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October 2014

Ayurveda –The Ancient Medicine System that Heals the Body & Soul

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The Origin

India is renowned in the world for its methods of holistic and spiritual healing. In addition to being the home of many religious and spiritual beliefs, it is also home to one of the most ancient forms of medicinal healing system known as the ‘Ayurveda’. The word ‘veda’ means knowledge and the art of healing and living healthily has been recorded in the four vedas namely: Rig veda , Sama veda , Yajur veda and Atharva veda. Ayurveda attained a state of reverence and is classified as one of the Upa-Vedas – a subsection – attached to the Atharva Veda. The Atharva Veda contains not only the magic spells and the occult sciences but also the Ayurveda that deals with the diseases, injuries, fertility, sanity and health.

Ayurveda has influenced many of the older traditional methods of healing including Tibetan, Chinese and Greek medicine. Hence, Ayurveda is considered by many as the ‘mother of healing.’ The knowledge of Ayurveda has survived through time through the three texts known as Charaka, Sushruta and Vaghbata.

Charaka (1st century A.D.) wrote Charaka Samhita (samhita- meaning collection of verses written in Sanskrit). Sushruta (4th century A.D.) wrote his Samhita i.e Sushruta Samhita. Vaghbata (5th century A.D.) compiled the third set of major texts called Ashtanga Hridaya and Ashtanga Sangraha. Charaka’s School of Physicians and Sushruta’s School of Surgeons became the basis of Ayurveda and helped organize and systematically classify into branches of medicine and surgery.

The Science of Ayurveda

Sixteen major supplements (Nighantus) were written in the ensuing years – Dhanvantari Bahavaprakasha, Raja and Shaligrama to name a few – that helped refine the practice of Ayurveda. New drugs were added and ineffective ones were discarded. Expansion of application, identification of new illnesses and finding substitute treatments seemed to have been an evolving process. Close to 2000 plants that were used in healing diseases and abating symptoms were identified in these supplements.

Dridhabala in the 4th century revised the Charaka Samhita. The texts of Sushruta Samhita were revised and supplemented by Nagarjuna in the 6th century.

Over time, there developed eight branches/divisions of Ayurveda:

1. Kaya-chikitsa (Internal Medicine)

2. Shalakya Tantra (surgery and treatment of head and neck, Ophthalmology and ear,

nose, throat)

3. Shalya Tantra (Surgery)

4. Agada Tantra (Toxicology)

5. Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry)

6. Kaumara bhritya (Pediatrics)

7. Rasayana (science of rejuvenation or anti-ageing)

8. Vajikarana (the science of fertility and aphrodisiac)

Many modern medications were derived from plants alluded to in Ayurveda texts. The oft-cited example is that of Rauwolfia serpentina that was used to treat headache, anxiety and snake bite. Its derivative is used in treating blood pressure today.

Historical Influence

Ayurveda flourished during the rule of the Emperor Akbar ruled India during the mid-1500s. Unfortunately, the feuding between the Portuguese and Indians in the 1600s resulted in outlawing of Hindu physicians. In addition, by 1833, the British East India Company had banned all Ayurvedic medical institutions and opened the first Western medical university in Calcutta. During this time, as was the case with Chinese medicine in China, Ayurvedic medicine was kept alive only in the rural areas where people either could not afford Western medicine, or were geographically dispersed from the larger urban areas where it was available.

Ayurveda and Kerala

Folk healers of the sub-continent, healing practices in the Vedas, and Buddhism, Jainism and other ascetic and philosophical traditions have all contributed to the evolution of classical Ayurveda. The three canonical texts of classical Ayurveda, Caraka Samhita, Susrutha Samhita and Ashtangahrdayam, reveal such a multi-cultural origin. Over the centuries Ayurveda has remained open to new healing methods brought by immigrants, particularly from the Persian and Arab schools.

Kerala, with its abundant resource of medicinal plants, has a long history of folk medical traditions practiced by healers from all levels of society. The arrival of the canonical Ashtangahrdayam ( composed between the 6th and 7th century CE by Vagbhata, a Buddhist from Sind) in Kerala, stimulated the development of a new dynamic medical culture. Certain upper-caste Sanskrit-literate healers of Kerala adopted this work as their source book while continuing to draw on regional folk and physical medical practices from diverse sources such as poison therapy and Kalaripayath, the martial arts of Kerala.

