Secrets of Longevity in Mandi Community-Hygiene & Health-1.3
Posted on 05-08-2023 05:25 PM

Secrets of Longevity in Mandi Community - Hygiene & Health - 1.3

Our ancestors placed great importance on hygiene and health. Personal hygiene, clean Living space, Pure Water use, Herbal healthcare system, and Respect for Nature & Environment were all integral to their way of life. They believed in maintaining purity and cleanliness, as they considered diseases to be the result of impurity or divine intervention/punishment.

Personal hygiene: The practice of purification rituals were prevalent to promote physical and mental health. The concept of "purity" in various religious beliefs influenced personal hygiene practices. For instance, considered purity essential, before entering temples/participating in religious ceremonies/prayers, as a sign of reverence and purity Therefore temples and religious centers were generally located near water bodies to facilitate bathing and purification rituals. Additionally, personal cleanliness was a sign of self-discipline, respect for others and a requirement to discharge daily family duties.

Daily routine involved regular handwashing (with wood ash being sterile), teeth cleaning using Datun (Twigs from trees such as Tiramira-braches of Xanthoxylum armatum, Dandasa-Walnut bark, Juglans regia tree, and Neem tree-Azadirachta indica), bathing (snaana in cold water), grooming (hair care-use of reetha/soapnut/shikakai/amla/heena/curd etc.), and body oil massage (Abhyanga with kadwa tel-mustard oil, Brassica juncea).

Clean Living spaces: Our community recognized the importance of sanitation and waste management. The joint family houses (called Chowki-a square or rectangle shaped double story structure usually made of stone, wood, mud and slates) were designed to manage, wastewater, rainwater and sun light/heat. Chowki used to have a common large kitchen with cleaning area (called charaha-a stone structure with pointed spout to one side), a bathing room (called Jalehri / Gusalkhanah in mandiali), channeling wastewater to open drains around the house or into kitchen garden (Swaarh in mandiali).

The Chowki slate roofs were sloped to direct rainwater into the courtyard (Aangan in mandiali-deeper flat area in the center of the Chowki) /open drains around the Chowki and then on to kitchen garden (Swaarh) or into street community drains. Dumped solid waste material from kitchen into swaarh whenever possible for composting. Traditional toilets, known as 'dry toilets' or 'pit toilets,' (Jajru-series of toilets-Paintra in mandiali) were part of the chowki. These toilets used a composting system to decompose human waste or flushing it to soak pits, contributing to eco-friendly waste management. Chowki used to have large open spaces such as verandas (Oate at ground floor/Poude at first floor in mandiali) and the courtyard that served as service /gathering space to facilitate plenty of sunlight/ventilation.

Similarly designed town layout with a grid-like system of streets (Gardhi in mandiali) crossing at chorahs (such as Chobatta), stone paved paths with drains on both sides that worked on gravity drainage system. Further large community gathering/mass functions, created Chohatta, Chanani and Paddal grounds. Additionally, had large array of temple complex courtyards across length and breadth of Mandi town.

Pure water use: Paid considerable attention to pure water management given the significance of water in daily life. Numerous Baolis (source of running water with covered roof/resting structure, Chhuru (source of open running spring water), Khudi (type of shallow depth well) and Talaone (large water tank) constructed to access clean and cool water. These water points also served as important resting/gathering places for communities. Mandi town has several natural water points (Diba baiane and shiba baiane the most prominent). In addition, there were two large tanks-Talaone (present Sunken garden) and Jainchu ra naun (type of swimming pool in ancient times). These water sources may not beat the bottled pure water marketed these days but definitely served as the mineral water for the community and are still in use.

The Chowki roof design and large sunken garden tank situated on high ground relative to the housing/drinking water sources in town is living example of rainwater harvest technology to capture and charge ground water round the year. This sustainable approach to water management helped ensure a stable pure water supply.

Herbal Healthcare Systems: Practiced a well-established healthcare system that integrated various forms of medicine such as Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Homeopathy, Naturopathy and Yoga. Ayurveda, in particular, played a central role in managing hygiene & health of the community people. They often relied on herbal remedies to address common ailments. Their knowledge of medicinal properties of local plants allowed them to utilize natural remedies for various health conditions. Medicinal herbs and plants (picked up from swaarh/kitchen) were widely used to create concoctions, pastes, and powders by our dadi/nani at home under the guidance of skilled local physicians and herbalists for minor ailments. For major health issues they relied on Vaid, Hakim, Peer/Fakir, Siddha and Priest (Gur-mediator of Devta), who served as family physicians, diagnosing illnesses and prescribing specific treatments (Purhia with Anupaan prescriptions-in mandiali). Another ailment they faced was stress and had their own ways of managing it. Rituals, ceremonies, and family support played significant roles in coping with stress and promoting emotional balance. Engaging in individual stress-reducing activities like puja, meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or spending time in nature also helped alleviate stress, promote calmness and feel relaxed.

