Significance of Traditions

Significance of Indian Traditions

  ”Every culture is valuable to that particular population largely for emotional and territorial reasons. But the significance of Indian culture is that it is a scientific process towards human liberation and well-being. No other culture has looked at a human being with as much depth and understanding as this culture has. No other culture has looked at it as a science and created methods to evolve a person into his ultimate nature. We know if you do certain things, this will happen to a human being. To put it very bluntly, I would say we have technologies as to how to manufacture an enlightened being.”

– Sadhguru, Indian yogi & mystic (


>> Why do we do Namaste?

  Indians greet each other with namaste. The two palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste. This greeting is for people of all ages, even strangers. Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship. The Gesture marks respect, reverence & love for the person we greet. However there is much more to it than meets the eye.


  In Sanskrit namah + te = namaste. It means – I bow to you – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. Namaha can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another. The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we do so with namaste, which means, “may our minds meet,” indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love and humility. The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words like “Ram Ram”, “Jai Shri Krishna”, “Namo Narayana”, “Jai Siya Ram”, “Om Shanti” etc – indicating the recognition of this divinity. When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.


  In yoga this gesture is called Anjali mudra. It is a well known fact that the tips of the fingers are major energy points. When we bring together the palms of our fingers linking the tips of our fingers, then the Nerve circuits of the Brain are linked to those of the upper body. A feeling of calmness & well being immediately descends.


  Also in yoga each finger is represntative of a certain energy. The little finger represents Tamas or dullness. The ring finger represents Rajas or Activity. The middle finger represents Satwa or refinement. The index finger is the individual soul or Jeevatma and the Thumb is the Paramaathma or the ultimate soul. These are the reasons behind ‘Namaste’ – The traditional Indian Greeting.


  It is interesting to know that, the internal report, appearing in the August 2014 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) claimed handshake transmitted twice as many bacteria than high-fives and 10-times more bacteria than fist-bumping.

>> Why do temples have bells?

  Sanskrit Mantra chanted while rining a bell, “Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam, Kurve ghantaaravam tatra devataahvaahna lakshanam”


  Translation – “I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, so that virtuous and noble forces enter; and the demonic and evil forces, from within and without, depart.”


  Traditional Indian workship always started with the ringing of the bell. The temple bell was a beautifully crafted object made of an amalgam of several metals including zinc, copper, bronze, cadmium and many other alloys. The quantity of each metal was based on very accurate scientific calculation. A well-designed temple bell could also produce the sound OM.


  When the bell was rung there was a resonation, which created an immediate harmony between the right and left lobes of the brain. The echo lasted seconds touching the seven chakras of the body. The sound of the bell created an instant calm increasing the powers of concentration helping you to focus on the higher. In other words, the moment bell rings, mind is disengaged from thoughts and becomes more receptive.

>> Why do we visit Temples?

  Indian temples were not just immensely beautiful architectural wonders. They were also places of immense spiritual strength. Scientific analysis has today proven that these temples were built over areas of maximum positive energy. The moolasthana or Garbhagriha was built at the spot where energy was maximum. The idol was placed and the moolasthana or Garbhagriha built around it. This point indicated the place of maximum positive energy. Placed below the idols were copper plates with vedic incriptions capable of absorbing and radiating energy. When a person visited temple and walked around the parikarma (walking clockwise) around the Main Idol, they came within the radius of this magnetic field thereby imbibing a lot of positive energy. The result was that the visit to the remple rejuvenated him body, mind and soul.


  Further, the Sanctum is closed on three sides. This increases the effect of all energies. The lamp that is lit radiates heat energy and also provides light inside the sanctum to the priests or poojaris performing the pooja.


  The ringing of the bells and the chanting of prayers takes a worshipper in to trance, thus not letting his mind waver. This helps people forget personal problems for a while and relieve their stress. The fragrance from the flowers, the burning of camphor and incense sticks give out the chemical energy further aiding in a different good aura.


  Theertham or holy water is distributed as prasadam to devotees. This water may contain tulsi (Basil leaves), sometimes milk, coconut water. These concotion have medicinal properties and are good for health.


  Energy lost in a day’s work is regained through a temple visit and one is refreshed slightly. The positive energy that is spread out in the entire temple and especially around where the main idol is placed, are simply absorbed by one’s body and mind. All the rituals, all the practices are, in reality, well researched, studied and scientifically backed thesis which form the ways of nature to lead a good healthy life.

