Bathing is an integral part of daily routine in every Indian’s life. Special occasions call for holy dips in sacred rivers and lakes as enumerated by the scriptures. That a bath keeps us healthy through personal hygiene is a well known fact. But there are other aspects as well that are not well known. Polygraphic studies proved that water enhances electro-magnetic activity. In the context of this finding, the religious practices like washing hands and feet before entering temples and taking bath every day, worshipping with wet clothes and offering prayer standing in the middle of water chest-deep in rivers and tanks etc., seem to be more scientific than a mere act of cleanliness.
Human body is centre of electric currents and impulses. A continuous process of generation and consumption of electric energy takes place in the human body. Maharshi Vaatsyaayana has described the various power centres in human body. More energy is generated in our body whenever we are excited and battle various emotions as well as indulge in intense physical activity. However, at night when we retire until the next morning this generation and consumption level of power drops drastically. This is the reason why we feel so lethargic on waking up in the morning. We are neither active physically non mentally. Washing our face immediately clears the cobwebs of drowsiness. A bath certainly freshens up completely and puts us in our best shape. This happens due to the fact that water consumes the electricity in our body. This is known as Electro-magnetic activity. Physics describes this in detail. Therefore, taking bath has more to do with such scientific reasoning than merely cleanliness.
The time 90 minutes prior to sunrise is called Braahmi Muhurtham. This time is good for academics, purohits and the time where in the later hours, the night the last 48 mins. (2 ghadi) is called Braahmi Muhurtham. ‘Braahmi’ means Saraswathi, the Goddess of intellect. The above specified time is auspicious for gaining and sustaining intelligence and knowledge, owing to which it is called Braahmi Muhurtham. It is during Braahmi muhurtham that Sun god spreads his rays just as a peacock spreading its feathers. He starts spreading his light and energy throughout the world. The light rays from the Galaxies influence the human brain. The nascent sun spreads thousand arms in the form of rays across the sky, which emit light-blue divine rays.
These rays bring to life the cells and the brain. Lord Surya or the sun god is also the god of life. If the man can synchronise his senses with these rays during this hour he will be empowered with unchallengeable energy. This observation was endorsed by sages. This is the time when the life under the sun still remains in deep sleep supported by the tranquil and pleasant environment, the sages and munis spread the power of penance, which comes out in the form of high powered electrical and magnetic charge, for the upliftment of the living creatures on the earth. If one keep awake during these hours, it is possible to benefit from this charge. The Sacred Religious Marks (Tilakam)
One should apply the sacred religious marks (Tilakam) after performing aachamana(sipping water sanctified and fortified with mantras). The sacred texts enjoin that the forehead must never be left unannointed.
It has been a tradition in all Hindu families, irrespective of caste and creed to mark the body with some sacred sign. It is an ancient practice still in use wherein women, men and children of all castes apply such signs according to their traditions to this date. It is decreed imperative in case of women. Any woman who sports a Tilakam on her forehead anywhere in world appears to owe her roots to bharatavarsha, i.e, India. It is our tradition to invite people to any auspicious ritual by applying a “Tilakam”, vermilon dot on the forehead. It also signifies pleasantly the subsistence of her beloved husband. Even the most poverty sticken bid their relatives, friends, etc. farewell by applying a Tilakam. The have mores and the have not, all commonly sport Tilakam. The splendour of a Tilakam is compared with that of Goddess Laxmi Devi herself and therefore, Indians paint even the portal of their residence with beautiful bindies lending unparalleled grace to it. Tilakam is not only a beautifying aid for women but also a charm to ward off evil, the elders opine. Beginning with a child in a cradle to a grandma, all women wear a Tilak. Pooja/Prayer
Pooja is a part of Indian tradition. However, pooja in the Indian context is not just as simple as reading something from a holy book. All those performing the pooja are involved in the process of worship. This is considered to be a direct way communicating with the god.
