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Krishna showing his Vishwa Roopa to Arjun in Kurukshetra.
“If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendour of the Mighty One…..I am become Death, the Shatterer of Worlds.”
This line translated from the Bhagvad Gita was the inspiration for J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is considered as the “father of the ATOMIC BOMB.” J. Robert Oppenheimer deduced from Bhagvad Gita that one atom has the energy equaling to about crore suns and that led him to think about the theory of “atom bomb.” This is called the FISSION THEORY. Fission is a nuclear reaction in which an atomic nucleus splits into fragments, usually two fragments of comparable mass, with the evolution of approximately 100 million to several hundred million volts of energy. This energy is expelled explosively and violently in the atomic bomb.
Now, how did an epic literature written many millenniums ago carry the essence of atom bomb. In the same way, how could Valmiki think about Puspak Viman (a vehicle which could fly in air) while writing Ramayana in 4th century BC.
Bhagvad Gita is considered to be the greatest epic literature filled with insights and philosophies that reach beyond the imagination of religion and believed to contain codes to various mysteries. Bhagvad Gita and Ramayana are not only revered by Hindus, but many physicists and scientists also refer to these texts for inspiration.
In Mahabharata, Sanjaya with his special powers could give LIVE TELECAST of what was happening in the kurukesthra to a blind Dhritarashtra sitting in his palace. All these epics were written several millenniums ago, but they are the inspiration behind many scientific discoveries and inventions.
While reading the Bible, I realize that so many things written in the Bible have so much deeper meaning and scientific theory behind them.
There is logic and scientific reasoning behind most of the religious practices. Our ancestors were brilliant enough to link superstition and reasoning together so that people would follow them strictly. But, as we passed through centuries, we formulated theories and practices leaving science behind and these practices were mere “superstitions” without any logic backing. Gradually, over the centuries, we detached the scientific reality behind formulating superstitions and pushed people into believing certain theories blindly. If we delve into some age-old practices, we find that they have much more deeper meaning.
I have singled out a few of the superstitions and myths our ancestors formulated that have immense scientific backing and logic:
1. HALDI AS AN ANTISEPTIC: Since time immemorial, we have been using turmeric as an antibiotic, anti-bacterial, and gerimicidal agent. It is used in all rituals, for cooking purposes, and for beauty treatments. Indians have been using turmeric on all auspicious occasions and any hindu ritual is incomplete without turmeric. Women in ancient India would cover their body in turmeric paste frequently before bathing. This would in fact work the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal way. Haldi was recommended by our ancestors to be compulsorily included in all rituals and frequently in the house in cooking because of its anti-bacterial and germicidal properties. Most importantly, turmeric is an anti-carcinogenic agent, which means it is effective in suppressing cancer cells. That’s why, our ancestors stressed upon multiple uses of turmeric, from cooking, rituals, to beauty treatments.
2. DURING MENSTRUATION, WOMEN WERE NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANY WORK OR COOK ANY FOOD ITEMS: This seems like a regressive thought that our ancestors suffered from, but our ancestors kept in mind the discomfort and trouble that a woman goes through while menstruating, suffering from cramps and exhaustion. To keep women away from all work and to give her the much-needed rest, this theory of banning a menstruating woman in those days and not allowing her to cook (because cooking was a major activity and the woman had to cook for many members) came into being. Though over the ages, it did become a notoriously backward practice.
3. DO NOT TAKE BATH IMMEDIATELY AFTER EATING: There’s an old Malayalam saying that emphasizes that if you see someone taking bath immediately after having had a meal, you should kick that person. Though this is an old saying, it is based on scientific backing that if a person is immediately taking bath after a meal, the digestion process gets slowed down by a great deal as cold water activates certain chemicals in the body that rushes the blood to the skin to keep it warm and the digestion process takes a backseat. So, it was always advised by our ancestors to take food after having a bath.
4. START ALWAYS WITH SPICY FOOD AND END YOUR MEAL WITH SWEETS: Our ancestors have stressed on the fact that our meals should be started off with something spicy and sweet dishes should be taken towards the end. Also, water should not be taken in between the meal. The significance of this eating practice is that while spicy things activate the digestive juices and acids and ensure that the digestion process goes on smoothly and efficiently, sweets or carbohydrates pulls down the digestive process. Hence, sweets were always recommended to be taken as a last item.
5. VAASTU SHASTRA: Vaastu shastra is an ancient architectural science that was developed by our ancestors with much thought. Today’s vaastu shaastra that is shown on TV shows is a much convoluted diversion from the original one that was formed centuries ago. Diggings for the oldest civilizations like Harappa and Mohenjadaro show that ancient cities had elaborate town planning with proper drainage system outlets. Back at my ancestral home in Kerala, there are multiple doors from the outside opening into the home. When I had asked the significance of building so many doors from the outside to the home, my grandmother had remarked that, in old days, people used to build houses like these to keep the fresh air rotating and to allow sunlight to come in so that the house would be well ventilated and the people living in the house would be healthy. Placement of water bodies nearby, and placement of kitchen and bathroom apart were done for obvious reasons. Such measures had scientific approach and there was nothing superstitious about them.
