Principles of Hygiene as Understood in Hinduism


H.H. Sir Bhagvat Singh Jee

|| Index || Chapter 1 || Chapter 2 || Chapter 3 || Chapter 4 || Chapter 5 || Chapter 6 || Chapter 7 || Chapter 8 || Chapter 9 || Chapter 10 || Chapter 11 || Concluding Remarks || Bibliography

THE importance of a knowledge of the characteristics of the country one lives in attracted the early attention of the ancients. Countries were generally arranged into three classes, namely, Anupa, Jangala, and Mishra.

Anupa is a moist and marshy country intersected by numerous rivers, lakes, and mountains ; and containing swans, cranes, geese, hares, pigs, buffaloes, deer and other wild animals, as well as a variety of fruit and vegetables, including paddy, sugarcane and plantain tree. In such a country "phlegmatic" diseases and "affections of the wind" are very common.

Jangala is a dry country where water is scarce ; where Shami (Acacia farnesiana), Kareera (Capparis apliylla}, Arka (Calatropis gigantea), Peelo (Salvadora ​indica), and jujube trees abound ; where the fruits are exceedingly sweet, and beasts like donkeys, bears and spotted deer, are seen in great number. In such a country the diseases of "bile and blood" are frequent.

Mishra is a country which has all the advantages of Anupa and Jangala without their disadvantages. It is neither too moist nor too hot. Such a country is naturally the best, as it promotes health and longevity.

A change recommended to a patient on the principle underlying the above classification is supposed to hasten his recovery. A man suffering from a "phlegmatic disorder" might with advantage go to a Jangala country, and in the same way one suffering from biliary complaints might profit by resorting to an Anupa country. It is the duty of the physician to preserve the health of his patient by keeping the various humors in his body in equipoise, and a knowledge of the climates is indispensable to him.

After acquiring knowledge of the country, the Hindus have got to attend to their personal duties in a prescribed manner. It is good for a healthy man to rise early in the morning, that is, about an hour before sunrise, and remember Vishnu, the preserving power ​of nature. For the obtainment of longevity the names of Asvaththama, Bali, Vyasa, Hanuman, Vibhishana, Kripa, Parshurama, and Markandeya, who are long-lived and are supposed to be still living, though ages have rolled by, are also to be recalled to memory.

The first things a person should look at and touch after rising from bed are curds, ghee (clarified butter), a looking-glass, Sarsapa seeds, Bilva (AEgle Marmelos), Gorochana (a yellow pigment), and garlands of flowers ; and if he desires a long life he should daily look at his face reflected in ghee. He should then answer the calls of nature with his head covered. Then he should clean his teeth with a tooth paste or powder.

Use of tooth brush

The substances generally used for the purpose are powdered tobacco, salt, or burnt betel-nut, or some compound preparation of drugs such as pepper, dry-ginger, long pepper and Jijbal (Xanthoxylum rhetsa). The most common tooth-brush is a tender twig of Bavala (Acacia arabica) ; but the medical works recommend other twigs, to which wonderful properties are ascribed. A brush of Arka twig gives strength ; of Vata (Ficus indica) gives brightness to the face ; Karanja (Pongamia glabra) ensures vic​tory ; Pippala (Ficus religiosa) brings wealth ; Jujube, good dinner; Mango, health; Kadamba (Nauclea Cadamba) sharpens memory; Champaka (Michelia Champaca) improves the organs of speech and hearing ; Jasmine averts bad dreams ; Shireesha (Acacia Serissa) promotes health and prosperity; Apamarga (Achyranthes aspera) increases patience and thoughtfulness ; Pomegranate and Conessi bark improve bodily beauty ; while a tooth-brush of Gunja (Abrus precatorius), Katala, Hintala, Brihadhara, Ketaki (Pandanus odoratissimus), date or cocoa tree, makes a man 'impure.'

Cleansing the body and the organs

Persons suffering from certain diseases are prohibited from using the tooth-brush. After cleaning the teeth the tongue is polished by means of a scraper, which may be of gold, silver, or copper, or even of a split twig ten fingers long. Then the mouth is rinsed with cold water several times and the face washed. This process keeps the mouth free from disease. The washing of the mouth with cold water is a necessary adjuvant to remedies for aphthae, pimples, dryness of and burning sensation in the mouth.