Indians have a practice of worshipping god in different forms. It is said that there are about 30 million forms of god. It is also believed that there is only one sole supreme. There are different schools of worship. Some advocate worshipping the supreme god without a form or a shape since god is considered to be the cosmic power. Others give a form or a shape to the god. It is reflected in the idols they pray. Worshiping Yantras or the algebric forms of mantras encrypted on a variety of surfaces like metal, wood and stone is also a popular form. However, worshiping idols of different gods are the most followed. Ghantaanaadam (Ringing the bell)
Ghantaa or bell is a common sight in any temple. Bell has a significant place in the process of worship. While the bell made of gold and silver produce mild sound it is said that the bells made of copper, brass help in controlling the evils and germs. Abhishekam
Abhishekam is an important part of idol worship. Normally, abhishekam, or bathing the idol, is performed to the gods (in the form of idols) with Panchaamrita. It is a mixture of cow milk, curds, pure ghee, sugar and honey. Devotees also mix banana and coconut water in Panchaamrita. After completing the abhisheka, the panchaamrita used for the purpose is consumed by the devotees as teertha. It is said that panchaamrita, being the mixture of various milk products, has medicinal values and will provide health and nourishment to the body. However, since it is used for worshipping the god, there are spiritual values too attached to this teertha. For non-believers, the fact that it adds to the health would convince them to consume it. Festoon (Toranam)
Festoon (Toranam) decorating the main door of the houses, temples or any other place, where some ritual is performed, with a festoon (Toranam or a string of mango leaves) is part of the Indian culture. Normally, this kind of decoration is done during festivals or celebrations. Though there is a scientific reason behind this festoon decoration, this has become a part of the tradition and majority does not even bother to know the actual reason behind doing so. Indians use a festoon made of fresh and green mango leaves. However, leaves of other species like Neem are also used for this purpose. Most of us know that the green leaves absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This helps in keeping the surrounding atmosphere clean and hygienic. Keeping, the aesthetics in view, mango leaves are preferred, since their shape adds to the ambience. However, all other advantages of having a festoon revolve around this basic reason. According to a theory, the air filled with carbon dioxide, which is lighter than the pure air, gets purified immediately while passing through the festoon. In addition, insects get attracted to the green leaves. This stops the insects from entering the room. Turmeric to Threshold
Even this is an age-old practice in every house according to the Hindu culture and tradition. Applying Turmeric on the threshold is as important as having bath in every Indian house. Again, everyone knows the reason. But the modern Indian has a habit of ridiculing all such practices and branding them as blind beliefs or meaningless practices. It is beyond doubt that turmeric has anti-septic characters. It is an anti-bacterial too. While the green festoon hanging on the top of the main door frame stops insects and other visible but small flying objects from entering the room, turmeric applied on the door sill stops bacteria or other microscopic organisms from making their way into the house. Turmeric checks every invisible organism. In addition, the yellow color makes the main door colorful and is an aesthetic combination for the green festoon on the top of the doorframe. Africa ~ An Influx of Cultures
The human race was born on the land of Africa around 8 million to 5 million years ago. Many different languages, religions and types of economic activities developed in Africa. Other people from different parts of the world migrated to Africa. The Arabs crossed into North Africa in the 7th century AD. Then by the 19th century the Arabs moved to East and Central Africa. During the 17th century, European settlers came to Africa near the Cape of Good Hope. Their descendants moved to present day South Africa. The Indians moved to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
People of Africa
There are many tribes, ethnic groups and communities in Africa. Some communities have a large population of about millions of people, while some ethnic tribes number a few hundred. Each tribe follows its own culture and tradition.
The Afar are tribal people of Africa that live in Ethiopian desert lands. The Afar follow their own culture. They are nomads, living solely on their livestock. They are followers of Islam religion. When you move to the central highland plateau in Ethiopia, you will meet the Amhara people. These people are farmers and have their own language. There words and letters have an influence of Arabic and Hebrew languages.
The Republic of Ghana is home to the Anglo-Exe people. There are six main ethnic tribes in Ghana, the Akan that includes the Ashanti and Fanti, the Ewe, the Ga-Adangbe, the Mole-Dagbani, the Guan and the Gurma.They practice the drum dancing ritual and have three military units, whose sole aim is to protect their tribal African culture. The Ashanti people of Western Africa in central Ghana focus on the spiritual and supernatural powers. The men follow polygamy, which is thought as a symbol of generosity. The major languages spoken are Twi, Fante, Ga, Hausa, Dagbani, Ewe and Nzema. The official language of Ghana is English.
