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Updated on: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 05:09 AM IST

The Diwali cleanse: Benefits of traditional oil massage followed by herb powder bath

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The traditional oil massage followed by herb powder bath is replete with benefits, writes Shikha Jain

Be it any festival, regional or national, each one is celebrated with great pomp across India. Of all the festivals, the most significant is Diwali. Despite being a multi-faith country, Diwali is celebrated everywhere, and by almost everyone in India. It’s a beautiful time of year when everything simply looks like a kaleidoscope. India, being the melting pot of diverse cultures that it is, sees a myriad ways in which the festival is heralded. Whether it is bathing in essential oils, housekeeping, burning paper demons, shopping for gold, and worshipping gods and goddesses, each region welcomes Diwali in its own special way.

Cleansing rituals

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Another name for Choti Diwali is Narak Chaturdashi. It falls on the second day. “In Maharashtra, it is marked by taking a special bath before dawn after a full body massage of scented oil. It is believed that people who do Abhyang Snan on this day, can avoid going to narak, which is hell,” says Deven Deshpande, a resident of Pune. The regional special Abhyang Snan involves using a particular Ayurveda preparation called ‘ubtan’ or ‘utaana’ made of sandalwood, camphor, manjistha, rose, orange peels, turmeric and milk cream instead of synthetic soap.

This celebration is connected to Lord Krishna killing the wicked demon Narakasura. It is said that after slaying the demon, when Krishna returned home early morning, the womenfolk massaged scented oil on his body and bathed him to wash away the dirt and grime from his body. Since then the custom of taking a bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice especially in Maharashtra. “After the bath, we have an amazing breakfast called ‘Faral’, which includes home-made delights including chakli, karanji, laddoo, shankar pale and chivda,” adds Deven. It’s all about ushering goodness, pleasantries and happiness. Neeta Kolhatkar from Mumbai says, “Even kandils are switched on at 5 in the morning and diyas and little lamps are lit as well, so you are bringing in good vibes.”

Thalaiva Diwali

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In south Indian families, the oldest member of the family places three drops of sesame oil on the foreheads of the other family members or the ladies of the house apply the oil on the heads of the men, after which they proceed to take a bath. Since Diwali is celebrated during the cold windy season, sesame oil keeps the body warm and protected. It is called the holy bath, as it is believed to be as sacred as bathing in the river Ganges. “Mostly in the coastal part of Karnataka, along with the traditional oil bath, they also worship King Bali who was crushed by Vaman. This ritual is called Balipadyami. Farmers offer food around paddy fields and make loud noises. When I was young, I remember doing this along with my cousins and grandpa,” says Anubha Upadhya from Bengaluru.

Special benefits

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Applying oil on the skin not only moisturises the skin and body, but also cleanses the skin of the environmental pollutants and toxins, removing dead skin cells as well. It also increases circulation of blood. Massaging the head with warm oil relieves the stress and calms the mind. Abhyanga Snan stimulates the nerves and also aids sensory motor integration and thus, helps prevent neurological problems.

Bathing routine

It is recommended that one gets up before sunrise and massages the body with jasmine oil or any oil of your choice. Post this, mix the ubtan powder with either warm milk or rosewater. Apply this thick paste on your skin. Leave on for 15 minutes. Elders recommend sitting where the sun’s rays can reach you. Scrub off the dried ubtan by massaging gently. Follow up with a hot bath.

We are starting our day with a holy bath for a healthy year ahead, are you?

Where to find it: You can get your hands on these herbal body/face cleansers at any of the Ayurveda stores. Brands like Forest Essentials, Kama Ayurveda, and Khadi Natural also offer similar products. You can also order the same online.

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Published on: Sunday, October 28, 2018, 05:15 AM IST
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