Washing with lukewarm water removes phlegm and wind, and keeps the mouth moist. The nose is preserved from disease by ​dropping into it a little rape-seed oil every day. This tends to keep the mouth sweet, improves the voice, and prevents the hair turning gray. White antimony applied to the conjunctiva with a lead or zinc pencil, besides making the eyes beautiful, ensures acute vision. Black antimony of the Sindhu mountain can be used even in its unrefined state. It removes the irritation, burning, hypersecretion of mucus and painful lachrymation, renders the eyes beautiful, and enables them to stand the glare and the wind. One who is fatigued, feverish, has kept vigils or taken a meal, should abstain from applying antimony to his eyes.

Hair care

The nails, beard, and hair are to be kept clean and trimmed, and are to be cut every fifth day. This promotes strength, health, cleanliness, and beauty. The hair should be combed; and the looking-glass should be in constant use, as that tends to the improvement of the complexion and the prolongation of life. The hair in the nose- should not be pulled out, as doing so will impair the eyesight.


Regular exercise should be taken every day. It makes the body light and active, the limbs strong and well-developed, and the gastral fire increases so much that any kind ​of food is soon digested. Physical exercise is the surest means of getting rid of sluggishness. It is always beneficial to those taking food rich in fats. It is most wholesome during spring. Exercise after dinner or after sexual intercourse is injurious. It is not recommended at all for one suffering from asthma, consumption, and chest disease. Over-exertion is deprecated. There are various kinds of physical exercises, in-door and out-door. But some of the Hindus set aside a portion of their daily worship for making salutations to the Sun by prostrations. This method of adoration affords them so much muscular activity that it takes to some extent the place of physical exercise.

Anointment with oils and perfume

Perfumed oil should be rubbed over the body, especially over the head, ears, and soles of the feet. Medicated oils diminish fatigue, promote strength, comfort, and sleep, and improve the color of the skin, keep it soft and healthy, and thus contribute to the prolongation of life. The anointing of the head with oil prevents, or helps to cure, diseases of the scalp, and assists the growth of hair. Similarly, dropping oil into the ears prevents ear diseases. The ear​drops, if they consist of vegetable juice, should be used before eating, and if of oil, after sun-set. Oil well rubbed into the soles of the feet strengthens the legs and prevents Assuring of the skin. It also induces sleep and improves the vision.

As serpents never go near an eagle, so, it is said, diseases do not approach a person who is in the habit of taking physical exercise and anointing his limbs with oil. The whole body is energized if anointed before the daily bath. But the anointment is deprecated in fresh cases of fevers, indigestion, anemia, or vomiting. It is also to be avoided by one who has taken a cathartic.


Anointment is followed by bathing. Every Hindu is required to bathe*[1] at ​least once every day. Bathing after a meal is injurious. A cold bath is a preventive of blood-diseases, while a hot one has an alterative effect. The daily use of an embolic myrobalan bath preserves the black color of the hair and ensures life for a hundred years. Too hot a bath is injurious to the eyes. To bring the water for ablutions to the required temperature, it is directed that hot water should be added to cold, but that cold water should never be added to hot water.

An old physician named Harishchandra says : "O men, a warm bath, fresh milk, a young damsel, and moderate use of fatty articles of food, are conducive to your health." Persons suffering from ague, cold, diarrhea, dyspepsia, ear affections, or eye diseases, should abstain from bathing. When the bath is over, the body is to be carefully rubbed dry with a towel and properly dressed.

It may be noted by the way that the Hindus, as a rule, never bathe in a nude state either at home or in public. There is a religious interdiction against exposure of the person (Manu, vi. 45). In cold weather saffron, sandal, and black aloes are applied to the body ; in summer, a paste of sandal, camphor, and Andropogon muricatus is ​recommended, and in the rainy season the body may, with advantage, be smeared with a preparation of sandal, saffron and musk.

Dress and ornamentation

Good men are advised never to put on dirty clothes, as they cause irritation and other diseases of the skin, and make one look disreputable. One should wear flowers and ornaments according to one's taste and means. Fragrant flowers and leaves beautify the body, excite amorous passion, 'and drive away evil spirits. Gold is holy, auspicious, and a giver of contentment. Precious stones possess the efficacy of averting evil eyes and evil influences of the planets, as well as bad dreams and wicked intentions. Charaka adds that, after the purification of the body and before meals, it is proper to devote some time to the worship of the Almighty.

