The particular sense object that is perceived by the tongue is called
rasa. It can also be defined as that Guna which can be perceived only by
the Rasna - Indriyas. According to each and every individual the rasas
can be evaluated by classifying them into six different types.
sugar, banana, jackfruit, sugarcane, honey, jaggery, fruits
etc,. Generally food is sweet in taste, neutral in energy, and sweet
in its post-digestive effect. It nourishes and maintains humors,
dhatus, and malas (wastes).
amla, tamarind, buttermilk, curds, mango (unripe), sour fruits
and pickled vegetables etc. All tissues are nourished by sour tastes
except reproductive tissues.
All salts and sea food. Salts help in strengthening all
tissues but when used in excess it depletes the tissues.
Sunthi (dried ginger), maricha (black pepper), pippali (long
pepper), hing (asafoetida) etc. Spices and spicy vegetables do not
offer much nutrition but they stimulate digestion.
Neem, karela (bitter gourd), chandan (sandalwood), manjistha
(Indian meddar), marigold, Adulsa (Malabar nut), Vekhanda etc. Such
vegetables offer little nourishment but they are useful in cleansing
the digestive organs, and help in digestion, if taken before meals.
Kulath (horse gram), Harda, ashoka, babbul (acacia tree), teak,
jambul (black berry), etc. They help in providing minerals but do
not build tissue.
Each of the six tastes also produce effects on each of the internal
organs. They have the capacity to adversely affect certain organs in the
body, when found in excess.
The preferential use of rasa in diet
Rasas are extremely important in our diet and the diet should primarily
consist of all the six rasas. In medicine, the Veerya (potency) is
predominant whereas in diet, rasa is predominant. Consumption of a
particular rasa in large quantities in particular seasons has also been
It has been instructed that madhur rasa (madhur dravyam not only
constitutes sweet items like sugar, jaggery but also other food items
like wheat, rice, maize etc.) should be consumed first,
rasa should be consumed in the middle of the meal and tikta, katu and
kashaya rasa should be consumed at the end. There is some ideological
basis for this.
When a person is hungry, the stomach is empty.
Empty stomach causes an increase in
vata dosha. To pacify this
vata dosha, madhur rasa should be eaten first.
Apart from this, kaphavruddhi is required to
moisten the ingested food. This is accomplished by the madhur rasa.
Since dravyas, having madhur rasa are difficult
to digest, it is advisable to eat these dravyas first.
After this, it is correct to use
lavana rasa. The reason for this is not to pacify the remaining vata
but also to aid digestion by improving the agni.
Lastly, katu, tikta and kashaya rasa should be
taken as these rasa increase the agni along with reducing the kapha
which increase after ingestion of food.
This rule applies in relation to health. But in pathological conditions
this idea has to be modified accordingly. For example,
In anorexia and similar
initially ginger and salt i.e. katu and lavana rasa should be used.
Of these, katu rasa pacifies the kapha while
the lavana rasa moistens food and pacifies vata.
Similarly, the order of using these rasa can be
suitably altered taking into consideration the
prakruti (nature of
the person), individual preferences and the condition of the
At times, when rasa like lavana,
Amla and katu,
which produce burning sensation, are used first, madhur rasa has to
be used in the end in order to reduce the offending pitta.
Like for instance, in tropical countries, there is a custom to eat sweet
preparations before starting the meal. This is useful in moistening the
annavanha srotas (alimentary canal) before ingestion of food. Contrary
to this, in cold countries, there is a custom of taking soups of
and katu rasa.
There is a definite order even in arranging food items in the dish:
Staple food like rice and chapatti are kept in
the center of the dish.
On the left side sweet dishes are kept, then
sour pickle and lemon.
Lavana rasa is kept in the center (right in front of the eyes) and tikta
or katu rasa are placed on the right side of the plate.
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