Bakongo people are natives of Congo to Angola along the Atlantic coast. These people produce cash crops like cacoa, palm oil, coffee, urena and bananas. There are many small villages that make up the entire tribal community. They are staunch followers of spiritual and ancestral cults. The Bambara form the dominant group of the Mali. The Bambara are farmers that grow crops and raise livestock. The Dogon are farmers famous for their artistic designs in woodcarvings and elaborate masks. They wear over 80 varieties of mask in their dances which depends on their celebration. Fulani tribes or the people of Mali are also called the Fulfulde or Peul. They are the largest nomadic tribes in the world.
Coming to Northeastern Zambia, you will meet the Bemba people. They have string religious beliefs that focuses on the higher god of Leza. They believe he has magical powers and controls fertility in people. Berber is one of the oldest tribes of Africa. They live in many countries throughout Africa. They are mainly found in Algeria and Morocco. They are followers of Islam. The Akye are people who live in southern Côte d’Ivoire. They believe in the supreme god who takes on different names according to a particular religion. The other tribes of Ivory Coast include the Dan, Akan, Anyi, Aowin, Baule and Senufo.
Malawi is called the ‘warm heart of Africa’, due to the friendly people and warm climate. The ethnic groups of Malawi include Chewa, Nyanja, Yao, Tumbuka, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian and European. The largest population group is formed by the Chewa people.
Traditions of Africa
As you have read in the above paragraphs, African culture is mixed with the innumerable tribes and ethnic groups. The influence of European and Arab cultures, has also provided a taste of uniqueness to the culture of Africa. Family is the most important part of every culture here.
According to one unique traditional culture, the people of Labola follow an interesting custom. The groom has to pay the father of the bride to compensate for the ‘loss’ of his daughter to the man in marriage. Traditionally, the groom had to pay in cattle, but today the father of the bride is compensated in cash. This tradition has deep-rooted reasons for bringing families together. It helps build mutual respect between the families and shows the father, that the boy is capable of providing and supporting his daughter.
In many customs, the weddings are held at night under the full moon. If the moon is not bright, it is considered to be bad luck. The bride’s parents do not attend the week-long celebrations, as it is a sad event for them. The wedding celebrations are not a joyous event for the parents of the bride. Polygamy is practiced in many African cultures. As long as a man can support his wives, he can marry. The wives share the responsibility of housework, raising children, preparing meals, etc. Polygamy is supposed to bring families together and help in thinking about the welfare of others. Family protection is the core value followed in African tribes. Members look out for one another, take care of each other in times of need, hunt together and make sure no child is abandoned.
Children are taught from a very young age, the core values of tribes and family importance. There are specific chores for each member of the group that falls in the same age group. All are expected to work for the welfare of the tribe and contribute by doing their assigned chores and obeying the sacred customs and cultures of Africa.
The coming of age or rites of passage, varies from tribes to tribes. Many tribes perform the circumcision of males. A few tribes perform circumcision in women as well. Circumcision is supposed to be a ritual that takes place over several months and the person is forbidden to cry or scream. If the person does scream, he or she is considered a coward.
Language of Africa
There are over hundred languages and dialects spoken in Africa. The most prominent languages spoken in Africa include, Arabic, Swahili and Hausa. There is not one single language used in many countries of Africa. Thus, you will find several official languages in one country. Many Africans speak Malagasy, English, Spanish, French, Bambara, Sotho, etc. There are four main language families of Africa that add to the diversity and unity of character of Africa. These four language families are Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Korofanian, Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan.
Food of Africa
The food and drink of African culture again reflects the diversity and colonial traditions. The African cuisine includes traditional fruits and vegetables, meat and milk products. A simple village diet of Africa includes, milk, curd and whey. Cassava and yams are the root vegetables that are seen in most diets.The Mediterranean cuisine from Morocco to Egypt is totally different from the Saharan African cuisine. The people of Nigeria and west Africa are fond of chillies and the non-Muslim population include alcoholic beverages in their diet. The Tej is the famous Ethiopian honey wine that is a popular alcoholic beverage in interior Africa.