Diet and food hygiene

A man should take his meals twice a day — in the morning between nine and twelve o'clock, and in the evening between seven and ten. The meals should not be taken in a public place, as it is said that eating, cohabiting and answering the calls of nature should always be done in private. A dinner-service of gold is the best from a medicinal point of view, and it is supposed to be the best tonic for the eye.

Eating out of silver is equally ​efficacious in promoting hepatic functions. A service of zinc improves the intelligence and appetite. Food served in brass utensils promotes wind and heat, but cures phlegmatic disorders and expels worms. The use of steel or glass vessels cures chlorosis, jaundice and intumescence. A stone or clay service brings on poverty. Wooden plates are good appetizers, but help the secretion of phlegmatic humor. The use of certain leaves as plates acts as an antidote against poison.

When at dinner, a water jug with a cup should be placed on the right hand. A copper vessel is the best for the purpose. The next best is an earthen pot. Vessels made of crystal and lapis lazuli are also pure and cooling. It is good to take a little rock-salt and fresh ginger before entering the dining-room, as this is supposed to whet the appetite and clear the throat.

Charaka says that one should not sit to dinner facing the north. Manu's dictum on this point is somewhat different. He says that one desiring longevity should face the east while having his meal ; one desirous of fame must face to the south ; of wealth, towards the west ; and one desiring true knowledge should sit looking towards the north (ii. 52). Should one happen to pass flatus during ​a meal he is to leave off eating and not to take any food during the day.

The name of "Hanuman, son of Anjanee" is mentioned to avert the influence of evil eyes, and also the name of the Supreme Being, who "is the Fire residing in the bodies of living creatures, where, joined with the two spirits which are called Prana and Apana, He digests the food which they eat, which is of four kinds" (Bhagavat Gita, xv. 14). The four kinds of food above referred to are (a) those to be masticated with the teeth, as bread; (b) those licked with the tongue, as chutney ; (c) those sucked in with the lips, as mango ; and (d) those simply imbibed, as liquids.

The various dishes are served one after another in a prescribed order and are put in the places assigned to them. The food placed before one is to be treated with divine respect, such treatment being conducive to health and strength (Manu, ii. 55). Pomegranates, sugar-cane, and similar things, should be eaten first and never at the end of dinner. It is good to take hard and butyraceous substances in the beginning, soft viands in the middle, and the liquids towards the end of the meal.

Similarly, sweets are to be taken first ; salt and acid things next ; and pungent, bitter, and astringent things ​at the end. The dinner should be finished with a draught of milk, or Takra (whey) mixed with water. One should not hurry over his meals. Gormandism is to be avoided. Half the cavity of the stomach is to be filled with food, a quarter with water, and the remaining part is to be left empty.

Water may be taken now and then during the meal ; if taken in the beginning it retards digestion, and has a tendency to make one lean ; if taken at the end it produces obesity (Vagbhata). A thirsty man should not eat before quenching his thirst, and a hungry one should not drink before taking some food. Any disregard of the first rule causes tumor, and of the second dropsy.

Types and quality of food

Sushruta draws particular attention to the advantages of dining at fixed hours, and recommends that the food once taken off the stove should never be heated over the fire again. One must study the nature of the food before eating it, for the food one eats has much to do with the development of the mind, and it is the mind that makes a man either good, bad, stupid, or wicked. "There are three species of food dear unto all men.

The distinctions are based on the inherent quality or Guna of the food. The food that is dear unto those of the Sattva Guna (quality of goodness) is ​such as increases their life, their power, and their strength, and keeps them happy, contented, and free from sickness. It is pleasing to the palate, nourishing, substantial, and congenial to the body. The food that is coveted by those of the Rajo Guna (quality of passion) is either very bitter, sour, salt, hot, pungent, astringent, or very heating, and giveth nothing but pain and misery. And the delight of those in whom the Tamo Guna (quality of darkness) prevaileth, is such as was dressed the day before and is out of season ; has lost its flavor and has gone putrid ; the leavings of others and all things that are impure" (Bhagavat Gita, vii. 8-10).

Those who desire to have the quality of goodness should take the food used by the "Satvikas" and not others. When the meal is over, the mouth is scrupulously cleaned, both inside and out, by water, so also the hands. Salt may be used to remove the greasiness. Any particles of food sticking between the teeth should be picked out. The eyes should be gently stroked with the wet hands, as this has the effect of improving the vision.