>> Why do we worship idols?

  The following account is given in Swami Vivekananda’s English biography authored by Swami Nikhilananda:
In 1891, Swami Vivekananda once went to the Maharaja Mangal Singh of Alwar (a princely state in during British Raj) to meet him. While talking about religion and faith, the Maharaja and his minister expressed doubts about idol worship. Maharaja ridiculed the worship of images, which to him were nothing but figures of stone, clay, or metal. The Swami tried in vain to explain to him that Hindus worshiped God alone, using the images as symbols. The Prince was not convinced. Thereupon the Swami asked the Prime Minister to take down a picture of the Maharaja, hanging on the wall, and spit on it. Everyone present was horror-struck at this effrontery. The Swami turned to the Prince and said that though the picture was not the Maharaja himself, in flesh and blood, yet it reminded everyone of his person and thus was held in high respect; likewise the image brought to the devotee’s mind the presence of the Deity and was therefore helpful for concentration, especially at the beginning of his spiritual life. The Maharaja apologized to Swamiji for his rudeness.


  India has a long history of idol worship. Idol worship is a subject related to worship of God. Since God is fundamentally formless entity, His image or picture cannot be thought of. The cognitive power of the mind comes from symbols. For example, when we hold a coin in the hand we are aware of money power. Money power itself is intangible. Our ancestors understood that it was difficult for a simple mind to comprehend abstract truths. Idol worship was the answer. When an idol is placed in front of a devotee it helps him to focus instantaneously increasing concentration and thus enabling him to move easily to his higher self and realms beyond. The devotee was free to choose idols according to inclination and likes. This enabled instant concentration and easy movement to higher realms. Idol worship was then answer to help devotees understand abstract truths easily.


  Idols in the Hindu temples are not toys or statues. They are physical bodies which have been energized to vibrate in a certain way such that they impact everything around them. The entire concept and the science behind the idols and their handling is given under Agama Shastra, a tantric scientific methodology that has been perfected over many millenia. The idol as indeed the entire temple becomes a vibrating body that can impact any person that is in the vicinity of the temple. This practice of energizing idols was traditionally known as “Prana Prathishta“, literally meaningEstablishment of the Life forcein the idol. In English, although not completely consistent, we could use the word consecration for it.


  There is a old hindu saying that “Kan kan mei Bhagwan hai” ( there is God in every particle ) and recent experiment for the existence of GOD PARTICLE proves it right. To a Hindu devotee, it doesn’t matter whether it is a tree, a rock, a piece of metal or a cow – everything is but a manifestation of the One Universal Consciousness – or his Divine! On the infinite curve of the Divine, every discrete point describes and manifests the Divine completely.

>> Why do Indian married woman apply sindoor on their forehead?

  Apart from Kumkum or bindi (dot) on forehead, north Indian married Hindu women wear sindoor. Sindoor is traditionally applied at the beginning or completely along the parting-line of a woman’s hair. Nowadays, Sindoor is applied either on forehead, or just above the forehead at the parting of hair. South Indian women usually wear only kumkum or bindi.


  The sindoor is made of a mixture of lime, turmeric & mercury. It is said that Mercury helps to decrease the blood pressure and also enhance the sexual drive. Hence widows are not allowed to use sindoor. It is believed that Mercury also helped to bring down the feelings of stress and strain. For best results sindoor was used all the way from the forehead right down to pituitary glands – the seat of all thoughts and emotions.


  This was the reason why devotees all over India whether the Maharashtrians for Ganesh pooja, the Bengalis for Durga pooja or Gujaratis for Laskhmi pooja prefer to do worship wearing silk clothes.

>> Why do Indian married woman apply sindoor on their forehead?

  Apart from Kumkum or bindi (dot) on forehead, north Indian married Hindu women wear sindoor. Sindoor is traditionally applied at the beginning or completely along the parting-line of a woman’s hair. Nowadays, Sindoor is applied either on forehead, or just above the forehead at the parting of hair. South Indian women usually wear only kumkum or bindi.


