In the world that we live in today, there are activists waiting to defend animal rights in each way possible. Many have taken up the cause of usage of varak (pure silver foil) used to garnish Indian sweets and decorate the idols of Indian deities. However, over many years Jains have condemned it for they believe that animal fat or hide is used to churn out vark/ varakh/ varakh.
What is Varak?
It is a garnishing item, typically made out of pure silver, which is ultra thin, fragile and easily breakable. Hence, it is usually supported with a white butter paper. They are used to adorn the sweets, dates, nuts, fruits, etc. in addition to embellishing religious idols.
Why is Varak non-vegetarian?
‘Beauty without Cruelty’, a Pune-based NGO investigated about why Jains consider varak as non-vegetarian food. According to them, slaughterhouse owners select animals (goat, sheep and cattle) that have softest skin before killing them. Their skins are soaked in infested vats for 12 days to make it completely hairless and peel away the epidermal layer. After which the skin is soaked for 30 minutes in a decoction to soften them and then left to dry. After drying these are cut in to square pieces 19 cm by 15 cm and pot which they are shaped into pouches and stacked into booklets, which has a cover of thick lamb suede. Lean strips of silver are placed inside these pouches before the workers start hitting the booklet with wooden mallets for three hours making sure that the silver inside becomes super thin and fragile- a thickness of less than one micron called ‘999’. This form of varak is then sent to sweet shops. Not only many clueless animals are killed furiously but also there tends to be a possibility that some part of meat is left on the varak.
So one technically, varak is not exactly a non-vegetarian product but it is the process that it has to go through which makes it non-vegetarians. For ideology of vegans, veggies and Jains to not hurt animals for their own consumption and be satisfied with all the fruits, vegetables, herds, trees and grasses that Mother Nature has to offer.
According to statistics suggests that 12,500 animals are killed for one Kg of varak and each year 30,000 Kg of varak is consumed fro sweets only in India.
Jains and Varak
Ironically, Jains, followers of the religion that believes in ahimsa (nonviolence), are the biggest buyers of varak, as they avidly use it to decorate the statue of their deities. Also being one of the richest communities in India, it spends lavishly on extravagant sweets which are garnished by varak. However, there is a small but quickly growing section in this community which makes it a point to tell their sweet supplier to make varak less mithais (sweets in Hindi).
Many vegan and vegetarians have taken up this cause with active enthusiasm to make sure that no more animals are killed for a tiny garnish which completely unimportant for varak is tasteless and has no tang of its own.
If you are animal lover and hooked on to varak, you may want to rethink before consuming it. For non-vegetarianism is no more about avoiding food items that are part of an animal’s anatomy, but it now extends to making sure no animal is hurt in any form to satisfy your younger.