For those who are hearing this for the first time, it may sound very astonishing but it is indeed a fact that the Jains do not eat potato, garlic, onion and other vegetables that are grown under the ground. When you wish to delve deep into the matter you will be definitely enlightened when you arrive at the reason as to why they avoid these underground vegetables.
People belonging to this religion strongly believe in “ahimsa”. They truly go out of their way to ensure that no living being is harmed in the process of drinking and eating too. This ahimsa stretches to plants too wherein they do not eat the vegetables grown underground because they believe that there are numerous tiny forms of life that get injured when these underground vegetables are pulled up. The bulb in the onion is also seen as a being with life as it is on its way to sprouting.
Consumption of these root vegetables definitely involves actions like uprooting the plant and thereby killing it. In addition to the underground vegetables, honey is also forbidden for the Jains as the collection of honey is tantamount to violence against the organisms… bees in this case.
People might then get a doubt that the Jains consume turmeric and groundnuts and are they not grown underground? Here is a small distinction. The groundnut has a hard cover outside and it is separated from the nut after drying. So it can be consumed. Ginger and turmeric too, as they are dried, can be consumed. Onion, garlic and potato are not dried. They either putrefy or grow and most of the root vegetables are categorized under the tamasic and rajasic foods.
There are three types of gunas. They are the sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva stands for goodness, rajas for passion and tamas for ignorance. That is the reason why the tamasic and rajasic foods are avoided by the Jains.
Jainism considers these underground vegetables as a single body that contains infinite organisms. A few of them also account for this fact that the harvesting of the plants encompasses the uprooting of the entire plant itself.
The underlying aim of the religion Jainism is to bring out the kindness in a person, help them conquer their emotions as well as desires. They believe it can be achieved when such rajasic and tamasic foods are given up.