  The sindoor is made of a mixture of lime, turmeric & mercury. It is said that Mercury helps to decrease the blood pressure and also enhance the sexual drive. Hence widows are not allowed to use sindoor. It is believed that Mercury also helped to bring down the feelings of stress and strain. For best results sindoor was used all the way from the forehead right down to pituitary glands – the seat of all thoughts and emotions.


  Besides this, it is believed that putting the red vermilion powder also activates the chakras in the forehead and on the crown. This attracts cosmic and pranic energy, and bestows the couple with prosperity and good health.


  The modern society perceives sindoor as a demarcation line between the married and the unmarried women.

>> Why do Indian women wear bangles?

  Bangles are circular is shape, but unlike braclets, are rigid. They are usually made of metal, glass or plastic. The word is derived from Hindi bungri (glass). A bangle is one of the most important ornaments that an Indian woman wears. It is mandatory for would-be-brides and newly-wed brides to wear bangles made of glass or gold as they signify the long life of the husband. Indian woman love to wear bangles and they are a part of their identity.


  Bangles have a very traditional value in Indian culture and it is considered inauspicious to be bare armed for a married woman. Bangles may also be worn by young girls and bangles made of silver are preferred for toddlers.


  It is believed that the tinkle of bangles in a house kept negative at bay. Ancient Ayurveda stated that the bones of the women were weaker than those of men. Bangles were traditionally made of gold and silver. these metals helped to aborb energy, which was then transmitted to the body improving physiological functioning. Also the pulse, which was felt at the wrist area, was used to diagnose several major ailments. the constant friction between the bangles and the wrist area ensured good blood circulation. Again the energy, which was released by the skin, was absorbed by the metals in the bangle and returned to the body. Hence, bangles is not just ornaments, but also serves as a health benefit.

>> Why do we apply henna on hands & feet?

  Because henna has natural cooling properties, people of the deserts (Egypt, Saudi Arabia), for centuries, have been using henna to cool down their bodies. With invasion of Muslims rulers in India during 12th century AD, Mehendi rasm (Henna ritual) spread to India and mixed with north Indian Hindu customs.


  Traditionally heena was not applied in South India by Hindus for any occasion. Of late, though, some Hindu brides in South India have started to apply it as a trend although there is no formal ceremony to apply mehendi like in the North. Bollywood movies played an important role in spreading Mehendi rasm (Henna ritual) – not only in many parts of India but also at the international level.


  Apart from the fact that it looks beautiful to many women, there is a very scientific reason behind this. Applying henna cools the body and brings down fever and headaches. Traditional hindu marriages are long drawn out affairs. They create a lot of stress and sometimes fever. Apply henna on the hands and feet brings down fever and reduces tension cooling the body. Henna is also an important anti-viral and anti-fungal agent. It helps to keep rashes down and brings down fevers and other ailments. Henna is also used for hair dye and as a conditioner.

>> Why do Indian women wear toe ring?

  Traditionally Indian women wore toe rings. Toe rings were worn not just to indicate the maritial status of the women. There was a scientific reason behind wearing toe rings. Toe rings were made of silver and worn on the second toe of both feet. It is a well known fact that there is a nerve (Medial plantar nerve) which starts from the toe, goes to the uterus and then to the heart.


  Continuous pressure of the ring regulates the blood flow to the uterus and hence strengthens the uterus. The constant friction on second toe revitalizes the productivity organs and keeps reproductive system balanced and healthy. The menstrual cycle was also regulated ensuring speedy conception. Also silver is known to be a good conductor. Silver absorbs the energy from the earth and passes it on to the body thereby rejuvenating the entire system. Reflexology also mentions about treating gynaecological problems by massaging the second toe. These are the scientific reasons behind wearing the toe ring.

>> Why Indians apply kumkum on their forehead?

  Kumkum or Kumkuma is most often applied by Indians to the forehead between the eyebrows. Kumkum in temples is found in heaps. When visiting a temple, male and female devotees from southern India usually dip their ring finger in kumkum powder, and apply a dot on their foreheads. In northern Indian, when visiting a temple or during a pooja, especially men apply kumkum on their forehead in the form of a tilak, vertically upward.


  The reason for this particular location has to do with the ancient Indian belief that “the human body is divided into seven vortices of energy, called chakras, beginning at the base of the spine and ending at the top of the head. The sixth chakra, also known as the third eye, is centered in the forehead directly between the eyebrows and is believed to be the channel through which humankind opens spiritually to the Divine”.