A unique Ashtavaidya – Ayurvedic tradition of Kerala evolved as a result of this centuries-old interaction between text-based Ayurveda practices and regional folk medical practices utilizing Kerala’s rich medicinal flora. Ashtavaidyas, repositories of the unique confluence of these health traditions, have thus contributed to Kerala’s rise as a prominent center for Ayurveda practice today.

Among the healers of Kerala, the Ashtavaidyas represent the Brahmin scholar physicians who were masters of the eight branches (Ashtanga) of Ayurveda mentioned in classical texts. Ashtangahrdayam, the primary text of the Ashtavaidyas [Table 1], deals with these eight branches of therapy.

According to tradition, initially eighteen upper caste families of Kerala were designated as Ashtavaidyas. Each Ashtavaidya family developed its own therapeutic specialties and its specific methods of transmission. Although many of the specialties were guarded as family secrets, students outside the family were accepted as disciples. This helped disseminate their knowledge beyond the family circle and create new lineages of transmission. The Ashtavaidyas have enriched Ayurvedic literature through their Sanskrit commentaries on the Ashtangahrdayam such as Hrdayabodhika and Vakyapradipika, and compendiums in Malayalam such as Alattur Manipravalam, Cikitsamanjari, Sahasrayogam and  Sindhuramanjari. Ashtavaidyan Vayaskara N.S.Moos made one of the most significant contributions to 20th century Ayurvedic literature by publishing ancient texts and his own original works.

More recently, Vaidyamadham Namboodiri has written books and over a hundred newspaper articles to inform the public about Ayurveda. Today, only a handful of Ashtavaidya physicians trained in their ancestral system of study by apprenticeship remain in practice and the tradition itself is at a crucial turning point.

Kerala’s ideal climate and unparalleled herbal wealth makes it perfect for the Ayurvedic Treatment. Monsoon is determined to be the best season for Ayurvedic rejuvenating therapies. During Monsoon, the atmosphere is cool and dust free. Body is said to absorb the herbal oils and medications better during this season since body pores open up at this time.

Note: The ayurvedic centers in Kerala as recognized by the Kerala Tourism

https://www.keralatourism.org/ayurvedacentres/

 

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Diwali – The Festival of Lights.

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India is land of festivals and rich culture with the calendar overridden with various religious and regional festivals throughout the year. Diwali or Deepavali, the festival of lights and celebration is an important festival all over India. Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. It is a festival celebrated typically over a five day period with the main night of festivities or the Diwali night being the one with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Luna-solar month of Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

 

The night of Diwali is celebrated by different religions in different ways. For example, the Jains celebrate this festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira while the Sikhs celebrate the Bandi Chor Divas and so on.

 

The onset of Diwali is marked by the cleaning up and renovations of the homes followed by its decoration with bright colorful lights. People dress up in their best outfits, light up diyas(lamps) both inside and outside their homes and participate in family pujas offering prayers to goddess Lakshmi- the goddess of wealth and prosperity. During this festival, the air is filled with the noise of the firecrackers and the skies lit with a multitude of colors. The families get together over sumptuous meals with a lot of sweets and exchange gifts and niceties amongst each other and close friends.

 

Diwali also marks beginning of a shopping frenzy in the nations celebrating it with goods being sold at some of the best discounted rates. The five festive days and rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.

 

Stories and Legends

Return of Shri Ram To Ayodhyaa

According to this famous myth, the king of Lanka, Ravana, kidnapped the righteous prince Ram’s wife – Sita from the jungle, where they were exiled to by King Dashratha, father of Lord Ram. The story speaks of Ram’s great heroism in defeating Ravana and rescuing Sita from his custody. The victorious arrival of Lord Ram with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, back into the city of Ayodhya after their exile was celebrated by people of Ayodhya  with the decoration of their homes as well as the city of Ayodhya by lighting tiny diyas or lamps everywhere, symbolizing the triumph of the good over evil and thus paving way for the famous festival of lights.

 

Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi

In the Indian myths, the auspicious new moon day known as the ‘Amavasyaa’ of the Hindi month of Kartik is said to mark the incarnation of the Goddess of wealth and prosperity – Lakshmi. She is said to have appeared during the churning of the ocean, which is known as ‘Samudra Manthan’, by the demons on one side and ‘Devataas’ (Gods) on the other side. Thus the day being celebrated as Diwali with the homes adorned to welcome good luck and wealth by welcoming  goddess Lakshmi into the humble abodes.

