Saturday, January 17, 2015

PONGAL



Pongal is a four-days-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. For as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of harvest festival. Pongal, one of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year. This four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word meaning "to boil" and is held in the month of Thai (January-February) during the season when rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested. Mid-January is an important time in the Tamil calendar. The harvest festival, Pongal, falls typically on the 14th or the 15th of January and is the quintessential 'Tamil Festival'. Pongal is a harvest festival, a traditional occasion for giving thanks to nature, for celebrating the life cycles that give us grain. Tamilians say 'Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum', and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the advent of the Tamil month Thai that begins on Pongal day. This is traditionally the month of weddings. This is not a surprise in a largely agricultural community - the riches gained from a good harvest form the economic basis for expensive family occasions like weddings.

 The First Day
This first day is celebrated as Bhogi festival in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.

 The Second Day 
On the second day of Pongal, the puja or act of ceremonial worship is performed when rice is boiled in milk outdoors in a earthenware pot and is then symbolically offered to the sun-god along with other oblations. All people wear traditional dress and markings, and their is an interesting ritual where husband and wife dispose off elegant ritual utensils specially used for the puja. In the village, the Pongal ceremony is carried out more simply but with the same devotion. In accordance with the appointed ritual a turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice will be boiled. The offerings include the two sticks of sugar-cane in background and coconut and bananas in the dish. A common feature of the puja, in addition to the offerings, is the kolam, the auspicious design which is traditionally traced in white lime powder before the house in the early morning after bathing.

 The Third Day
The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows. Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells attract the villagers as the young men race each other's cattle. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. Arati is performed on them, so as to ward off the evil eye. According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.

 The Fourth Day 
The Fourth day is known as Kanu or Kannum Pongal day. On this day, a turmeric leaf is washed and is then placed on the ground. On this leaf are placed, the left overs of sweet Pongal and Venn Pongal, ordinary rice as well as rice colored red and yellow, betel leaves, betel nuts, two pieces of sugarcane, turmeric leaves, and plantains. In Tamil Nadu women perform this ritual before bathing in the morning. All the women, young and old, of the house assemble in the courtyard. The rice is placed in the centre of the leaf, while the women ask that the house and family of their brothers should prosper. Arati is performed for the brothers with turmeric water, limestone and rice, and this water is sprinkled on the kolam in front of the house.

Source - Google

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

CUMIN



Cumin is one of the best spices to therapeutically use for digestive disorders such as indigestion, dyspepsia, stomach cramps, gastritis, bloating, constipation, nausea, and flatulence. Cumin seeds contain good amounts of vitamins E, A and B-complex and is an excellent source of minerals such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, calcium, and manganese. Cumin helps the body absorb and assimilate nutrients much more efficiently. It also contains anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties and have beens shown to significantly reduce the risk of stomach, colon, and liver tumors. It has also been shown to detoxify the body by boosting liver and kidney function. It is known to help benefit colds, flu, insomnia, asthma, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, muscle spasms, and arthritis. Many of the health properties in cumin seeds are found in their essential oils which include cuminaldehyde and thymol. These compounds help to support healthy immune, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive, lymphatic, and digestive systems. For pregnant woman and new mothers, cumin has been known to help relieve morning sickness and to strengthen milk production for breast feeding. Cumin seeds can be made in a tea by gently boiling two cups of water with 2-3 teaspoons of cumin seeds for 10 minutes or more. Allow to cool and sip throughout the day. Cumin tea is also excellent for weight loss as it can help to boost the metabolism and energize the body. In biblical times, cumin seeds were highly valued for their digestive properties and were used during times of ceremonial fasting to help cleanse and purify the body. Topically, crushed cumin seeds or cumin powder can be mixed with coconut or olive oil and be applied to boils, scrapes, burns, and insect bites to help disinfect and soothe the skin. Consider finding new ways to add this healing spice into your weekly meals

