When we meet friends and relatives in a traditional and festive setting, we join our hands to say 'Namaste.' When we go visiting with our children to meet the grandparents or elderly relatives, it is Indian culture to touch the feet of the elders and ask the kids to do the same. Many of us wear a dot in the middle of the brow, but don’t really think too much about it.
Most of these ancient rituals have become a part of our daily lives and are taken for granted. When was the last time you really thought about why you follow these customs and whether they mean something? It turns out, these important rituals are quite scientific and we follow them because of certain benefits they give us. Often, children ask us why a particular custom is being followed, and we may not have a definitive answer to their question. It would be a worthy exercise to educate your child about some of the oldest traditions and the science behind them, so that they don’t follow these customs blindly.
Read on to find out the scientific reasons for some of the oldest customs that we follow:
1. Joining hands to greet — It’s the most popular greeting in the Indian context. Even though saying ‘hello’ has become more the norm these days, joining our hands to say ‘Namaste’ has its own charm. We all know that it is a mark of respect, but turns out it also a scientific basis to it. The tips of our fingers serve as pressure points for the eyes, ears and mind and when these are pressed together, our senses are heightened, and we remember the person being greeted for a long time.
2. Sitting on the floor to eat — Nowadays, how many of us sit on the floor while having our food? Not many. But this age-old practice has major benefits and there is a scientific explanation for it. When we sit on the floor cross-legged for a meal, we are actually sitting in Sukhasana, which is a yoga posture. This position is said to promote relaxation. The movement that we make of bending and sitting upright continuously while eating, releases digestive juices and helps in digesting the food.
3. Wearing bindi on the forehead — One of the main nerve points in our body is located right between the two brows. According to ancient scriptures, wearing a red dot (bindi or tilak) on this particular point, stimulates the nerves and helps in retaining energy. The pressure that we put on this area, helps blood supply to the facial muscles, keeping the face looking younger.
4. Surya Namaskar — Those who practice yoga, know that Surya Namaskar is a way of paying homage to the Sun God. This ancient practice consists of 12 different postures and is best done at sunrise. According to the Art of Living, different energies govern different parts of the body. The solar plexus located behind the navel is connected to the Sun. Regular practice of Surya Namaskar enhances the solar plexus. This is supposed to have a positive effect on creativity and leadership skills.
5. Wearing henna — Mehndi or henna has strong medicinal properties and applying it on the hand has a cooling effect, which helps in relieving stress during tense situations. That is one of the reasons that henna is applied to the bride’s hands, apart from the fact that the design looks stunning and adds to the bride’s beauty. Applying this herb on the hands is helpful in calming the nerves and prevents the bride from getting stressed out on the most important day of her life.
6. Fasting — This practice which is quite common among Indians, especially during festive occasions, has its scientific basis in the ancient medical system of Ayurveda. Our body accumulates a lot of toxins over time and many of the ailments of the digestive system are caused because of this reason. Regular cleansing of these toxins helps in keeping the body healthy and fasting is the best way to do that. During fasting, the unwanted elements inside our body get flushed out, and we feel rejuvenated.
7. Ear piercing — It is quite common among Indians and few other cultures in the world to pierce the earlobes of small children, especially girls, a few days or months after they are born. Why do we follow this practice? Ear piercing is an ancient custom which is supposed to prevent certain diseases among children including respiratory problems, hernia and so on. Wearing earrings ensures the flow of energy in the human body.
8. Lighting of lamp — We all know that lighting a lamp/diya means going from darkness to light. But this age-old Indian tradition has its basis in science. When we light a lamp, the magnetic force produced by the light is believed to bring about changes in the atmosphere and remove impurities in the air. This electromagnetic force also affects our body and skin, therefore revitalising our blood cells.
9. Touching the feet of elders — It is a custom followed by most of us to show respect to our elders. However, not many of us know that this ancient practice has a scientific explanation too. The nerves of our body are very sensitive to energy flow. When our palms touch the feet of an elderly or pious person, the positive thoughts and energy emitted from them comes in contact with our energy, through the hands and feet. This builds an immediate connection and the nerves of the fingertips and the feet get activated. This facilitates the flow of positive energy.
Knowing the scientific reason behind age-old customs helps us understand their significance and this way we can explain it to the children properly. Next time you practice any of these traditions, make sure you educate your child about it.