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ayurveda diet

India’s Curry Influence

Today we see many curries across the globe, from the Indonesian and Thai to the classic India, as well as other influences. Many ask how this came to be?

Curries originated in the Indus Valley civilisation, which began as early as 7,000BCE in Northern India, however, many spices came from India to the West, notably cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and condiments such as sugar. Aubergines and cucumbers were also natives to India.

Across SE Asia, from the Khmer people of Cambodia, to the people of Thailand, was a great influence from Hindu and Buddhist India – including why such people use adaptations of the ancient Indian (Brahmi) scripts, via Southern India, where Buddhist and Hindu Monks, as also kings spread their influence of these religions to Japan to SE Asia. Ancient universities at Nalanda (northern India) and Takshashila (ancient Gandhara) attracted students from Greece, Rome as well as the Arab world to Japan, SE Asia and beyond to learn Indian sciences such as Ayurveda (medicine – out surgery came from India, transmitted west by Arabs), mathematics (out decimal system, zero and numerals came from India, as also algebra, trigonometry etc.), Astronomy, Politics etc.

With the height of southern empires as the Chola Dynasty came more influence in the Austronesian world; Austronesians include the Malays, Indonesians, Filipinos, Vietnamese as well as Polynesians (Hawaiians, Maori etc.). These people originated from Taiwan and then to the Northern Philippines, where they dispersed. From early times, the influence of India, including culinary was strong – the use of banana leaves, South-Indian inspired cocnut-based curries with tamarind and black pepper (before tomatoes and chillies were introduced) and various preparations became the norm in these areas, as we see today.

The South Indian influences of various breads (parottas etc.) have worked their way into Malay cuisine, such as Roti Cenai etc., as well as numerous other dishes. In Thailand, red, green and yellow curries with their galangal and ginger, tamarind and coconut milk and creams are strong with south Indian influence to this day, as also their use of Sanskrit (Hindu) place names, names of their Kings, art, dress, writing and architecture, as across the Khmer and Austronesian world also.

In the ancient Indus-Valley culture around 3,000BCE, Indians consumed curries with garlic, ginger, turmeric and other spices and condiments. Aubergines, chickens and others were eaten, and the existence of tandoor ovens for making breads and the classical “tandoori-chicken” are thus the same today in northern India as they were some 5,000 years ago! Not much here has changed, nor in SE Asia.

The genius Piper longum or Indian Long Pepper (Pippali) is the hotter of peppers, originally used to give curries their pungent flavours and fiery tastes, prior to chillies. By contrast, Piper nigrum or Indian Black Pepper (Maricha) was imported by the Romans from India, who, it seems, confused the names (Piper from Pippali – Indian Long Pepper, as opposed to Black Pepper).

India’s influence in areas more traditional still stands, especially in Bali in Indonesia. The influence of Japan also, via Buddhism, martial arts and the Siddha script (derived via Devanagari), as also on China and SE Asia via Indian Vegetarianism has shaped many countries to this day. Here, it has influenced the numerous vegetarian options such as tofu and soy-based faux meats in curries and other dishes across China.

Likewise, India also received various “Manchurian” dishes via trade and influences with Chinese sailors, traders and monks visiting, as Indo-Chinese, blending both worlds.

From 600BCE onwards, Indian universities were homes to various cuisines. Nalanda around 500AD – 1200AD boasted over 10,000 students at a time from, as noted, as vast of Greece, Rome, Egypt to Persia, Central Asia and the Arab world to as east as Japan, and across SE Asia from Thailand to Indonesia, Malaysia etc. This is also how much came to cross-over.

Even the pilaf, which also spurned the Paella and other dishes, originated in the Indian world from the dish of Pilau, which was first seen the Indo-Bactrian and Sindhi world by Alexander the Great and his people, which was taken back to Europe. This rice-dish is mentioned in many Indian classics as well as other literatures.

Thus, let us savour some ancient Indian tastes and contemplate the variations of curries originating in India across the Asiatic world when we next sit down, or chow down on our Thai green curries!


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ayurveda best natural remedies for virus natural cures wellbeing yoga for health

Taking Care of Yourself Amidst COVID-19

PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS PURELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT SEEK TO TREAT, CURE OR PRESCRIBE, OR ACT AS AN ALTERNATIVE FOR ANY CONDITIONS, ESPECIALLY NOT COVID-19. ONE SHOULD ALWAYS SEEK PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE FROM THEIR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS SURROUNDING THE COVID-19 VIRUS AND COMPLICATIONS ARISING FROM SUCH.

THIS ARTICLE MERELY ADDRESSES SUCH BASED ON TRADITIONAL AYURVEDIC PRACTICES ALONE, AND AS NOTED, IS PURELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

Amidst the latest scare and also hysteria that has ensued, we must remember some things to keep us reasonably calm and level-headed, so as not to “freak out” and cause more issues for ourselves – and also others!

Anxiety:

It’s normal to be anxious, as a natural human response to any major calamity or epidemic. However, we mustn’t get too hysterical and remain calm as much as we can by stopping our minds and thinking rationally.

In certain situations, the best we can do is to remain careful about things, and take precautions, but remember the situation is such that it is out of our control, and we must develop a certain level of faith, either personally (philosophically) or in our world leaders to put steps in place to help us go forward and keep safe. Keep this in mind!

Secondly, food will not run out. There is no need to usher in Armageddon by impulse and stress-buying. Supermarkets have measures in place for deliveries and such, if need be, and the supply chains and factories remain open. Supermarket staff, merchandisers and reps of groceries and produce are currently in demand themselves and are working around the clock to keep the supply chains open. Yes, by all means “stock up”, but don’t become too hysterical due to the social anxiety out there and take every day as it comes; don’t become a doomsday prophet!