 

Lord Krishna Destroyed Demon Narakasur

One famous story behind the celebrations of Diwali is about the demon king Narakasur, who was ruler of Pragjyotishpur, a province to the South of Nepal. On acquiring victory over Lord Indra during a war, Narakasur snatched away the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi, who was not only the ruler of Suraloka, but also a relative of Lord Krishna’s wife – Satyabhama. Narakasur also imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of Gods and saints in his harem. With the support of Lord Krishna, Satyabhama defeated Narakasur, released all the women from his harem and restored the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi.

 

The Return of The Pandavas

The great Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’ has another interesting story related to the ‘Kartik Amavasyaa’. According to the story, ‘the Pandavas’, the five brothers Yudhishthhira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahdeva, were sentenced to thirteen years exile as a result of their defeat against ‘the Kauravas’ – Duryodhana and his ninety nine brothers, at the game of dice. Therefore, the Pandavas spent thirteen years in the jungles and returned to their kingdom on the day of ‘Kartik Amavasyaa’. On their return, the people of their kingdom welcomed the Pandavas by celebrating the event by lighting the earthen lamps all over in their city.

 

Coronation of King Vikramaditya

Another legend or story about Diwali celebrations relates to one of the greatest Hindu King – Vikramaditya. It was the day when he was coroneted and the people celebrated this event by lighting tiny earthen ‘diyas’.

 

History

Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival post the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik. The festival is mentioned in Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana, and other Sanskrit Hindu scriptures; the diyas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.

 

Significance of the Festival in Different Regions

The five day festival of Diwali begins on the day Lakshmi was born from the churning of cosmic ocean of milk during the tug of war between the forces of good and forces of evil; the night of Diwali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and then married him. Some Hindus offer pujas to additional or alternate deities such as Kali, Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera. Other Hindus believe that Diwali is the day Vishnu came back to Lakshmi and their abode in the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her good mood, and therefore are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being during the year ahead.

In India’s eastern region, such as West Bengal, Lakshmi is not worshipped, only deity Kali is worshipped and the festival is called Kali Puja. In India’s Braj and north central regions, deity Krishna is recognized. People mark Mount Govardhan, and celebrate legends about Krishna. In other regions, the feast of Annakoot is celebrated, with 56 or 108 different cuisines prepared, offered to Krishna, then shared and celebrated by the local community.

In West, South and certain Northern parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year. Along with Goddess Lakshmi, offerings are made to Ganesha who symbolizes ethical beginnings and fearless remover of obstacles; Saraswati who symbolizes music, literature and learning; and Kubera who symbolizes book keeping, treasury and wealth management

The Five Days Of Diwali

Dhanteras

Dhanteras kick starts the five day festival. During this day,houses and business premises are cleaned, renovated and decorated. Women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli – creative floral designs both inside and in the walkways of their homes or offices. Boys and men get busy with external lighting arrangements and completing all renovation work in progress. This day marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and the birthday of Dhanvantari – the Goddess of Health and Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.

 

Naraka Chaturdasi

Narak Chaturdasi is the second day of festivities, and is also called Choti Diwali. Typically, house decoration and colourful floor patterns called rangoli are made on or before Narak Chaturdasi. Special bathing rituals such as fragrant oil bath are held in some regions, followed by minor pujas. Women decorate their hands with henna designs. Families are also busy preparing homemade sweets for main Diwali.

 

Diwali

The third day is the main festive day showcasing people in their best attires and moods. Then diyas are lit and pujas are offered to Lakshmi, and to one or more additional deities depending on the region of India; typically Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera. Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.

The day sees the skies lit with firecrackers and rockets and the distribution of sweets to neighbours and family member to invoke good will and blessings for the year ahead.

Diwali also marks the beginning of New Year, in some parts of India, where the Hindu Vikrama calendar is popular. Merchants and shopkeepers close out their old year, and start a new fiscal year with blessings from Lakshmi and other deities.

 

Padwa, Balipratipada

The day after Diwali, is celebrated as Padwa. This day ritually celebrates the love and mutual devotion between the wife and husband. The husbands offer gifts to their spouses and iIn many regions, newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals. Sometimes brothers go and pick up their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day. The day is also a special day for the married couple, in a manner similar to anniversaries elsewhere in the world. The day after Diwali devotees perform Goverdhan puja in honor of Lord Krishna.

 

Bhai Duj, Bhaiya Dooj

The last day of festival is called Bhai dooj (Brother’s second). It celebrates the sister-brother relationship, in a spirit similar to Raksha Bandhan but with different rituals. The day ritually emphasizes the love and lifelong bond between siblings. It is a day when women and girls get together, perform a puja with prayers for the well being of their brothers, then return to a ritual of food-sharing, gift-giving and merriment. In historic times, this was a day in autumn when brothers would travel to meet their sisters, or bring over their sister’s family to their village homes to celebrate their sister-brother bond with the bounty of seasonal harvests.