6. CONSUMPTION OF JAGGERY IN DIET AND IN SWEETS: I have heard that many mills and factories in India used to distribute jaggery to their workers on a daily basis. This may sound as a sweet gesture to many, but jaggery is an excellent remedy for respiratory diseases. The benefits of jaggery includes its ability to cleanse the body and act as a digestive agent. Jaggery also is full of minerals. Jaggery effectively cleans respiratory tracts, lungs, food pipe, stomach, and intestines. It pulls out dust and unwanted particles from the body. It also helps in giving relief from constipation.
In India, it is recommended to take a small amount of jaggery after having had a heavy meal. Jaggery facilitates the digestion process. Jaggery activates digestive enzymes and speeds up digestion. Unlike sugar, jaggery is very rich in minerals, especially iron with traces of other minerals. While most of the iron in it comes through processing in iron vessels, the other minerals come right from the sugar cane juice, since this juice does not undergo refining or bleaching of any kind. So, jaggery is a very good source of minerals for the body.
7. MEDITATION UNDER TREES, ESPECIALLY PEEPAL TREES: Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment after meditating under a peepal tree. Many rishis and sadhus wrote great epics of literature sitting under trees. Now, what is with trees and enlightenment. To explain it in detail, trees get their energy and food from a process called as photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use the energy from sunlight to produce sugar, which cellular respiration converts into ATP, the “fuel” used by all living things. The conversion of unusable sunlight energy into usable chemical energy is associated with the actions of the green pigment chlorophyll. Most of the time, the photosynthetic process uses water and releases the oxygen that we absolutely must have to stay alive.
The photosynthesis process involves this reaction:
6H2O + 6CO2 ———-> C6H12O6 + 6O2
Hence, six molecules of water plus six molecules of carbon dioxide produce one molecule of sugar plus six molecules of oxygen
Hence, sitting under a tree meant fresh oxygen for brain cells, and fresh oxygen activated brain cells and people tended to think wisely and intelligently. As for Peepal tree, it is believed that Peepal trees produce oxygen even in night time, whereas other plants cannot work without sunlight. Some plants such as Peepal tree can uptake CO2 during the night as well because of their ability to perform a type of photosynthesis called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM).
Err…actually, thinking about it, Sir Issac Newton thought about gravity while he was sitting under an apple tree.
Sir Issac Newton under the apple tree.
8. APPLYING BINDI OR TILAK ON FOREHEAD: Applying tilak or kumkum on the forehead has been an age-old practice. Using bindi on the forehead has more spiritual importance than just being of ornamental significance. Decades ago, both men and women applied bindi on their forehead. The space between eyebrows on the forehead is considered to be an important nerve point and spiritually, it is known as the “seat of concealed wisdom.” When bindi was applied on the forehead with sandalwood paste, it would provide a cooling effect to the nerve point and kumkum was known to ignite the seat of wisdom between the eyebrows. Hence, applying bindi on forehead has gained so much importance.
9. APPLYING HENNA BEFORE AUSPICIOUS OCCASIONS: Henna is typically applied during special occasions like weddings and during festivals. Henna is applied to hair, hands, and feet and believed to bring good luck. Our ancestors have advised applying heena to hands, to the bottom of the feet, and hair, etc, especially at the onset of rainy season. This was because during rainy season, the susceptibility to get infected by germs was manifold and henna’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties were believed to fight those germs. Though henna is seen as an adornment, scientifically, henna extracts show antibacterial, antifungal, and ultraviolet light screening activity. Henna is anti-fungal and can be effective against psoriasis. Henna is most commonly used as a natural hair and skin dye, but henna also contains a compound called lawsone, which is the what gives heena its antibacterial and antifungal capabilities. Henna is effective against prevention of dandruff too.
10. NOT EATING DURING ECLIPSE AND STAYING INDOORS: Solar eclipses and lunar eclipses have been dreaded natural phenomenons and continue to scare people even now. But, long before the scientific revelations threw light about the harmful radiations coming out of the solar eclipse and the negative effect it could have on eyes and health, our ancestors gave a religious touch to eclipses and prohibited people from venturing out during eclipses and eating anything during the phenomenon knowing the harmful effects the radiations could cause.
11. CLOUD SEEDING IN THE FORM OF YAGNAS AND HOMAMS DONE TO PURIFY HOMES: Like in today’s times, even centuries ago, there were problems of drought and less rainfall. At those times, yagnas were conducted where huge fires were lit up, which were believed to please God so that earth could receive rain. But, yagnas were a form of “cloud seeding” formulated by our ancestors. I do not know the exact process, but yagnas were usually done on high planes such as mountains, so that the smoke and vapors could go high up in the atmosphere and cause some type of cloud seeding, which would in turn cause rainfall.
12. TULSI AS A SACRED PLANT: Tulsi is considered to be the most sacred plant. It has medicinal properties and is antibacterial and germicidal. To preserve this precious plant, our ancestors attached spiritual and religious significance with it. A few years ago, you would rarely find any house without a tulsi plant. Tulsi leaves in water is given as prashad in temples. It is because of its medicinal properties that tulsi was considered as a sacred plant and not because of superstition.
After writing this write-up, I have realized that India is truly a rich country, not only in terms of culture, tradition, and heritage, but in terms of knowledge and science too, after all the great astronomer and mathematician Aryabhatta, who discovered the importance of shunya or zero was an Indian.
Image Source:All Images Taken From Google Images.