  The Rishis of ancient India understood this to be the seat of Ajna chakra or third-eye chakra- the centre of infinite intuition. By wearing kumkum on the mid brow area, the power of intuition was increased. The centre of intuition was opened up and increased concentration. It also helped to increase blood supply to the facial muscles. By applying kumkum on the mid brow areas the Ajna chakra was automatically activated.

>> Why is turmeric considered holy in India & what are its uses?

  Turmeric is native to the tropical southeast Indian region of Tamil Nadu. Widely known to be one of Mother Nature’s miraculous healing cure. Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years in Siddha and Ayurveda medicine.


  Turmeric is considered holy and is a part of all auspicious. Turmeric was also used for dyeing. It is an important part of all Indian cuisine. All curries in India contains turmeric. It not only brings a beautiful golden glow to the curries, but also has many health benefits. The ancient Siddhas knew this out a long time back and involved it as a part in everyday life.


  While application of turmeric does give a beautiful golden glow to the skin, owing to the presence of xanthophylls in it, its value is much more than merely cosmetic.


  According to American Chemical Society, turmeric contains a wide range of antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also loaded with many healthy nutrients such as protein, dietary fiber, niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. Because of these various factors Turmeric has a prominent role in treating various diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, arthritis etc. It is also used to reduce cholestrol, boost immunity, prevent memory loss and to improve digestion.

>> Why do Indian women pierce their ears?

  From time immemorial, Indians both male and female have been wearing earrings made of gold. In India, nearly all Hindu girls and nowadays some boys get their earlobes pierced in the religious ceremony known as Kharnavedha before they are about five years old.


  In present times, tradition of wearing earrings is extremely strong in India. These are considered to be an extremely important fashion accessory by the women. These days men, wear earrings to carry on their tradition and some just for a styles statement. Usually men go in for small studs or rings.


  Recent studies have identified the ear as a microcosm of the entire body. Some even say the point of vision in acupuncture is situated in the center of the lobe. Hence the practice of wearing earrings is thought to have some therapeutic value. Besides, in certain places, ear piercing was believed to be good for the eyes.


  Indian women traditionally wore earrings. Ayurveda stated that by piercing the ears and Wearing earrings several diseases like hernia could be controlled. It also helped to regulate the menstrual cycle and restrict hysteria. The electric current within the body was also regulated by wearing ear rings. Indian physicians and philosophers believe that piercing the ears helps in the development of intellect, power of thinking and decision making faculties. Talkativeness fritters away life energy. Ear piercing helps in speech-restraint. It helps to reduce impertinent behaviour and the ear-channels become free from disorders.

>> What is the significance of OM as a symbol and as a mantra?

  OM is a sacred sound in hindu religion. It is also a mantra in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Om is a important spiritual symbol found in ancient and medieval era manuscripts, temples, monasteries and spiritual retreats in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is a sacred spiritual incantation made before and during the recitation of spiritual texts, during puja, prayers, weddings, and sometimes during meditative and spiritual activities such as Yoga. Om is also depicted as the true form of Ganesha, the deity of auspiciousness and good fortune as well as wisdom, knowledge and learning.


  The chanting of OM helps the mind calm down, Thoughts recede and there is an instant feeling of peace and calm. OM is considered as the primordial sound of the universe- the first sound. This universal sound is the combination of three syllables A U Ma. When we pronounce OM, as we say ‘A’ the lower portions of the body upto the stomach are activated. As we say ‘U’ the chest area is activated. With ‘M’ the face and the brain gets activated. The proper pronunciation of OM ensures good intake of oxygen required for a good body and mind. Mystics say that OM is like the clapping of one hand. Chanting OM ensures peace and quiet which relaxes the body and the mind.


  The uttering of the sacred and mystical Om is called Onkar or Omkar. ‘OM’ chanting, if done in a high and prolonged note with great devotion, produces a quivering sensation and power within. It affects every part of the body and mind. Negativity in the mind is destroyed. The dormant inner strength is aroused. Even scientists agree that chanting Om is beneficial.

>> Some trees are considered sacred in India. Why?

