It’s all in the Books
It was just another brilliant summer evening nearing the end. Going through her work and plans in the lockdown stage, life had just become fully virtual. The evening was turning red but she was feeling a bit blue. Today, out of all the days she was feeling something a void, nothing like every day. Why? She couldn’t come up with a particular reason. She tried to recall each second from the morning, with an exception of a delay in tea which brought about an unsettling feeling. Is tea this important? She thought to herself. But it’s subjective. What is this? Is it true she is so free that she is thinking about tea? She turns around to the drawing-room from the gallery when her mother was adjusting for her “green tea schedule”. Oh Again! This tea. “Normal Indian tea, then without milk tea being vegan, then green tea and now herbal tea, mummy do you change your habits as per the opinion of others, or are you following some trends?” She sarcastically asked her mom. “So, you want me to read Vedas and have mahurat for tea now?” Her mom chuckled.
“Vedas! On the off chance that tea is actually of that much significance, it ought to have some association, some reference in writing, or the Vedic way of life. With this thought playing in the loop, she unlocks her phone and starts to research the relation between the Vedas and the herbal tea. Let us also have the bird’s eye view on the roots of Indian food and beverages’ needs, habits, and resultant benefits to build up a healthy modern lifestyle. Shall we?” she thought. This is what she found while rumbling through piles of information.
Out of all the 4 basic Vedas, 2 Vedas: the Rigveda and the Atharva Veda, talk significantly about food, beverages, best culinary practices, and guidelines to savour them.
The Rigveda talks about recipes of different dishes and the preparation they take. It also encompasses various accessible assortments with proper categorization and classification of food and beverages. The Atharva Veda whereas talks about the maintenance and improvement in health, the remedies of diseases, habits and conducts related to savoury. These evidently don’t talk about the ingredients of tea but they clearly indicate that the making process and its benefits are exactly the answer to the entire quest.
Vedas are generally misunderstood as a data bank of the topical literature, but Vedas are an encyclopedia of vast knowledge. Atharva Veda and Ayurveda have sufficient references in on a healthy lifestyle.
Surfing through multifarious articles, she found the below 5 different ancient literature suggesting and referring to tea or herbal tea as a beverage:
1. Charak Samitha:
Chapter 27, the Annapurna Vidhi Adhyayan talks about various grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, sugarcane preparations, honey, and types of water. These eatables are divided mainly into 12 groups: Shuka dhanya (grains), Shami Dhanya (pulses), Mamsa Varga (meat), Kshira varga, (milk and milk products), Shaka Varga (vegetables), Phala Varga (fruits), Harita varga (green leafy food), Jala Varga (water), Taila Varga (oil), Iksha Varga (sugarcane products) and Krutanna Varga (prepared foods). Phala, Harita, and Jala Varga have ample references of herbal ingredients that were used as part of a regular healthy diet. Herbal fragmented water with seeds, leaves, and few fruits also found a place under the definition of Satvik food habits.
2. Sushruta Samhita:
Sushruta Samhita is a detailed and vast subject of drinks and preparation of healthy drinks. It talks about the usage of roots, branches, skin, leaves, flowers, and fruits with or without seeds of different plants. In Aahara Kalpana, it also talks about the recipe of drinks with honey, defined as ‘Madya’ Sushruta Samhita drags out many references of remedial, precautionary, and supportive ingredients for various kinds of beverages. The references are titled ‘pre-prandial and ‘post-prandial drinks. They either supported or improved the digestive system or had some other medicine usage. At the same time, the guide also advocates regular use of these as part of a daily diet.
She took a break and then smiled. She looked at her mother while still sipping her cup of green tea, probably the second cup this evening. She told herself if only reading about tea is so pleasurable, the time her mom invests every evening relishing these actually would be blissful. She wanted to tell her mom that there is no Veda on herbal tea, although it is a part of it. She kept this conversation for later. She didn’t want to hamper the surreal satisfying emotions on her mother’s face and she certainly didn’t want to stop reading. A regular cup of tea was acting like a cataract to Vedic practices in modern times.
3. Sarngadhara Samhita:
Ancient treatises of Ayurveda were broadly classified into two groups: The Brihat Trayee (greater triad) and the Laghu Trayee (lesser triad). Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Ashtanga Sangraha are the Brihat Trayee while Madhava Nidana, Sharngadhara Samhita, and Bhavaprakasha are the Laghu Trayee. Brihat Trayee is great in respect to their authors, antiquity, and originality. Laghu Trayee is the work of later authors and is more or less, compilations without much originality. Further going into the detail, the literature has closer relevance with the modern time, possibly because of its time of inception. Chapter 3: Section 2, Madhya Khanda of Sarngadhara Samhita – Phanata Kalpana talks about hot infused drinks, Chapter 4 Him Kalpana guides about cold infusions in routine health drinks and Chapter 10 Sandhana Kalpana talks not only about fermented liquids but also gives a sneak peek into the consumption of herbal elements in our regular diet.
4. Vagbhata Samhita:
Just like the Sarngadhara Samhita, in modern Vedic literature, there is remarkable content on leaves, seeds, and peels of different fruits with water. Ayurveda states and divides consumed water into 3 parts, the major part becomes urine, another one has nutritional value for blood, and the third, and the most important one is for Prana. Vagbhata Samhita mainly talks about fermented liquids, consumption, effects, and remedies of obesity and Sthoulya suggests the same schedules and proper intake of the liquids for maintaining the healthy routines.
Nighantus was originally part of Ayurveda that gave equivalents of herbs and drugs in Vedas. Essentially, these are the modern texts that explain the properties and actions of the elements. Dhanvantari and Sodhala, these names are more popular in the category. The duration of 10th to 17th AD was considered the most favorable era for Nighatus. The last recognized Nighantu was in 19th AD called Shaligrama Nighantu. In general, Charaka or Sushruta Samhita mentioned one element in different Varga for its different benefits. Different Nighantus at different times came out as texts. From time to time then, scholars not only bifurcated the Vargas and Ganas to understand better use of one element, but they also added some extra elements which were never mentioned in the Samhitas.
Wow! She looked at the sky and thought “Oh my god, its night already!” She then remembers talking to her mom about food, but the last 4 hours, were like a treat for her heart and soul. She wanted to continue reading more about tea, green tea, Vedas, and Nighantus, but not today. She promised herself that she’ll spend more time with these topics because now she has made a new friend she wanted to know everything about. Her herbal tea! She smiled and murmured “A cup of tea can change a day, but can a cup of tea change your life? Yes, it can!”
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