Respect for Nature and the Environment: Lived in harmony with nature and spent a significant amount of time outdoors. They enjoyed fresh air (big trees like Peepal-for extra dose of oxygen-the ancient oxygen parlor), sunlight (source of natural Vitamin D), and natural surroundings (to exercise eyes/improve eyesight). Had family sacred groves and areas dedicated to the protection of specific flora and fauna, reflecting their reverence for Nature? They lived in harmony with the natural world, practicing sustainable resource use, respecting the balance of ecosystems.

The traditional practices were deeply rooted in their culture, passed down through generations, some of the observed specific rituals and purification ceremonies to promote hygiene & health in Mandi Community are:

Footwear free zone-especially the kitchen area-the easiest way to avoid viruses, bacteria and germs into the home

Blessed their food-is an act of gratitude and has nothing to do with religion. Used to drink some water (Achaman in mandiali) to soften your throat for easy gulping and pour the rest around the thali that restricted movement of insects.

Eating with hands - Food is energy. This practice connected us through all the five senses, and not just the sense of taste to make the entire experience of eating more wholesome, satisfying and pleasurable.

Sit down to eat your meal and drink water standing- Sitting in Vajrasana position (Chophardh in mandiali), was the posture to eat meals. Redirects the blood flow towards your extremities instead of your digestive system. Sitting on the floor grounds you, brings in a feeling of safety, gently massage your pancreas and stimulates the digestive system. No distractions while eating, our bodies cannot digest the food if mind is distracted and not applied completely.

Sunlight is medicine-Every cell of our body needs sunlight: Our ancestors practiced sitting in the sun for long hours. Colder countries where sun is next to nil manage it naturally as they are on high animal fat diets and the body absorbs even the little vitamin D they are exposed to, however animal fat is limited in our community diet, so we end up being deficient in fat as well as vitamin D-leading to bone problems, falling hair, and dull skin. 

Two meals a day, morning & evening: Clean up yourself first, our ancestors were very particular on cleaning first before meals, prayers or once home from outside/work. They ate slowly, savored their meals, and paid attention to their body's hunger and satiety cues. This mindful approach to eating helped prevent overeating and supported proper digestion. Had early dinner, since late dinner is a burden on our bodies to digest and assimilate nutrients. Our pancreas does not secrete digestive enzymes late in the night and express this fact in the form of puffiness, bloated feeling (peta phirya gola/marorh  in mandiali) and acidic boil (we all know as dakarh or ‘GAS’) because the body was unable to finish the process of digestion. Moreover, you are going to feel more satiated, which will prevent you from indulging in unhealthy foods. What’s more, eating as a family improves your mental health, self-esteem, and brings you closer to the other members. This mindful approach helped prevent overeating and supported proper digestion.

Intermittent Fasting: Practiced intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating patterns due to limited food availability/number of fasting days. They would have periods of fasting or restricted eating using diverse food sources to promote diversity & conserve less grown non-cereal grains/wild fruits, often allowing their digestive system to rest and reset.

Sufficient Sleep: They adhered to natural circadian rhythms, with activities winding down as the sun set. They had regular sleep routine and ensured sufficient rest, promoting physical and mental rejuvenation. Most adults took 7-9 hours of sleep per night, which is essential for our bodies to repair and rejuvenate, supports brain function, improves concentration and productivity, and helps regulate hormones that control appetite and weight.

Use of natural elements in house: Involved the use of natural elements like water, clay, herbs, incense and disinfectant cleaning agents in most of their daily needs. Used earthenware to cook that makes the food alkaline, retains all nutrients, and distributes heat evenly, being porous keeps the food moist too. Copper vessels to keep/drink water supplemented microelement body needs. The puja was not complete unless burning dhoop/incense that helped to turn away the insects. Use of colored soil cake (Losti in mandiali) at door entry/lime powder (makorh in mandiali)/cow dung as disinfectant mixture in open spaces, especially on special occasions. Promoted Use of household items made of natural fibers such as Pattali-leaf plate, Dunnu-leaf bowl, Purdha-type of footwear, Soop-winnowing basket of bamboo , Chhabru-deep bamboo basket, Changer-wide round bamboo basket, Toshak-type of mattress, Khind/Khindulu-type of rajai, Sela-rough mattress of thick sheep hairs, Khes- fine mattress of thick sheep hairs, Nabda-soft rajai of fine sheep hairs, Manjari-type of carpet made of maize husk, Binna-type of maize husk asana & Cotton/Woolen clothes etc.

Despite these efforts, our ancestors faced significant challenges in combating diseases due to limited medical knowledge and technology. Epidemics and diseases could still spread due to inadequate sanitation facilities. However, it is essential to recognize that hygiene & health practices followed have merit but have evolved over time influenced by factors such as urbanization, education, and exposure to modern healthcare practices leading to improved living conditions.

Dr. Pawan Vaidya, Mandipedia, 4/2023

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Reviews Add your Review / Suggestion

Anil Sharma
05-08-2023 07:02 PM
Great Article
Dinesh Behl
08-08-2023 04:39 PM
Informative article look forward to more in this series
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