Many Hindus do not eat meat because it is considered tamasic, meaning influenced by ignorance. Some Hindu scriptures do not sanction meat, poultry, fish or eggs, although this is open to interpretation, as other scriptures refer to meals involving meat.
The Mahabharata is one of the oldest known Sanskrit texts, and it states that eating meat causes ignorance and disease. Many Hindus believe that a vegetarian diet increases purity of consciousness and promotes longevity. In addition to eating a balanced vegetarian diet, some Hindus also abstain from caffeine and alcohol. Strict Hindu practitioners also abstain from mushrooms, onions and garlic, as these foods are believed to promote ignorance and passion. Some branches of Hinduism teach that food offered to God is meant to purify the soul and body. It is common for Hindus to have altars in their homes at which they place offerings of food prior to eating.
While the common belief is that all Hindus follow a strict vegetarian diet, many faithful Hindus eat meat periodically. Hindus who eat meat or fish on occasion often abstain or fast during the Hindu holidays, also referred to as feast days. Hindus believe that fasting purifies the body and increases concentration during prayer sessions.