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Interesting Ancient Indian Customs, Explained!

There are so may ancient customs and rituals that we follow in our daily lives. In most cases we don’t even know why it is practiced. We’ve been blindly following them because our parents and theirs told us to. Some customs have always intrigued me so I decided to find out more about them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in all cases there was either a scientific or a nutritional or a logical explanation backed with a lot of research and proof to authenticate its practice.

Here are some that I particularly found interesting. Hope you enjoy learning about them as much as I did.

Chanting the mantra ‘Om’

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The ‘Om’ mantra is considered extremely auspicious among Hindus. It is prefixed before every mantra and written before every other word during any auspicious event. Ever wondered why?

The mantra ‘Om’ comes from the Hindu tradition and is considered to have high spiritual and creative powers. ‘Om’ actually consists of three syllables – A, U, M. These three letters signify Shakti’s main characteristics – creation, preservation and liberation.

‘Aum’ is the sound of the universe. So when chanted, it symbolizes our connection with the universe. The ‘Aum’ sound when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature.

These vibrations have a physical effect on the body by slowing down the nervous system and having a calming effect on the mind. A calm and relaxed mind leads to decrease in blood pressure and improvement in heart performance.

What is the significance of chanting the Hanuman Chalisa?

It is believed that when Lord Hanuman was young, he flew towards the sun with the intent of eating it thinking it to be a ripe and luscious fruit. While quoting this incident in the Hanuman Chalisa, Tulsidas has detailed the distance between the earth and sun using the following shloka:

“Yug Sahastra Yojan Par Bhanu, Leeyo Taahi Madhur Phal Janu!”

This means that the sun is at the distance of “Yug Shastra Yojan”.

1 Yuga is 12000 years

1 Sahastra is 1000 years

1 Yojan is 8 miles

Yuga x Shastra x Bhanu = par Bhanu

12000 X 1000 X 8 = 96000000 miles

1 mile is 1.6 km

So, 96000000 X 1.6 = 1536000000 km

In the 17th century the famous astronomer Christiaan Huygens estimated the distance between the sun and the earth to be 152,093,481km during the aphelion (the period when earth is farthest from the sun). Isn’t that interesting?

Blowing the conch – Shankh Dhvani

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It is common in India to blow the conch (shankha) before and during traditional ceremonies. As soon as the Shank is blown the frequencies of divine energy (Shakti) are emitted into atmosphere due to the sound generated.

These energy frequencies are seen in red colour. Along with these energy frequencies yellow circles of chaitanya are also projected in the atmosphere. You can also see the pink particles of Bliss being emitted in the atmosphere. This increases the proportion of shakti (energy), chaitan- ya and anand in the environment and that is why the negative energies get distressed and run away.

It is also believed that the vibrations that are emanated when the conch is blown, destroys diseases causing germs in the atmosphere. This have been proven and validated by renowned scientist J.C. Bose.

Why does every household have a Tulsi plant?

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Tulsi is the sacred plant dearer to the Lord Vishnu. Tulsi symbolises purity. It is considered as the holy plant in the Indian subcontinent. Tulsi got its name from Tulasi Devi, who was one of Lord Krishna’s eternal consorts. In India people grow Tulsi as the religious plant and worship it. It’s leaves are used in temples for worshiping and also on the several occasions such as marriage. A Hindu house is considered incomplete without the Tulsi plant in the courtyard. Tulsi is believed to promote longevity and life long happiness.

Tulsi has great medicinal value.  The oil extracted from the Karpoora Tulsi is mostly used in the herbal toiletry. It’s oil is also used against the insects and bacteria. The Rama Tulsi is the effective remedy for the Severe acute Respiratory Syndrome. Juice of its leaves gives relief in cold, fever, bronchitis and cough. Tulsi oil is also used as the ear drop. Tulsi helps in curing malaria. It is very effective against indigestion, headache, hysteria, insomnia and cholera. The fresh leaves of Tulsi are taken by the million of people everyday. For over the centuries Tulsi (the queen of herbs) has been known for its remarkable healing properties.

Why do Hindu women wear Kumkum or Bindi?

Bindi is worn by women in India and it represents the marital status – single, married, widow, etc. It is worn between the eyebrows where the pineal gland lies. This is an important nerve centre and applying sandalwood or ash keeps the nerves cool and so keeps you cool and conserves energy.

In the past the Bindi was made from the yellow and red sandalwood, red and yellow turmeric, saffron, various flowers, ash, zinc oxide. All these are believed to possess cooling properties in nature.

The Bindi also represents the third eye of spiritual sight, which sees things the physical eyes cannot see. Hindus seek to awaken their inner sight through yoga. The forehead dot is a reminder to use and cultivate this spiritual vision to perceive and better understand life’s inner workings-to see things not just physically, but with the “mind’s eye” as well.

Why do Indians eat with their hands?

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Hindu customs requires one to eat on a leaf plate. The is the most eco-friendly way as it does not require any chemical soap to clean and it can be discarded without harming the environment.

Each finger aids in the transformation of food, before it passes on to internal digestion. The practice of eating with the hands originated within Ayurvedic teachings. The Vedic people believed that our bodies are in sync with the elements of nature and our hands hold a certain power. Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements:

  • Through the thumb comes space
  • Through the forefinger comes air
  • Through the mid-finger comes fire
  • Through the ring finger comes water
  • Through the pinky finger comes earth

When you eat with your hands, you are supposed to do so by joining all fingers together. This is believed to improve our consciousness of the taste of the food we eat. Not only are you feeding your body but also your mind and spirit. When you touch your food with your hands, you’re creating a physical and spiritual connection with it. You’re also much more present in the moment. When food is touched with the hands, there’s automatically more careful attention placed on it – what the temperature is, how much you can carry, how the hand must be held in order to keep the food in it.

