegetables such as potato etc
  • Salty (Amla)- These help in keeping the body warm and increasing  appetite and digestion. Sea salt, rock salt, seafood, seaweed, leafy greens like spinach are salty in nature
  • Sour (Lavana)- Sour tasting food items such as citrus fruits, tamarind, kokum, fermented foods, pickles, raw mango etc should also be included as these help in improving digestion and increases the body temperature. These should be avoided in excess as this leads to retention and hyperacidity.
  • Pungent (Katu)- Peppers, Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Chilli etc is Katu in rasa and should be consumed to enhance fat digestion, and aids in improving blood circulation.
  • Bitter (Tikta)-This includes bitter-tasting food items such as bitter gourd, neem/Indian lilac, coffee, chocolate, fenugreek etc. The bitter tendency aids in cooling the digestive tract and improving liver function.
  • Astringent (Kashaya)-This includes most vegetables, and fruits like Pineapple, Jamun, Pomegranate, Jackfruit, Raw Banana etc. These food items also aid the process of digestion.

Indian Thali: A Well Balanced Meal for your Doshas

Indian Thali is a combination of one grain, one lentil (daal) with some tadka (tempering), some vegetables, sour chutney, raita, papad, pickle, and some fats that include ghee and spices. 

The thali is a perfect combination of grains and lentils that helps in fulfilling the basic needs of the human body. It provides nourishment and improves overall health and wellness. 

The combination of these food items helps in improving the digestive fire (Agni) and balances the three Doshas of the body. Eating according to the Prakriti, Rasa, Quality, Quantity and Tridoshas can help in improving vitality and keeping diseases at bay. 

All preparations in a Thali strengthen each other's quality and produce a synergistic effect to give us high energy levels through a balanced diet. 

To Sum Up

As more and more people have a hectic lifestyle where there is less time to cook every little component of a Thali, these little accompaniments have slowly been disappearing. There is a need to pay more emphasis on balancing all the 6 Rasas in our diet as these play an important role as an appetizer and acts as taste enhancers.