The Significance of Lights & Firecrackers

The simplest of rituals in the festival are of the greatest significance. One such ritual is the illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers which express gratitude to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. As per one popular belief, the sound of fire-crackers is an indication of the joy by the people on earth to the gods of their prosperity and abundance. Another possible logical reason which has a more scientific basis is that the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects and mosquitoes, found in plenty after the rains.

 

Diwali in Kerala

Diwali is popularly known as Deepavali in the native tongue in Kerala and it falls on the preceding day of the New Moon in the Malayalam month of Thulam (October–November).  In kerala, the Deepavali celebrations are the result of the Narakasura Vadha legend, where Sri Krishna destroyed the demon. The day signifies the triumph of the good over the evil , namely the death of Narakasura.Unlike other parts of India, and other South Indian states, Deepavali is a low profile festival in Kerala and celebrated mostly by Hindus.

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5 Must try authentic Kerala breakfast dishes.

‘The land of spices’, another of the grandiose names Kerala is known by, apart from ‘God’s Own Country’ speaks for itself with the multitude of mouth watering cuisines. If you have set foot on this land intending to experience the authenticity of this land and culture, you have done nothing if you have not tasted the delicious and exotic Kerala cuisine.

Rich in spices, the food here is nothing short of a roller coaster ride for the taste buds. Of the numerous delicacies prepared and relished here, following are 5 of the most popular breakfast recipes on the menu in any 5-star or the smallest of local roadside eateries in Kerala.

Here are the recipes of 5 of the most authentic breakfast dishes of Kerala.

Puttu and kadala

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How could a combination of rice powder and coconut flakes possibly tease the sensory organs with a mind blowing aroma; right? Yet here is the characteristic scrumptious dish of Kerala that sets the mouth watering at its merest sight. Coupled with the Bengal gram or the famously known as ‘kadala’ curry, this proves to be one of the most filling and sought after dishes in kerala.

In the modern era, puttu has evolved into many forms with the rice replaced with ingredients like wheat flour, chicken, and gram flour and so on. You can just not have enough of this delicious breakfast even though if fills you up to the brim.

Idiyappam

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With names changing with the change in the regions of kerala, from ‘idiyappam’ to ‘nool pittu’ to ‘nool appam’, this dish could be considered nothing lesser than an embodiment of deliciousness in utter simplicity. This rice version of the western noodles in a melange of grated coconut and stew or a coconut milk gravy, propels your taste buds towards a sensory bliss.

The Idiyappams, famously known as the string hoppers in the western world are prepared with the help of an ‘Idiyappa Ural’ (made of brass or steel) which is also used to make numerous other dry snacks like ‘mixture’,’murukku’ etc with a change in the base plates.

 Palappam

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Raw ground rice with a little bit of grated coconut, a little bit of sugar, a little bit of toddy or yeast and salt thrown together gives rise to one of the most addictively delectable dish known as the appam or the palappam. A dish that is so pleasing to the taste buds, that it’s immensely hard to resist, has its roots in the Jewish community residing within Kochi. Not only is this dish rated as one of the tastiest but also one of the healthiest breakfast recipes of kerala.

The toddy or the kerala palm wine tapped from coconut, which was used for fermenting the ground rice for the palappam has slowly been replaced by yeast in the recent years. The palappam coupled with spicy curries like the nadan motta roast(spicy egg curry), the authentic kadala curry, the chicken curry or beef roast truly send the taste buds on a roller coaster ride.

Ela Ada

imageEla ada is a simple aromatic sweet tongue teaser that would give any five star cuisines a run for their money. A medley of coconut, jaggery(raw brown sugar),cardamom and rice paste, this traditional delicacy of Kerala is cooked inside a banana leaf (which further adds to the flavor) with the rice first layered on the leaf topped by the sweet filling of coconut and jaggery which is then folded and steamed. The result of it being a highly gratifying delicacy that sets you drooling.

Kappa and Meen Curry (Tapioca and fish curry)

‘Irresistible’ is the word that would come to any person’s mind who has ever had a tryst with this amazing union of flavors. A small whiff of this imagebeautifully cooked cuisine is enough to set the ambience of the original infamous toddy (authentic Indian palm wine) shops (local liquor shops now) of Kerala known to have hosted this finger-licking delicacy since time immemorial. This ideal blend of flavors of the coconut, tapioca and the spice of the fish curry renders it one of the most sought after authentic dishes in Kerala by all alike.