Gathering the fingertips as they touch the food stimulates the five elements and invites Agni to bring forth the digestive juices. As well as improving digestion the person becomes more conscious of the tastes, textures and smells of the foods they are eating, which all adds to the pleasure of eating. It helps connect the body, mind and soul.

Ear piercing at an early age

Piercing of baby’s ears is actually part of acupuncture treatment. The point where the ear is pierced helps in curing asthma.

Susruta, the great Indian surgeon, advocated ear-piercing by saying that it prevents diseases like hernia and hydrocele. It is also believed that ear-piercing regulates the menstrual cycle in girls and prevents hysteria and other diseases. The flow of current in the human body is maintained by wearing earrings.

Charan-sparsh – Touching feet of elders

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There is a scientific basis to “charan sparsh”. Touching your elder’s feet keeps your backbone in good shape.  Since the human body is releasing vibrations and also receiving them from people who come close, touching the feet encourages flow of energy. And when elders touch the head of the person in blessing, energy is again exchanged between them. This exchange of energy gives one vigour, self-confidence and contentment. One experiences an inner glow. The blessings received after “charan sparsh” are like invisible armour. They are believed to motivate and give strength.

Importance of the Banyan or Peepal Tree

The Brahma Purana and the Padma Purana, relate how once, when the demons defeated the gods, Vishnu hid in the peepal. Therefore spontaneous worship to Vishnu can be offered to a peepal without needing his image or temple. The Skanda Purana also considers the peepal a symbol of Vishnu. He is believed to have been born under this tree.

In the Upanishads, the fruit of the peepal is used as an example to explain the difference between the body and the soul: the body is like the fruit which, being outside, feels and enjoys things, while the soul is like the seed, which is inside and therefore witnesses things.

According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, the peepal should be regarded as one. As long as the tree lives, the family name will continue.

People are advised to worship them in the morning. Inhaling the air near these trees is good for health.

The peepal is used extensively in Ayurveda. Its bark yields the tannin used in treating leather. Its leaves, when heated in ghee, are applied to cure wounds.

Decorating the main door with Toran

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Decorating the main door of the houses, temples or any other place, where some ritual is performed, with a Toran or a string of mango leaves is part of the Indian culture. Normally, this kind of decoration is done during festivals or celebrations. Though there is a scientific reason behind this festoon decoration, this has become a part of the tradition and majority does not even bother to know the actual reason behind doing so.

Indians use a Toran(festoon) made of fresh and green mango leaves. However, leaves of other species like Neem are also used for this purpose. Most of us know that the green leaves absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This helps in keeping the surrounding atmosphere clean and hygienic. Keeping, the aesthetics in view, mango leaves are preferred, since their shape adds to the ambience.

However, all other advantages of having a Toranfestoon revolve around this basic reason. According to a theory, the air filled with carbon dioxide, which is lighter than the pure air, gets purified immediately while passing through the Toran. In addition, insects get attracted to the green leaves. This stops the insects from entering the house.

However, it is said, in the Indian villages, dry mango leaves are used for treating certain ailments. The ash of dry mango leaves is used in the first aid for cuts and fresh wounds. This ash is applied directly on the wound or after mixing it with coconut oil. Dry mango leaves’ ash has the capacity to check the bleeding. The dry leaves in the Toran come handy for providing first aid in such cases.

Sprinkling Turmeric water in the house

It is known that turmeric has antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. Of course, its helps more if its being consumed, but sprinkling it around the house helps prevent from bacteria to spread around. Its been widely used in Indian houses.

Applying cow-dung on house walls

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Cow is considered very sacred in Hinduism and it is called Gow Maata (Cow, The mother). Cow dung and cow urine is considered holy in India.

Applying cow dung is part of cleaning process in Indian villages. In festivals also, after cleaning their houses, rural people implant cow-dung paste on walls and floors for making their houses pure.

Recent researches have proven that cow dung has the power to kill bacteria which are harmful for humans. It is considered good for health. It is very rich in minerals and a great factor of anti-bacterial. It prevents people from various diseases and health issues. It helps to keep small insect like mosquitoes, scorpions, centipedes, etc at bay. Floor coated with cow dung remains warm in winters and cold in summers.

What is Moolasthanam?

Hindu temples are built scientifically. The place where the idol is placed in a temple is called ‘Moolasthanam’. This is where the earth’s magnetic waves are found to be maximum, thus benefiting the worshiper.

Sit-ups as punishment

The age old punishment of doing sit-ups while holding the ears actually makes the mind sharper and is helpful for those with autism, asperger’s syndrome, learning difficulties and behavioural problems.

The exercise allows the body’s energy centers to absorb, digest and distribute prana to the different parts of the body. It partly cleans and energizes the energy centers needed for the brain to function efficiently. The squatting moves the trapped energy in the basic and sex chakras through the other major energy chakras and finally up in to the crown chakra that controls the pineal gland and overall brain health. As the energy move up the heart energy chakra the practitioner is filled with love, happiness and inner peace. When the energy further moves up into the throat and the ajna chakra, the practitioner’s intelligence and creativity are enhanced. Other benefits from the practice are greater psychological stability and ability to regulate sex drive.

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