Then a prayer is offered to Agasthya, Agni, and Vadavanala (the subterranean fire which is supposed to devour the waters of the ocean) to the following effect : ​help me to digest the food I have eaten ; let me have the happiness resulting from well-digested food ; and relieve me from all diseases." Mangala, Surya, and Ashvinikumaras are also piously remembered, as the mention of their names is said to possess the power of helping the digestive organs.

Chewing of betel-leaves

After dinner, aloe-smoking or the chewing of Pan (betel-leaf) with certain aromatics and spices is advisable, for it has the property of expelling the phlegm which increases after dinner. The Pan is astringent, exhilarant, aromatic, stimulant, carminative, aphrodisiac, 'light,' and heating. It is a good phlegmagogue, generates semen and blood in the body, and lessens wind and fatigue.

The various ingredients mixed in certain proportions with the betel-leaves are catechu, lime, betel-nut, cardamom, clove, nutmeg and some other spices. In the masticatory to be taken in the morning the quantity of betel-nut may be a little more than at other times ; at noon catechu may be a little in excess ; and at night the proportion of lime may be a trifle more. It removes all fetor from the breath, imparts fragrance to it, and improves the voice. The Pan is not beneficial to those who are suffering from tooth and eye diseases, who have taken ​an opening medicine, or who are in an intoxicated state.

Hygiene after eating food

Walking a hundred paces after dinner promotes life, while remaining sitting brings on idleness. Running after taking one's meal is tantamount to running after death. It must there- fore be avoided. After a brief lounge, the best thing to do is to lie down on the left side for a while, as this position favors digestion.

At this time the Hindus generally undergo the process of shampooing — which is but another name for massage, — flexion, extension, rotation, pronation, supination, adduction, abduction and circumduction of the various parts of the body, as well as racking the joints and employing gentle blows and friction, forming part of the manipulation. This purifies the flesh, blood, and skin, exhilarates the mind, brings on sleep, cures diseased phlegm, wind and fat, diminishes fatigue, and increases internal heat. The practice is peculiar to Hindus, and is referred to in their ancient works.

Shampooing and massage

Shampooing in one form or another has been practiced from immemorial ages by the Chinese, the Greeks, and the Romans, who, according to some Western authorities, seem to have obtained its knowledge from the Hindus. It is of various kinds, and the barber caste in India ​is supposed to be expert in the art. It is a great curative agent in the treatment of complaints connected with the nervous system, and always produces the most agreeable sensation.

The advantages of shampooing have begun to be appreciated by the Western Medical Science, which no longer hesitates to recognize massage as a therapeutic agent. This fact is viewed with satisfaction by the Hindus, who fondly hope to see in the several scientific discoveries of the West the revival and salvation of their own medical lore, which, instead of being treated as empirical, will be recognized as the collective wisdom of those who have had due regard to science and theory. In India, people — especially the males — are in the habit of being shampooed more as a matter of luxury than anything else. Female patients are operated upon by female experts only. Excessive indulgence in massage, as in everything else, is deprecated.


Sleeping in the day-time, except in summer, is discouraged. It is allowed to those who are given to walking and riding long distances, and who are in the habit of undergoing much physical exertion; also to children and the sick, as well as to those who can "control their sleep," ​that is, those who can dispense with sleep at night if they sleep during the clay. Immediately after dinner it is highly injurious either to bask in the sun, sit by the fireside, swim, ride, run, fight, sing, take physical exercise, or study.

A sensible man should never have sexual intercourse in the day-time, as that shortens life. After taking a little rest, one may engage himself in his daily avocation. An evening constitutional is particularly recommended, as it makes the senses active, excites the action of the stomach and the skin, and improves the intelligence. When going out, the head should always be protected with a light turban, and the feet with shoes. It is not safe to put on shoes, clothes, and garlands used by others.[2]

An umbrella may be used in the hot and rainy seasons. One should never be without a walking-stick, as it protects him against beasts, prevents fatigue, and "adds dignity to the individual." He should not look at the reflection of himself in water, nor should he enter the water stark naked. One is to be always industrious, and should never neglect the calls of nature. An old ​man, a pundit, a doctor, a king and a guest should always be respected. The organs of sense should be neither overtaxed nor allowed to remain idle. It is harmful to see the rising or the setting sun, to carry any burden on the head, or to sleep on a torn bed or under a tree.