One can go on and on about the culture in Africa. Africa is a large continent with many countries and each country with different people following unique traditions. Africa, the cradle of civilization is truly the mother of different cultures, traditions and customs. You not only get lost in the African wilderness, but are completely lost in the rich traditions of Africa. No one can beat Africa, as it is one country that in spite of the innumerable hardships, continues to inspire and mesmerize people around the world. If you do visit Africa, be sure you go there with an open mind and more importantly an open heart. You will come back with a little of Africa living in your heart forever. This article was just trying to introduce you with the culture of Africa in brief. You can find many more interesting information over the Internet on culture of Africa. Africa is a living encyclopedia for those who wish to learn more about our beautiful planet.
HISTORY OF AFRICA
Walking tall: from 4 million years ago
Africa is the setting for the long dawn of human history. From about four million years ago ape-like creatures walk upright on two feet in this continent. Intermediate between apes and men, they have been named Australopithecus. Later, some two million years ago, the first creatures to be classed as part of the human species evolve in Africa. They develop a technology based on sharp tools of flint, introducing what has become known as the Stone Age.
About a million years ago humans explore northwards out of Africa, beginning the process by which mankind has colonized the planet.
During the later part of the old Stone Age (see Divisions of the Stone Age), humans in Afica produce some of the earliest and most significant examples of prehistoric art. Paintings on stone slabs, found in Namibia, date from nearly 30,000 years ago. Rock and cave paintings survive from widely separated areas. They range from those of the San people, in southern Africa, to others dating from about 8000 BC in what is now the Sahara.
The Sahara is also the site of the earliest new Stone Age (or neolithic) culture to have been discovered in Africa.
A damp Sahara: 8000 – 3000 BC
The Sahara at this time supports not only elephant, giraffe and rhinoceros but hippopotamus and even fishes. It is a friendly landscape in which neolithic communities progress from hunting and gathering into a partly settled way of life, with the herding of cattle. Their paintings show that dogs have been domesticated and are sometimes used in the hunt – and that hunting methods include the pursuit of hippopotamus from boats made of reeds.
The paintings also suggest that these people wear woven materials as well as animal skins. The remains from their settlements reveal that they are skilful potters.
Around 3000 BC a climatic change gradually turns the Sahara to a desert (over the millennia it seems to have gone through a succession of humid and dry periods). The change brings to an end the first settled culture of Africa. The Sahara becomes the almost impenetrable barrier which throughout recorded history has separated the Mediterranean coast and north Africa from the rest of the continent.
At much the same time north Africa becomes the site of one of the world’s first great civilizations, Egypt. There may perhaps be a link, in the migration eastwards of the Sahara people, but archaeology has found no evidence of it.
Africa’s first civilizations: from 3000 BC
Egypt’s natural links are in a northeasterly direction, following the Fertile Crescent up into western Asia. Similarly Ethiopia, the other early civilization of northeast Africa, is most influenced by Arabia, just across the Red Sea. So these two regions, Egypt and Ethiopia, flanked by desert to the west and equatorial jungle to the south, evolve at first in isolation from the rest of Africa.
But the development of maritime trade along the Mediterranean coast, pioneered by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, does increasingly bring Egypt into a specifically north African context.
The people of sub-Saharan Africa: 2000 – 500 BC
Much of the southern part of the African continent is occupied by tribes known as Khoisan, characterized by a language with a unique click in its repertoire of sounds. The main divisions of the Khoisan are the San (often referred to until recent times as Bushmen) and the Khoikhoi (similarly known until recently as Hottentots).
The tropical forests of central Africa are occupied largely by the Pygmies
(with an average height of about 4’9′, or less than 1.5m). But the Negroes who will eventually dominate most of sub-Saharan Africa are tribes from the north speaking Bantu languages.
The Bantu languages probably derive from the region of modern Nigeria and Cameroon. This western area, bordering the Gulf of Guinea, is also the cradle of other early developments in African history.
Iron smelting is known here, as in other sites in a strip below the Sahara, by the middle of the 1st millennium BC. And the fascinating but still mysterious Nok culture, lasting from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century AD, provides magnificent pottery figures which stand at the beginning of a recognizably African sculptural tradition.
Probably during the first millennium BC, tribes speaking Bantu languages begin to move south. They gradually push ahead of them the Khoisan, in a process which will eventually make the Bantu masters of nearly all the southern part of the continent.
Meanwhile, in the regions immediately south of the desert, the first great kingdoms of sub-Saharan Africa become established during the first millennium AD.