In its simplest of form, the Kappa or the tapioca is first cooked in water and then served along with the fish curry.Whereas in its enhanced form, the cooking of tapioca is followed by the addition of a paste consisting of coconut,garlic,cumin seeds and green chilies.

Discovering Kerala – Travel Safety!

India has been the receiver of immense publicity in the global arena for all the wrong reasons in the recent past. Given the scenario, travelers hesitate before booking their tickets to the country. Is it worth the risk? Will I too have to fear for my safety? ; are some of the million questions nagging at their heads before planning a trip to India.

The good news is, the Indians have not been lying back doing nothing; Indian tourism arena is changing with the changing times and requirement. If it be the railways which currently have police patrolling the bogeys or the safety on the streets; all areas have been looked into in regard to providing safety for the numerous visitors to the country.

Kerala was named as one of the “ten paradises of the world” and “50 places of a lifetime” by the National Geographic Traveler magazine(National Geographic Traveler – Editor’s letter). Kerala is a state wedged between the Western Ghats on the eastern side and the Arabian Sea on the West, thus having a wide range of topography from high altitude mountains to golden beaches and is criss-crossed by 41 rivers. The tributaries, unique backwaters, lagoons and numerous small islands provide many scenic attractions for visitors.

Kerala compared to the rest of India has high levels of women empowerment and status. Kerala ensures better safety than any other state owing to the rapidly changing socio-economic culture.

Having said that, the smartest way to travel to any country would be to initially comprehend the customs and cultures of the place so as to avoid any sort of awkward moments during the trip.

This includes being aware of the perception of the natives in regard to the body language, attire, customs, and beliefs and so on. It is important to respect the culture and society of every country in the world. The same goes for India; miscreants are here as in every other part of the world. It is important to take measures and precautions accordingly and be prepared for the travel.

Some of the important things to take note of while traveling down to Kerala are as follows.

Culture

Kerala has a modest and conservative culture with the cities like Cochin being more liberal than the other regions. The people are tolerant with the biggest example being the existence of different communities living in total harmony and peace. Dressing should be modest and comfortable as most parts of Kerala except the cities follow conservative dressing. Avoid hugging or kissing at public places as this is not a common norm among the natives and might raise unwanted attention. It is also a custom to leave the footwear at the door while entering the Kerala households.

People

Personal information, plan and details of accommodation and travel should not be shared with strangers. It is best to keep a check on the body language to avoid misinterpretations and confusions. The natives are usually very friendly and helpful.

Monetary Transactions

There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency that visitors can bring. However if you have foreign currency notes of more than US $5,000 or equivalent and/or foreign exchange including currency of more than US $10,000, or equivalent, you will have to make a declaration in front of the customs officer. Banks are open for transaction from 10:00 – 15:30 hrs on weekdays and from 10:00 – 12:00 hrs on Saturdays. Credit Cards are accepted by most hotels, restaurants and shopping centers. It is also advised to carry less cash as there are ATMs available at most destinations.

Most favorable visiting time

The peak season falls between September and May while the monsoon programs range between June and august.

Travel Kit

Travelers are advised to carry modest but comfortable outfits (preferably cotton) along with hats, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion etc. Emergency medical supplies can be bought off any medical store in the state.

Food

Indian food is generally spicy and it would be advisable to specify in advance about your tastes and preferences before placing an order. It is best to opt to eat from suggested and known places than local places as not all places can guarantee high hygiene standards. Always carry bottled or boiled with you and avoid unsafe water from taps for drinking

Accommodation

Plan and book the accommodation well in advance from reliable sources to eliminate the chances of being duped.

Temple codes

some temples do not permit entry to non-Hindus. Strict dress codes are followed in most of the temples. Footwear is banned inside the temple premises. Some places allow photography while others strictly prohibit it.

Transport

It is best to book taxis from reliable companies than those locally available off the stands or from prepaid counters. Try booking Rickshaws from the prepaid auto stands as much as possible. It would be best to avoid traveling alone late at the night.

Smoking and Drinking in the Public

Smoking and consumption of alcohol is prohibited at public places and is a punishable offence.

Important Contacts

Police control room: 100

Fire station: 101

Ambulance: 102, 108

Police Helpline:

While traveling on Highways (Highway Alert Number): 9846 100 100

While traveling in Trains (Railway Alert Number): 9846 200 100

Website: www.keralapolice.org

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