22 June 2008

Varakh (Edible Silver Foil)

This posting comes about as a result of an email I received from a regular reader of Arunachala Grace, Yoges from Malaysia. As a vegetarian and lover of good Indian sweets, she was concerned about news she had read about Varakh, edible silver foil sweets which are much appreciated in India and around the World. I read Yoges' information with interest and also did some research on the Web, and found that information about non-vegetarian Varakh is readily available on diverse sites such as 'Jain websites' and 'Beauty without Cruelty'.

As mentioned previously sweets in this country are a very important part of everyday life. Sweet shops such as the one below located on Car Street near the front of Arunachaleswarar Temple, do excellent business in trying to satisfy the community's sweet tooth and the demands of functions, festivals, holidays and birthdays. Generally sweets are selected by the customer and thereupon packed in half kilo or kilo boxes.

The Rolls Royce of sweets is Varakh, a sweet covered with edible gold or silver foil. Naturally one would assume that in Indian sweet shops, one would automatically be always purchasing vegetarian sweets, but according to the below article, and corresponding articles of reputable vegetarian orientated organisations readily available on the Web, this does not seem to be the case. So, to understand exactly what you are purchasing when you buy Varakh sweets throughout India vegetarians should read the following narrative.


“Can Vegetarians have sweets topped with Varakh (Edible Silver Foil)??"

"A couple of years ago, Indian Airlines, the domestic air-carrier of India issued instructions to its suppliers to supply sweets without silverfoil called VARAKH. Do you know why??? Silver is widely used for various purposes in the market today. Silver is considered precious and its utility is enormous. The reason behind this is that silver reflects back 95% of the light energy that falls on it.

The silver foils used for edible purposes is called VARAKH So what's so special about VARAKH? This is what I would like to bring to your notice. If you keenly observe this VARAKH under a microscope don't be perturbed if you happen to see traces of blood, stools and saliva of a cattle or ox.

VARAKH is a silver foil and we have no second questions on this, but to prepare this VARAKH important parts of the Cattle/Ox is made use of. Intestines of Cattle/Ox are obtained from the slaughterhouse. This is obtained after butchering to death the cattle/ox for beef and the part, which cannot be consumed: the intestines are pulled out of the animal and handed over to the manufacturers of VARAKH. Before handing over the intestines, they are washed in the slaughterhouse to get rid of the blood and other remains on these intestines in the limited facility that is present in the slaughterhouse. We are not sure how neatly this job is carried out. Intestines are cut into small pieces and then are bound together as pages in a notebook.

A silver block is placed in the middle of these bound intestines, and the hole thing is placed in a leather bag and sealed. Experts, who know how to make VARAKH, pound the bag with wooden sticks, till the entire bag flattens out. The silver block would by this time be turned into silver foil.

This Silver foil would now be separated from the intestine pack and will be placed on paper. This is VARAKH, which reaches the market ready for use. Even staunch vegetarians, who shy away from egg, unknowingly consume this as a part of sweet, pan and arecanut. Some unknowingly consume this because of the additional taste that VARAKH provides. Now the question is "Why the intestines of the cattle/ox? Why not something else?" The reason behind using the intestines of the cattle/ox for preparing the VARAKH is because of the elasticity of the intestines. They do not get cut even after a severe pounding.

This aspect is brought out in the magazine "Beauty without cruelty" and the Television show of Maneka Gandhi, "Heads and Tails". In India, an estimate indicates that 275,000 kilos of "VARAKH" is consumed. Can you estimate how many cattle/ox are sacrificed for just a bit of taste? If you are as surprised as I am, after reading this article please inform as many as possible so as to ensure that we unknowingly don't consume beef.”

[Courtesy: Taranga Magazine
Authors: Nafiza Joseph and Shailaja N Raj]


For vegetarian lovers of Varakh, my online research also found this fascinating website Kanishka Varakh - 'Serving vegetarian needs in a humanitarian manner'.

The below photographs are from their website and their products are 100% vegetarian Varakh.

They say: "Kanishka Varakh is produced using an innovative procedure that utilizes 100% purely VEGETARIAN means to produce the most pure silver and gold foil or Varakh as opposed to the ordinary varakh otherwise available."

-- and --

THIS IS THE ONLY PROCESS IN THE WORLD that is capable of producing truly vegetarian Varakh untouched even by human hands. The procedure excludes every process of animal component contamination as well as human contamination by touching.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for nice information, but Kanishaka is not only one producer of 100% VEG silver foil. There are some more like Rajesh Bordia at Ratlam MP (09425927349), DS group, Delhi etc.

Anonymous said...

I live in NYC..if I want to buy Varakh, where will I get it?

Meenakshi Ammal said...

I would expect that there are specialist Indian sweet and confectionery shops in New York that sell Varakh.

But if you read the article nearly 100% Varakh is non-vegetarian. So you have to be careful to check out the way the Varakh is made.

The website on this posting:

manufactures and sells 100% vegetarian Varakh, so you might like to get in touch with them about an airmail order.

Anonymous said...