Night life

Such a line of conduct is conducive to long life, health, and fame. Having taught how to behave during the day-time, the ancient Hindu writers on medicine have laid down rules of life to be observed during the night. They direct that dinner, cohabitation, sleep, study and walking in the street, are not to be indulged in at sunset. The chances of enjoying the moon-light should not be missed, as it is cool and soothing, and increases the sexual appetite and powers.

Supper should always be light. Curds are to be avoided at night, and must never be used without the addition of some salt. Sexual intercourse should be in moderation only. With the Hindus the object of the marital relation is not so much the gratification of the animal passion as the fulfillment of an obligation. It is enjoined on them to beget a progeny — a putra (son), or a putri (daughter). The word "putra" is ​derived from "pu," hell, and "tra," to liberate, and means one who can liberate the Manes from hell. For the common belief is, that as long as one does not have offspring, especially male offspring, his Manes are doomed to perdition.

One dying without a son is offered no salvation. Marriage among the Hindus is therefore a religious sacrament and not a social contract. To beget a son is, with them, to liquidate the debt they owe to their ancestors. No one would like to be called childless, as that is equivalent to a frustration of the real object of matrimony. Sometimes, owing to disparity of age between the husband and wife, or owing to defects in the generative organs of the one or the other, or both, a successful insemination is not possible.

With a view to remove these disabilities the sage Vatsayana, an author who wrote about the beginning of the Christian era his book called "Kamasutras," or "Aphorisms of Love," prescribes some remedies. He alludes in his writings to the works of seven earlier authors on the same subject. His disciple Koka has earned a wider popularity. He describes the various causes that prevent conception, and recommends remedial measures.

Physical posture

Among other ​remedies he lays particular stress on Posture, which, according to him, has great influence on the female pelvic organs ; and he indicates certain positions as facilitating impregnation and curing internal disorders.*[3] He describes as many as eighty-four positions or Asanas, which may be resorted to under varying conditions, and adds that these postures not only heighten the pleasure of the moment, but act as a means of ensuring fecundation.

Owing to the extreme delicacy of the subject treated of by this writer, his work De Rebus Veneris, though translated into several languages of Asia, appears always to have been held in doubtful repute. But, apart from a layman's point of view, it deserves to be appreciated by the medical profession, which has only recently recognized Postural Treatment as a new and useful therapeutic method in Gynecology. The subject is still in its experimental stage; but when the time comes for a universal recognition of Posture as a curative agent, the Medical Science of India will be able to claim the credit of having been the first to propound the theory.

The medical works of the Hindus have from the ​earliest period recognized the influence of Posture in parturition, and described in detail the positions which women in labor should adopt. A sage named Patanjali, the founder of the Yoga philosophy, who flourished about B.C. 200, in his work called "Yoga Sutras," prescribes various Asanas or Postures for preventing and curing diseases to which ascetics and others practicing abstract meditation and seeking seclusion from the world may be subject during the performance of physical austerities. It will be clear from these facts that the Hindus were not ignorant of the wholesome effect of Posture.

Conjugal relationship

Sexual intercourse is prohibited for the first four days after the appearance of the menstrual flow, as well as on the 8th, 14th, and 15th days of both the fortnights — light and dark ; on the anniversary days of dead parents, nights previous to the anniversaries ; on Vyatipata (the seventeenth of the astrological Yogas), Vaidhrata (the twenty-seventh astrological Yoga), Sankranti (the passage of the sun or planetary bodies from one sign of the zodiac to another) ; in the day-time, at midnight, and during an eclipse.

One authority advises men to avoid flesh, honey, oil, ​and woman's company on Sundays, if freedom from disease be desired. It is also said that "putrid flesh, old women, the autumnal sun, half-curdled milk, and morning cohabitation and sleep are fatal." Again, Sushruta is of opinion that the carnal desire may be gratified at the interval of a fortnight in summer, and at the interval of not less than three days in other seasons. Those who have eaten a heavy meal, are hungry, thirsty, impatient, boyish, old, with aching limbs and pressed with the calls of nature, should abstain from the indulgence. It is not proper to peep into the privacy of a bed-chamber. But the ancient writers on Medicine and Religion have not omitted to prescribe rules of conduct to be observed even there.