Whilst the news and advertising media can be useful, it is also naturally hyperbolic in nature and tends to cause more stress and anxiety, especially surrounding epidemics such as COVID-19. Look at how we, as humans, compare ourselves to the stereotypes on Television soap-operas and also advertisements relative to lifestyle, relationships, body-images etc. and also buy into consumerism as a result of such manipulation, for example. Now apply that to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus!

Simple herbs as Brahmi (Barcopa monnieri), Valerian and others can help with anxiety and also help us to reason things better – even the causes of our own anxiety. Ancient yogis used to drink a beverage of Brahmi leaves made into a tea, for enhancing mental faculties, especially discernment and reason – often in periods of social and political strife in ancient India, so as to better deal with these situations by looking at the whole.

The mindfulness method of STOP method also helps:

Stop and simply take a breather. Stop the mind for a second!

Take a few breaths. Here, slow, yogic breathing helps as well.

Observe any thoughts that come to mind and associated emotional responses. In yogic, this goes deeper with manasika-vichara or mental-questioning and origins of thoughts.

Proceed
 in another direction. Stop looking at or associating with triggers of our anxiety, especially the virus and do something more conducive, such as yoga, meditation, a walk or applying some of the techniques Ayurveda recommends to stay healthy. Be around positive people and recognise change – not hysteria!

DO NOT PANIC! Humanity has historically been a very resilient species and we’re still here, despite numerous world wars, plagues and other epidemics as the swine flu, SARS etc. and we’re still here!

Keeping Healthy:

The ancient system of Ayurveda tells us that two things cause diseases, primarily; low ojasa (immunity) and impaired agni (metabolism). When both are compromised, then disease manifests.

Ayurveda isn’t simply about a few simple herbs in villages, either. It has one of the world’s most ancient and advanced system of microbiology and surgery – from where many of our current techniques arose! Classical texts mention that wise-spread plagues and epidemics were primarily the result of corruption in society; visha-vayu (toxic air) here also referred to numerous airborne viruses and bacteria that was easily spread via air and also touch (sparsha – connected to the subtle element of air or vayu). Thus, if there is toxic air in society, viruses will spread via touch also, as with COVID-19, such as the ancients understood.

Cleanliness and good personal hygiene related to sparsha (touch, or air) is hence important. Many plagues broke out in Europe as a result of bad personal hygiene also – especially cleaning of the skin – and hands.

Indian culture has always advocated cleaning of the hands before and after meals to help prevent these issues.

Aloe-vera gel, neem powder and alcohol can make a good”home-made” sanitizer. Indian culture also believes that cow’s urine and dung also possesses these qualities, as well. I am neither stating one should be using these, or not relative to COVID-19 – I am simply stating what our ancestors have said!

Some basic tips, however:

1. Immunity Boost: Chyavanaprasha, the main ingredient which is the anti-oxidant and immunity-boosting Amalaki (Indian gooseberry), high in Vit. C has been used for both low immunity (ojasa) and also respiratory conditions for millennia.  This can be taken daily to help prevent issues relative to COVID-19. Again, whether or not it is 100% effective remains to be seen – but there it won’t do any harm and can, according to the classics, help develop immunity with many disorders and help with classic respiratory disorders as well.

The classic “Golden Milk” with turmeric and milk, as well as spices as cardamom and ginger is also said to be good for vitality.

Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is also useful as it helps boost our immunity, as also does Sheelajit, the ancient mineral pitch.

2. Metabolism: Boosting our metabolism means metabolism of all tissues in the body also, and proper enzymic function. The classic formula Trikatu (Indian long pepper, Black pepper and Ginger powder) is a classic for sluggish digestion – and also lung congestion and related issues, as also is Holy Basil or Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).

These help prevent disorders of the lungs and respiratory system. Ayurveda has a long-standing history of treating severe forms of TB (rajayakshma) as also pneumonia (swasanaka-jwara) by helping the lungs, as also with alchemical formulas.

To boost metabolism at home – a simple drink of warm lemon juice, ginger powder and black pepper powder can help. This also helps to dispel kapha or mucous which develops in the stomach and lungs and causes issues.

Viruses are seen as tamasika (darker and stagnant) in nature and hence need some rajas (agitation, movement or aggression) to be dealt with, returning to a state of ultimate health, or sattvas. Such spicier herbs combined with those that protect the lungs, immune system and help treat pneumonia are useful.

3. Oral Hygiene: Ayurveda tells us that we should always crape our tongue with a tongue-scraper and brush our teeth on a daily basis, as also chew mixtures of cardamom for fresh breath, and rub our gums with powders of cinnamon, clove, cardamom, rock-salt or triphala powders to keep gums healthy. These formulas, as also triphala also help with any bacteria and reduce excess bleeding and mucous; scraping the tongue also does this and improves metabolism.

As per the current climate, these are very minor measures but could be conducive towards helping with viruses as COVID-19, especially with sufferers and their compromised respiratory systems, so as they do not become too vulnerable to abcterial infections that complicate the virus they suffer from already.

These methods are simply all about trying to be healthy, and again, are not a replacement for professional advice or treatment, but simply what Ayurveda has recommended for thousands of years, as also methods of “preventative medicine”, Ayurveda is also known for – just as authorities are telling us relative to keeping hands clean, using hand sanitizer, wearing gloves and isolating ourselves at present.


Namah Shivaya!

-Durgadas


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