I have been intending to write this for a while. With the COVID-19 pandemic doing its damage currently, I thought I would use this opportunity now. How are corona virus, hygiene and being orthodox related? I come from an orthodox tam-brahm family and when I grew up I was subjected to many religious house rules/practices that I had to oblige to. Many of these rules may simply be superstitious while many may have been devised for a purpose. I believe the timing and context of many of these practices are lost and many are unable to explain the scientific reasoning behind certain practices. The only explanation that you would get is because God said so. No wonder then the newer generation is totally disinterested and dismiss the older practices/rituals as superstition as many question the very existence of God.
I believe our ancestors were very smart and would have had a certain reason behind many of these practices. Many may not be relevant now. But, you cannot dismiss everything as irrelevant. In this post, I am just trying to find some positive “orthodox” day to day practices and how it could have been helpful now during the Novel corona virus pandemic.
This is already famous now. I don’t have to explain anything in detail. Prince Charles was all over the Indian Newspaper and WhatsApp for ditching handshake and adopting Namaste. A well intended Namaste is the best way to greet somebody – no handshake, no hugging, no kissing. No body contact involved and is hygienic.
Namaste is not just a greeting like an Hi or Hello. It is a symbol of paying respect to the other person – you are treating them as a god. The hand-shake shows power and dominance with people trying to showcase who is the boss. It starts with “I” in the center. Whereas a Namaste stems from a position of humility. You are treating the other person as someone reverent and do not try to show dominance.
No travel by crossing the sea
Our scriptures say that one should not travel abroad by crossing the sea. If anyone crosses the sea, he was considered impure and was not allowed to do the temple duties unless he goes and takes a holy dip in the waters of Rameshwaram. This is not always followed and most of our people are globe trotting all the time.
I used to think that maybe this was in place to prevent people from being influenced by other cultures potentially endangering the current culture. But rethinking this in the given situation, maybe it was in place to stop importing foreign/unknown diseases from other countries on which one had no knowledge about.
We were allowed to sip a glass of water or milk only up to the age of 5 or 6. Beyond that age, whenever I sipped water from glass my mom used to yell at me. We are supposed to drink without our lips touching the glass. We do not use cups but tumblers made of silver or stainless steel. The tumblers have a nice rim that will allow you to control the flow of liquid as well as hold any hot liquid.
The simple reason for this practice is hygiene. You cannot pass on the germs if you are not touching it with your lips. In the current world where coffee shops have become everything from a college hangout spot to running a startup, this rule makes sense. I know what you are saying, they maintain hygiene and clean the cups. Right. The probability increases though.
Even now, in our home we have two separate sets of vessels. Those which can potentially come in contact with someone’s saliva is kept separately from those vessels which are used to cook. And the used vessels are washed once before we take it inside the kitchen.
In the village back home, after a person is done eating, the place where they had their plate or banana leaf is cleaned up using cow dung.
Washing limbs when you are back home
We are not allowed to wear sandals or slip-on inside the home. All the footwear stay outside near the entrance door. Once we enter the home after being outside, the first thing that we do is to wash our legs and hands completely. In older houses, they have a separate place near the entrance to do this. Or usually, a bucket of water is kept near the entrance.
Similarly, most of us try to take a shower once we are back from a hospital. Definitely so if you have encountered anybody from the family of anyone deceased. Sometimes, this is considered as atrocious but I think maybe this is an OCD version of hygiene.
Gargling once you are out of the washroom
It is said that we have to gargle our mouths with water 6 times once you are done urinating and 12 times once you have excreted. Of course, after cleaning your hands and legs with water. Not paper. This way, maybe you are not ingesting the germs from the dirtiest place in the house (other than your mobile)
There are few more that I can think of from the top of my head, some even controversial. And I am sure I can find some more if I squeeze my brain. But, I will stop here in the fear of boring you to death.
These are just my opinions in trying to connect the dots between some old practices and reasoning. I am in no way advocating anything or dissing anything here. My thoughts come from the fact that our ancestors were too intelligent in building stellar temples, monuments or structures or in calculating the distance between sun and earth and timing the eclipses without modern science. Maybe, there were far more important reasons that they were not able to explain in terms of modern science and tied it to God. We should not blindly believe in them. At the same time we should not blindly discard them as superstitions.
Do you have any practices, rituals or ceremonies that you think people have laughed at but maybe they are relevant?