Relics of a Bygone Age

World Health Day 2020

6 Minute Read

Written by Manali Jamkar
Concept and Edits by Sarvottam Kulkarni

Our lives have gotten easier at the cost of our lifestyle

Today we are living in a pill-popping era. Headache? Take a pill. Acidity? Take a pill. Feeling uneasy? Take a pill. Why are you getting frustrated? Just take a chill pill. Our lifestyles are such that taking a pill has become mandatory rather than an option. If not medicines, we take vitamin supplements. As lifestyle directly affects our health and longevity, it must be discussed while talking about health. In this fast-paced world, work has become a living definition of life. The Internet and other adjacent technologies have blurred the boundaries of time-zones. Our lives have gotten easier at the cost of our lifestyle. Sleep schedules are often disturbed and breakfasts are skipped. The result? Deteriorating health conditions — everyone from a 5-year-old to a 50-year old. We are now facing issues that most of us don’t know we’re suffering from.

But this wasn’t always the case. Before we were introduced to the modern marvels of western medicine and technology, we Indians have relied on traditional medicine and lifestyle for centuries. So today, on World Health Day 2020, as Team Novacards, it is our attempt to take you back in time to learn about the way of living of our ancestors.

India has always been home to different cultures and all these cultures have had different impacts on our lifestyles. The common thread shared between the Indus Valley Civilization, the Vedic Era and the Epic era was their lifestyle. The lifestyles revolved around the rules of Nature. During the Vedic era, everything was inspired by nature; right from the deities that they worshipped to the occupations that they practised. Hence it comes as no surprise that this philosophy was reflected in their way of living. Many Indian physicians of the Vedic era have largely contributed to traditional as well as modern medicine. Here are a few lesser-known examples: Shushruta (4th Century B.C to 3rd Century A.D) is considered as the father of Indian surgery and the first plastic surgeon in the world. Scholars like Charaka, Jivaka, Vagbhatta, Nagarjuna, etc are also admired to date for their contributions to medical science. Numerous Vedic texts and scriptures comprise valuable information on medicine and a healthy lifestyle. One such text, based on which a whole branch of medicine came into being, is Ayurveda. 

The literal meaning of Ayurveda is “the science of longevity” because it offers a complete system to live a long, healthy life. Ayurveda majorly talks about two concepts, the ‘Dinacharya’ (daily routine) and the ‘Rutucharya’ (seasonal routine). The Ayurvedic rishis gave tremendous importance to Dinacharya (din=day and charya=actions) as they believed it to be a stronger healing force than any other curative medicine. Utmost importance was given to the diet and the timing of each activity. The Dinacharya included detailed instructions on timely executions of daily activities and they were planned to be in line with natural processes — Rising at sunrise was considered ideal as it is in perfect synchronization with the cycle of nature. The balanced diet was also given a lot of significance. Shadrasas or the six tastes (sweet, bitter, salty, sour, spicy and pungent) were included in the daily meal in proper proportion. A balanced diet at the right time! The same was the case with Rutucharya (Rutu=season and charya=actions). It was believed that only seasonal food items should be consumed. Along with diet, importance was given to daily exercise and meditation. Ashtanga Yoga and Pranayam were practiced ensuring both mental and physical well-being.

The principles guiding the lifestyle followed by the Vedic people were based on empowerment, awareness and a sense of well-being. These traditional medicines and dietary practices required patience as the whole philosophy was to let nature run its course. The belief that everything in this universe (including the human body) is made up of the ‘Panchamahabhuta’ or the five elements namely Prithvi (Earth), Aap (Water), Agni (Fire), Vayu (Wind) and Aakash (Ether or Space) is the reason behind connecting the daily life with nature.

Today, improvements in medical science and the availability of medicines have made “cure” seem so easy that we hardly give any chance to “prevention”. One might wonder, where are we going with this? Are we giving our lifestyle so little thought that we are actually taking life away from it? Are we running around gathering wealth only to spend it on medical expenses? The truth is that the lifestyle that we practice today has evolved over the years. Many factors are responsible for its development. As human beings always do, we have simply adapted to changing times. While looking at our past, it has become more than clear that we have distanced ourselves from nature. This article is an attempt to understand better what we once knew. To dive into the past to create a better future. We cannot completely discard our present way of life but maybe we can upgrade it. We cannot estrange ourselves from technology but we can make sure that we are not alienating ourselves from nature either.

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