Hiranyakeshi advises the housewife to light the lamp, and keep the bed in good order. She should make a bow to her husband, and approach the bed after removing her bodice. The retention of the bodice is supposed to bring on widowhood. She is to exclude black apparel, which has the effect of making the progeny wicked and degenerate. She is to put on clean clothes, deck her body — the nose especially — with jewels, to apply cohol to the borders of her ​eye-lids, and red oxide of lead (Sindura) to her forehead, and chew the Pan mixed with the usual spices.

Both the husband and wife should be in most cheerful spirits. There should be no sign of pain or sorrow on the face of either. The wife is then to wash the feet of her lord, rub fragrant powders over his body, and burn incense before him. She places before him milk boiled with sugar, nutmeg, saffron, almond and musk to drink, and herself drinks what is left. She then offers him betel-nut and various spices wrapped in a betel-leaf, and then rests her head on his feet, takes him for her God, and calls to mind the names of worthy men that have flourished in the family, or of any celebrated sage or warrior or holy person. The husband also remembers his Creator, and prays to be blessed with a good child.*[4] He then indulges in coition when the breath is flowing through his right nostril. For it is said that "dinner, evacuation of the bowels, cohabitation, sleep, interview with kings, fighting and taking medi​cine, should be done when the breath is passing through the right nostril."

After intercourse, it is beneficial to bathe, or at any rate to wash the hands, feet, and other parts, drink soup or milk, eat articles of food mixed with treacle, open the windows, and go to sleep. The lamp should be extinguished by the wife, who is then to occupy a separate bed. One should not sleep with the head towards the north. Sleeping with one's head towards the south is supposed to prolong life. One passes a dreamy night by keeping his head towards the west, and gets wealth by keeping it towards the east.

A sound and quiet sleep is secured by muttering the names of the "Five Happy Sleepers," namely, Agasti, Madhava, Muchakanda, Kapila, and Astika. Nothing is so beneficial as to go to sleep regularly and rise early. If a man cultivates the habit of drinking eight anjalis (a measure formed by putting the hands together and hollowing the palms) of water every morning at sunrise, he will be free from the effects of old age and such diseases as hemorrhoids, inflammations, headache, shooting pain, and bilious affections, and will live for a hundred years. If one is accustomed to drink a small quantity of water ​through the nose instead of through the mouth, his eyesight will improve, and his hair will not turn gray.

Seasonal influences and variations

The above precepts may be modified a little with the change of seasons. India has the advantage of enjoying six seasons, each with a regular duration of two months. They are:

  • Shishira, the dry season (roughly January and February).
  • Vasanta, Spring (March and April).
  • Greeshma, the hot season (May and June).
  • Varsha, the rainy season (July and August).
  • Sharad, the sultry season (September and October).
  • Hemanta, the frosty season (November and December).

During the first three seasons the sun remains to the north of the equator. The effect of the sun on vegetation at this time is not of the best. He is supposed to absorb the juices of medicinal herbs and impart to them heating properties. In the remaining three seasons the effect of the sun's rays on the herbaceous plants is very beneficial, and the vegetables produced in this part of the year possess cooling properties. ​

In Shishira, when the climate is cold and dry, the morning meal should never be neglected, and pungent, acrid and salt things should be particularly used. The body should be smeared with oil ; before bath, physical exercise is particularly recommended in this season. Wheat, jaggery, rice, Masha (Phaseolus radiatus), meat, new grain, sesamum and massage are highly agreeable. Saffron and musk may be applied to the body. The clothing should be warm.

Vasanta promotes phlegmatic diseases, so emetics may be taken with advantage in this season. Bodily exercise is also beneficial. Dry, pungent, light and heating substances are to be selected for food, and sleep in the day-time should be avoided. The season is generally unhealthy, and in it the physicians drive a roaring trade. Tepid baths are advantageous. Wheat and rice used for food should be a year old. The hottest part of the day may be spent with profit in a garden abounding in flowers and verdure, which obstruct the direct rays of the sun.

In Greeshma the sun absorbs the phlegm secreted in the body. It is therefore advisable to eat such articles as may make up for the loss of the phlegm. Sweet, oily, cooling, light and ​liquid things are recommended. Sugar, curds, soup and milk may be freely used. A noon-day nap is a good prophylactic in this season. Moonlight is healthful. Pungent, salt and acid articles should be shunned. Indulgence in athletic exercise as well as shampooing is deprecated.