Source - Medical Medium

Saturday, December 6, 2014

GARLIC


Garlic is one of the world’s oldest medicines and is an incredibly potent spice that can ward off a variety of illnesses and diseases. It has amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and B-6 and minerals such as selenium, calcium, copper, and iron. Garlic also contains very strong antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, and anti-viral properties. One raw crushed clove of garlic contains the antibiotic equivalent of 100,000 units of penicillin and has been proven to be more effective than both penicillin and tetracycline in suppressing certain types of disease carrying agents. Garlic contains a compound called allicin which has been shown to help significantly lower cholesterol and blood pressure by inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme within the liver cells and blocking platelet clot formation in the blood vessels. Garlic is also very good for the digestive tract and has a strong ability to eliminate toxic matter from the lymphatic system. Garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties make it vital for autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, lupus, fibromyalgia, lyme disease, bursitis, shingles, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is also particularly beneficial for ear infections, candida, bronchitis, respiratory infections, food poisoning, herpes, coronary artery disease, stroke, colds, flus, urinary tract infections, and weak immune systems. Garlic can help eliminate lead and other heavy metals from the body. It is also a good remedy for removing parasites and worms from the colon. Garlic can be juiced with vegetables for a powerful immune boosting drink. When feeling under the weather consider eating 1-4 cloves of raw garlic a day by adding it to guacamole, soups, hummus, or crushed on toast with a little olive oil. If the flavor of garlic does not appeal to you, odor-free garlic capsules can be a great alternative and a way to still get the health benefits of this natural wonder. Garlic supplements can be found online or at your local health food store.

Source - Medical Medium

Friday, November 28, 2014

ONIONS


Onions have an amazing array of medicinal benefits and are high in vitamin C, folic acid, biotin, chromium, and calcium. Onions are the richest food source of quercitin which is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides as well as help to prevent blood clots, asthma, sinus infections, bronchitis, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. They also contain powerful anti-cancer properties which have been found to help slow and reverse tumor growth within the body. Onions are particularly beneficial for stomach, colon, prostate, breast, lung, bladder, and ovarian cancer. They contain valuable sulfur compounds that are known to significantly strengthen the immune system, brain, and nervous system. These sulfur compounds also act as a heavy metal detoxifier and can help to safely remove mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and lead from the body. Onions can help to treat colds, coughs, bacterial infections, angina, and bronchial spasms. They can also help to stabilize blood sugar levels and provide relief to the liver when processing glucose and insulin. Onions have powerful antibacterial properties and have been shown to be able to destroy many disease causing pathogens such as E.coli and salmonella. They also act as a natural diuretic and help reduce bloating, water retention, and edema. Onions can help purify the digestive tract and help to stop putrefactive and fermentation processes in the gastrointentinal tract. They are also known to help regrow hair as well as add volume and shine. Onions that are eaten raw provide the most nutritional benefits and are a delicious addition to salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Onions are also excellent steamed and added to soups and stews. Consider making a simple vegetable soup with onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and potatoes. It is a healing and soothing meal that can provide signifiant health benefits and provide cellular rejuvenation, especially when feeling run down or worn out. Onions come in a wide range of varieties including red, yellow, white, and sweet. Using onions in your daily meals will help to boost your immune system and keep you healthy and strong.

Source - Medical Medium.

