Great thinker Mark Twain had correctly conceptualised that India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great-grandmother of tradition.
Amongst many aspects of Indian culture, Health had been at the forefront since the antiquity. Following Sanskrit Shloka depicts the same very well.
ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः।
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु।
मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत्॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥
May All Be Prosperous and Happy
May All Be Free from Illness
May All See What Is Spiritually Uplifting
May No One Suffer in Any Way
Om Peace, Peace, Peace
Indian view and perception towards health had been so wide and inclusive that it doesn’t consider health and life different so this unity can be seen in the concept of Ayurveda i.e. knowledge of life, health and longevity.
Destiny of the nation rather civilisation is shaped and carved by the people themselves but with the wit and dynamic efforts of the greatest leaders of the time, civilisations and nations prosper and achieve highest benchmarks for the greatest good of largest number. India had got many great leaders who directed and showed the path to the nation. One such dynamic, substantial and extraordinary leadership rendered to the service of India was none other than our beloved father of the nation MAHATMA GANDHI. Upcoming year i.e. 2019 AD would be witnessing his 150th birth anniversary. So, it is just and mandatory to remember him and his contributions to the nation. Upon the demise of Gandhiji Albert Einstein correctly said that “Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
Gandhiji was the very versatile and dynamic person who tried his hand in almost the areas. He was a shrewd politician, religious thinker, an author, an editor, scientist, naturopathy practitioner and so on. This shows his experimental endeavour.
Generally, he is highly regarded for his greatest contribution for the freedom struggle. And while Gandhiji did push his body to physical extremes and hazardous outcomes by means of fasting for positive political change, it is important to remember his strength as well and his views towards Health.
Health is of the greatest importance to human beings. Same was the main focus of Gandhiji to imbibe and inculcate the importance of health in anybody’s life.
Gandhiji had authored many books of which one book titled “Key to Health” is one of the most important considering health as the central dogma. He emphasised that it is important to have insight and knowledge of one’s own body. He explains in his book that the human body is composed of five elements which ancient philosophers have described as Earth, Water, Vacancy, Light and Air i.e. Panch Mahabhutas. He further states that good working of the human body depends upon the harmonious activity of the various component parts. The first element Air without which we can’t live is surrounded us on all sides. Gandhi says that those who do not know how to breathe should take breathing exercises, further he gives the importance of cleaning the nostrils and the importance of sleeping under the open sky. The second element Water which is a basic necessity of life should be pure and it’s the municipality’s responsibility to provide clean water and to maintain the sewage and drainage system. Hydrotherapy is also a well-known therapy especially “Kuhne’s book on Nature Cure”. The third element Earthwhich can be used as nature’s way to treat ailments i.e., mud poultices to cue scorpion sting, constipation ordinary boils etc. The other element light which we get from the sun has many uses such as sunbaths. The last Vacancy which can be also termed as Akash which helps to maintain and regain health.
What is the use of the human body? Answering this question, he unfolds his thoughts saying everything in the world can be used and abused and it applies to our body too. We abuse it when we use it for selfish purposes, in order to harm are a body. It is put to right use if we exercise self-restraint and dedicate ourselves to the service of the whole world.
The most important reason for diseases and illnesses in India is the defective and harmful method of answering calls of nature. India, being a poor country considering his times, open defecation was prevalent. The unhygienic toilets and defecating in open push the community to major diseases. Hence, sanitation is a major problem. For improving the conditions Gandhiji had formed a committee in South Africa and also in Ahmadabad where volunteers would visit every nook and corner and also homes to check and educate regarding sanitation. But it was later observed that old habits die hard. People are as clean as individuals but not as members of society. In villages, people bathe, wash clothes and drink water from the same stream which is very unhygienic. Gandhiji was very unhappy with the unclean sight of temples and religious places in India. It is the work of municipalities and also the common man to keep the surrounding clean. Also, every religion stresses the importance of cleanliness and Gandhi stated that Indians should imitate the western countries regarding cleanliness. Further Gandhi focused on sanitation in camps. Though it is difficult to maintain Gandhiji has offered various solutions in his book “Social Service, Work and Reform Vol-1” ways to maintain hygiene and one of the best solution offered by him was every person should become bhangi i.e. sweeper to maintain cleanliness and this was practised by Gandhi himself.
When Gandhiji was in England, he had joined Vegetarian Society in England. There he began with his own experiments in dietetics wherein he faced hardships. He also started a Vegetarian Club in Bayswater locality in England. He suggests that all over the country everyone should concentrate his efforts upon the plague spots which they visit. One should not get baffled by this vast problem but attend to the work that comes to one’s way and the donors should donate generously for improvement of society. Gandhiji further mentioned that ‘one must not live in order to eat and drink and be merry, but eat and drink in order to make bodies temples of God and to use them for the service of man.’
Some thoughts and some personalities have eternal existence into the minds of people. Simply, they never die. Though Mahatma Gandhiji’s unfortunate demise marked in 1948, have caused great loss to the nation, he and his ideology still remain upfront in not only India but throughout the world.
He was very progressive, experimental and revolutionary in his thoughts which still echo in the 21st century. His scientific temperament was very commendable. His view towards health was holistic which covered most of the determinants of health. His special attention was towards hygiene and sanitation which still stand as a benchmark for community health. Currently, ongoing Swachh Bharatdrive derives its genesis from Gandhiji. His renowned principal of non-violence is accepted by the whole world as a beautiful gift to humanity which is very important for social health. Gandhiji and his ideology are needed to be the bedrock of civil society. India revers him as the Father of the Nation. On the prelude of his 150th birth anniversary, a grand homage to him will be paid in the true sense if we follow and implement his thoughts.
Dr. Abhiraj Suryawanshi