  Hinduism worships divinity not just in the forms of humans but also in the form of nature. Mountains, rivers, animals, plants, rocks, planets and even stars are considered divine. Trees being nature’s major processors of solar energy which is vital for our existence, and yielding flowers, fruit, wood or medicine, have been worshiped by the Hindus as a matter of gratitude.


  Certain trees were considered sacred in India. The Banyan tree, Neem tree, Audumbar tree (Indian fig tree) and the Peepal tree are some of them. These trees are propagated by seeds dropped by birds. All these trees helps reduce green house gases through photosynthesis absorbing large quantities of CO2 and producing oxygen. Our ancestors understanding that these trees were important to maintain ecological balance, ensured that they were never cut or damaged in anyway by associating them with the divine.


  Lord Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu are said to hold their councils under this tree, making it all the more special. The roots being Brahma, the trunk Vishnu and the leaves Shiva. In Hindu culture, Neem tree is associated with Goddess Sitala Devi (in north India) as well as Goddess Marimman (in south India) who are both associated with giving and healing of skin ailments like small-pox. The Audumbar tree is associated with Lord Dattatreya. It was a peepal tree under which Buddha had meditated and gained enlightenment.

>> Why do we worship the Tulsi plant?

  Tulsi or Tulasi or Holy basil is a sacred plant for Hindus. Hindus regard it as an earthly manifestation of the goddess Tulsi who is regarded as a great worshipper of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Vishnu propitiation is incomplete without offering him the sacred Tulsi leaves. In India every traditional household from time immemorial to this day has the tulsi plant for both its spirtual and medicinal significance.


  Tulsi is an important adaptogenic herb, which helps to reduce stress. Tulsi is a remarkable antibiotic. Its medicinal properties are renowned. It helps to cure several ailments including the common cold. Containing no caffeine and other stimulants tulsi helps to increase physical endurance. Taking a tulsi everyday helps to maintain the physiological balance in the body and increases immunity. More important, tulsi increases your life span. Tulsi plant contains immense healing properties for the treatment of cancer, stress, asthma, diabetes, skin disorders etc.


  A recent data also indicates that Tulsi reduces inflammation, prevents gastric ulcers, protects against radiation, lowers fevers, cholesterol and high blood presssure, enhances periodontal health, displays significant natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity, improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients, and even repels mosquitoes and other potentially harmful insects.

  Ancient Indian scientists (Rishis) knew this and by associating them with the divine they ensured that people get full benefit from Tulsi plant.

>> Why do we sit on the floor & eat?

  Eating at table and chair is not good for health. Traditionally, Indian people eat their meals seated cross-legged on the floor and this is scientific and the right way to eat. Indians sit in ‘Sukhasana’ posture, a yoga asana which allows you to calm the mind and applies pressure to the lower spine which may facilitate relaxation. When you sit on the floor and bend forward to eat and go back to your natural position. This constant back and forth movement causes the muscles of your abdomen to be activated and also leads to increased secretion of stomach acids – making it much easier for you to digest food. Sitting on the floor and eating has significant weight loss benefits too. While sitting and getting up joints were made more flexible removing ailments like Arthritis.


  The one thing that makes Indians feel most fulfilled is family. Reason – ‘Families That Eat Together, Stay Together’. Indians have have custom of eating together with their loved ones. Relaxed posture adds to relaxed family get together.


So there were several benefits to eating your meals in the traditional way seated in Sukhasana.

>> Why should we not sleep with our head towards the North?

  In India, there is a myth that if we sleep with our heads towards the north we invite ghost or death. But there is a scientific reason to why we should not sleep with our heads towards the north. It is well known that the Earth has a magnetic field. It is also known that the body has a magnetic field of its own. When we sleep with our heads towards the south then the unlike poles of the Earth and the body attract each other. We wake up in the morning with a sense of well being of having slept well and rested. Similarly when we sleep with our heads towards the east, the energy of the sun enters the body through the head and leaves through the feet, leaving you with a cool head and warm feet. When we sleep with our heads towards the west the reverse happensleaving you with a warm head & cool feet – an unpleasant sensation.


  Apart from this another reason is that Our body have significant amount of iron in our blood. When we sleep in this position, iron from the whole body starts to congregate in brain. This can cause Alzeimer’s disease, cognitive disorders, Parkinson disease, brain degeneration and several other neurological problems. This was the reason why our forefathers insisted that we slept with our heads towards the south or the east.

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