Monday, November 24, 2014

CASHEW NUTS


Cashews are a crunchy, yet delicately sweet nut that is treasured around the world for its flavor and health benefits. Cashews are high in protein and are a rich source of vitamin B-complex and essential minerals such as iron,selenium, zinc, and copper. They are also packed with anti-cancer compounds called proanthocyanidins that have the ability to starve tumors and stop cancer cells from dividing. Cashews are highly beneficial for lowering blood pressure, preventing heart attacks, preventing gallstones, reducing the frequency of migraines, providing energy boosts, strengthening bones, and promoting healthy skin and hair. Cashews have a lower fat content than most other nuts and contain a high amount of oleic acid which is a heart healthy monounsaturated fat that is great for the cardiovascular system. They are also excellent for the nervous system and they are known help keep muscles and nerves relaxed and free from tension and constriction. They can also help the body become more flexible and aid in elasticity of the tendons, muscles, and joints. Cashews have the ability to satiate hunger which decreases overeating and aids in weight loss and weight management. They are also good for overall eye health and they contain a bioflavonoid called zea-xanthin that helps to prevent age-related macular degeneration. For the maximum health benefits try to find raw cashews that are unsalted. Cashews can be eaten as a snack or added to salads, and vegetable or rice dishes. Cashews can also be ground into a nut butter and used to spread on celery sticks, apples, cucumbers, or mixed with dried coconut, honey and spices for a delicious and healthy dessert. Good quality cashews can be readily found online or at your local health food store

Source - Medical Medium
Image - Google

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Creative Uses For Orange Peels


1. Clean stainless steel
Fresh orange peels can be used to clean and shine stainless steel objects like the sink. Simply take some fresh peels and use them as you would use your sponge to scrub. The steel will also become water-spot resistant. You can use natural oil as a waterproof barrier. Avoid dish-washing liquid.

2. Soften brown sugar
Now you can keep your brown sugar from drying out. Place orange peels in the container of brown sugar and it will soften it.

3. Smelly shoes
You can get rid of smelly shoes by putting orange peels in them. Face the inside portion of the peel towards the sole of your shoes and they will absorb moisture and leave them smelling wonderful.

4. Cleaner
Keep leftover orange peel in a lidded jar and add white vinegar to it. Keep this jar in the fridge for a few weeks and shake it occasionally. Transfer it to a spray bottle and use to clean your windows, counter tops, or floors.

5. Use as a cup
While pulling off the peel if you have been able to keep at least half of the peel intact you can use it as a cup and put jellies or snacks in it.

6. Orange tea
You can use orange peels in your tea. Next time you make tea add orange peels and enjoy the result.

7. Mosquito repellent
Keep mosquitoes away by spraying orange peels on your skin and rub the outside portion of the orange on your skin before heading out.

8. Body scrub
You can use the peels as a scrubber. Wrap them in gauze and rub them on your skin while you are in the shower. It will make your skin glow and give you brighter skin.

9. Lower blood pressure
Chinese medicine uses bitter orange peels as natural medicine. Herbalists suggest eating bitter orange peel to lower your blood pressure naturally.

10. Relieve anxiety and depression
The oil from orange peels can be used to relieve anxiety and depression naturally. Massage with the oil and feel the difference.

11. Emergency oil Lamp
Fill a half-orange intact peel with olive oil for an emergency lamp. Use the pith as candle wick. This is easy to do and a great alternative when there is no other arrangement.

12. Light fire
Orange oil is flammable and catches fire easily. Next time you want to light a fire use orange peels instead of newspaper to start the fire. Burning orange peels in your fireplace will also remove any creosote.

13. Deodorizer
You can use orange peels as deodorizer. Put some in your fridge to make it smell good. You can also keep some in your garbage bin to eliminate stinky odors.



Saturday, August 9, 2014

VARALAKSHMI VRATHAM


Sarvamangala Mangalye|
Shive Sarvarthaka Sadhike|
Sharanye Thriyambake Devi/Laksmi|
Narayani Namosthuthe||