Varsha gives rise to wind complaints. As palliatives, sweet, sour, and saline substances should be used for food. Sitting near the fireside is profitable, and shampooing is good. Curds should not be taken without being mixed with black pepper. Wheat, rice and Masha are good to eat. Well-water or rain-water may be used. Humidity and exposure to the east wind, or to the sun's rays, should be guarded against ; so also siesta, fatigue and swimming. Sleeping on the ground floor is not advisable in this season.

Sharad gives rise to bile distempers. Clarified butter, milk, white sugar-cane, game, wheat, barley, kidney-bean and rice may be selected for food. Sweet, astringent and bitter things should be preferred. Rain-water, and water which is exposed to the sun's rays*[5] in the day-time and moon's rays at night, should be used for drinking ​purposes, and the water as a rule should be fetched in the morning. The use of camphor, sandal-wood and light clothes is recommended. Flowers, moonlight, playing in the water and light and cooling articles of food are salutary. On the other hand, curds, exercise, sour, pungent, hot and acid things, and exposure to the sun, are injurious. This is the most unhealthy season in India, and is aptly described by a common Sanskrit hemistich, "Vaidyasya sharadi mata, pita cha kusumakaras," which means "the autumn is the mother, and the spring the father, of the physician." For the Vaidyas are never so busy as in the two unhealthy seasons, which provide them with the means of livelihood. "May you live a hundred Sharads" is a common form of benediction among the Hindus. Purgatives to evacuate the bile, and bloodletting in strong persons, are conducive to health in this season.

In Hemanta the rules of conduct to be observed are similar to those prescribed for Shishira.

Traditional influences on hygiene practice

These practical precepts have received the seal of sanction and approval from the Hindu religion, which has made them binding on the people, who still cling to them, though foreign invasions and intestine dissensions have materially ​affected their other social habits and their political influence. History makes mention of no other nation that has survived so many counteracting forces. If Megasthenes, who wrote about India in B.C. 800, or Huen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, who graphically describes his experiences of India in the 7 th century a.c, were to rise from their graves and revisit the country, they would scarcely have occasion to alter their first impressions about the manners, customs, and the daily practices of the Hindus.

This proves pretty clearly that the various observances and hygienic directions prescribed for the guidance of the Hindus are based on too solid a foundation to be wholly destroyed or radically affected by the ravages of time. By their daily and seasonal practices the Hindus are directly and indirectly defending themselves against the approach of diseases. But diseases often do come in spite of preventive measures: Their medical works, there- fore, prescribe remedies for curing them. Their theory of the nature of diseases is somewhat different from that recognized by modern science. But it has the merit of being original. And as it has been in vogue for centuries, it will be well to describe it briefly in a separate chapter.

* Among Hindus bathing is included as part of their religions duty. Manu's ordinance is : — "Early in the morning let him void faeces, bathe, decorate his body, clean his teeth, apply collyrium to his eyes, and worship the gods" (iv. 203). Yajnavalkya also recommends ablution as one of the required religious observances (iii. 314). As a rule, bathing is a pre-recjuisite to the morning meal, though not a few of the higher classes perform ablution before taking their evening meal also, as well as after touching any unclean thing. Hindus boast that they are the most cleanly nation in the world, and this statement is borne out by a remark of Sir William Hunter, who says : "It is needless to say that the Indian Hindus stand out as examples of bodily cleanliness among Asiatic races, and, we may add, among the races of the world. The ablutions of the Hindu have passed into a proverb. His religion demands them, and the custom of ages has made them a prime necessity of his daily life."

Suggestions for Further Reading


* This advice shows that the Hindus were not blind to the risk of contagion.

* Cf. Lucretius, Book IV.

* All this shows that the Hindus believe in the influence on the offspring of the mental impressions of the parents at the time of its conception, and recognized, ages ago, Genaetology, or the science of begetting healthy and beautiful children, which is just beginning to receive attention in other countries.

* Evidently the Hindus fully appreciated the purifying influence of the solar rays.

Source: Chapter 5, A Short History Of Aryan Medical Science By H.H. Sir Bhagvat Singh Jee, K.C.I.E. M.D., D.C.L., Ll.D., F.R.C.P.E. Thakore Saheb Of Gondal With Ten Plates, London Macmillan And Co., Ltd. New York : The Macmillan Company 1896. This was previously edited by Rajasekhar, 1961, and was reformatted and reorganized for the web edition by Jayaram V in 2019. The title of the work has also been changed to A Short History Of Indian Medical Science to reflect the current theories of the early history of India and adjoining areas.

Translate the Page