The above shloka is in praise of goddess Lakshmi and offering salutations .
The Hindu festival going by the name 'Vara Lakshmi Vratha' is celebrated on the Friday before the full moon in the Tamil Month 'Aadi' which corresponds to the English months of July-August. It is a festival to propitiate the goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, one of the Hindu Trinity. Varalakshmi is one who grants boons (Varam)
The name Vishnu really means pervading everywhere, and Lakshmi, his consort, is symbolical of the forces found everywhere. Eight forces or energies are recognised and they are known as Sri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Sarasvati (Learning), Priti (Love), Kirti (Fame), Santi (Peace), Tushti (Pleasure) and Pushti (Strength). Each one of these forces is called a Lakshmi and all the eight forces are called the Ashta Lakshmis or the eight Lakshmis of the Hindus. As health, wealth and prosperity depend upon the rythmic play of these forces, the worship of Lakshmi is said to be to obtain these three. Hence this festival is observed, invoking the blessings of Lakshmi.
Varamahalakshmi Festival is celebrated on the second Friday of Shravana month. The previous day of the festival, all the required puja items will be collected. On the puja day, the women wake up at Brahmamurtham and after bath, clean the puja area and decorate with a kolam or rangoli. Then they prepare the kalasam. A bronze or silver pot is chosen for this purpose, and a swastika symbol is drawn and smeared with sandalwood paste. The pot is filled with raw rice or water, coins, a single whole lime, five different kinds of leaves, and beetle nut. Items like turmeric, comb,mirror, small black bangles and black beads are also included.
The kalasham is sometimes covered upto the neck with a cloth, and then mango leaves are placed on the mouth of the kalasham. Finally, a coconut smeared with turmeric is used to close the mouth of the kalasham, and an image of Goddess Lakshmi is fixed. Now the kalasham symbolically represents Goddess Lakshmi. Pongal is made and offered to the Goddess, and the aarti is performed.
The next day before rahu kalam, the kalasam is kept on a bed of rice, and it is considered that the Goddess has entered the house to bless the family members. Then the puja is performed, first invoking Lord Ganesha, and then praising the Goddess. Various sweets are prepared and distributed on this occasion.
The next day, that is on Saturday, after taking a bath, the kalasham is dismantled and the water in the kalasham is sprinkled in the house to bless the house. If rice is used then it is mixed with the stored rice in the house.
Festival Recipes
Baked or boiled pulses, Holige, kadubu, sundal, kosambri, and vade are the delicacies made during this festival. In some other places, people make deep fried dishes like kadabu (a bengal gram and jaggery dish), chakuli, bajji and shankar paale, as naivedya ( Prasadam) for this festival. In some places, pongal is also made as special dish.
Legend
There are many stories about the importance of Varamahalaskhmi Vratam. As mentioned in Skanda Purana, once Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva about a vratam that will be most beneficial to women. Lord Shiva then mentioned the importance of Varalakshmi Vrata, narrating the story of Charumati. Pleased with Charumati’s devotion to her husband and family, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and asked her to perform the Varalakshmi Vratha and explained the procedures of the Vrata. Charumati invited all her neighbors, friends and relatives and performed the Varalakshmi puja as directed by Goddess Lakshmi. Soon after the puja, all the people who participated in the puja were blessed with wealth and prosperity.
Another story is about Shyamabala, daughter of King Bathrasiravas and Queen Surachandrika. The princess Shyamabala noticed her mother chasing away an old woman who advised her to do Varalakshmi Puja. The kind hearted princess called the old woman back who advised her about the importance of Varalakshmi vratam and to do the puja. After her return to her country she performed Varalakshmi puja and soon her country started prospering and the princess was appreciated for her good governance.
At the same time, her parents lost their wealth and were undergoing misery in their country. Shyambala sent them pots of gold, but surprisingly they all turned to ashes. Shyamabala realized that all this is the result of her mother driving out the old woman from the palace. She realized that the old woman was Goddess Lakshmi in disguise.
Shyamabala asked her mother to ask forgiveness to Goddess Lakshmi and perform the Varalakshmi Vrata. She did so and was able to attain the previous glory.
There is also another legend behind this great festival. During a small tiff between Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvathi while playing a game of dice, as to who is the winner, Chitranemi was asked to opine. His reply was in Shiva's favor, which made Parvathi angry and cursed him to become a leper.
When Shiva pleaded with her, she gave in and said the day women in the world observed Varalakshmi puja, Chitranemi would be relieved from his sickness. Chitranemi got relief when he observed some women performing the puja. Ever since then, this vratham has been observed.
Pic and source hindu.com