Most regions in India are hot and dusty; therefore, bathing is necessary to get rid of body dirt and grime. Many ancient Hindu texts symbolically highlight the therapeutic significance of Snanam (bathing) and over centuries it has become a routine in daily life, public congregations and festivals like the Kumbha and Magha Mela near holy river banks.
Hinduism prescribes many kinds of Snanam.
- Nitya Snanam: Normal way of bathing daily while at home.
- Vaaruna Snanam: Normal bathing in warm or hot water.
- Malaharsha Snanam: Oil or herbal bath.
- Aagneya Snanam: After the normal bath, apply Viboothi (Holy ash offerings in Shiva Temples) all over the body continuously chanting the name in praise of the almighty Lord Shiva, “ॐ नमः शीवाय।।”
- Dhivya Snanam: When there is bright sunshine along good rain, saints take bath in the rainwater – a rare occurrence.
- Aatma Prokshana Snanam (when a person is unable to carry out Kriya & Kshetra Ganga Snanam due to any reason.): Taking some holy water from the auspicious river, pond or lake on one’s right palm and drinking it remembering Lord Vishnu also sprinkling it on the head one becomes pure as if bathing. This mantra supports this quick bathing method to purify oneself, while taking the name of Lord Vishnu.
- Naimithiga Snanam: Taking a bath before, during and after an Eclipse (Lunar/Solar) or after taking part in any untoward incidence like funeral.
- Vaaya Veeya Snanam: For specific purposes. Bathe by feeling the wind when the Cow’s tail is swinging. This acts as a remedy for certain bad Omens.
WHY BATHING IN THE MORNING IS IMPORTANT
Bathing at the Brahmamuhurt or dawn is ideal, even today though it is inconvenient for most people. Alternately, bathing as early as possible after sunrise is preferable instead of bathing late in the afternoon. During morning hours, the atmosphere is full of positive Sattvik waves (Apa-tattva) that touch the physical body and freshly bathed is very sensitive to the absorption of waves from the atmosphere. Rajasik-Tamasik waves predominate the atmosphere in the afternoon and during bathing the body absorbs these negative waves making only the externally body clean even though the body continues to remain unclean internally.
In the morning Sattvik waves are high in the physical and subtle human bodies. Bathing increases it further and retains it for a longer period. However, at night Tamasik predominant waves are high and by bathing Sattvik in the physical and subtle bodies increases to a lower extent and retains for a shorter time. Individuals benefit to a lesser extent on bathing at night, compared to morning and therefore bathing in the morning is preferable.
According to Kurma Purana, without an early morning bath, a person remains impure, unfit for performing civilized daily activities. Sick persons alone can avoid bathing. Eating food without having a bath is as good as eating filth because the food is as impure as the person is. The Padma Purana states that anyone who does not have a morning bath is a sinner fit to suffer.
The Vedic culture believes bathing to a sacred act prior to meditation on the Lord or recitation of a prayer. The scriptures say that an early morning cold water bath can purify a sinner, washing away all external and internal contamination, any influence of sleep (waste products that fill the nine holes in the human body) and evil dreams, revitalizing the subtle body with strength, compassion, long life, purity and mental peace. Bathing removes unhappiness, dirge, squalor and bad thoughts and increases one’s determination and knowledge to enable the person to begin their routine in a fresh state.
The Garuda Purana praises bathing saying that water nourishes and sustains the human body and spirit, purifying and uplifting an individual from the ordinary to the mystical. It further says, that bathing in mountain water, spring water and collected rainwater in that order are highly beneficial having positive physical, mental and spiritual effects. Devout Hindus, even today invoke the river immunity, recovers damaged cells, decrease the risk of necrosis and survival rate of some cancers. Regulating human body temperature through bathing is the most pleasant quickest way.
Experts say that the optimal bath time is about 10-20 minutes with water around 32-35°C that opens the skin pores, encourages sweating, releasing toxins. Temperature higher than 44°C, could increase blood pressure, scald body skin and strip away the protective acid mantle, thereby making skin tight, dry and itchy. During winter taking a hot water bath can surely warm one up and taking a cold-water bath in summer is undeniably the best way to cool off. Evidence shows that bathing, in cold or hot water has many health benefits without adverse effects, however, consulting a health professional in case of serious pre-existing health conditions or diseases is necessary.
Very-hot baths, however put the body under heat stress, disturbing the body’s internal temperature regulation, to recalibrate and cool down to normal. Heat stress, according to Harvard Health, strains human heart and heart patients should avoid hot water bath and saunas. Persons who get urinary tract infections (UTI’s) frequently, should avoid bathing in bubble baths because the exposure to bacteria from the rectum can end up entering the urethra and therefore bathing for health benefits is not worth the pain of UTI’s. After bathing, pat (do not rub) the skin dry retaining some water on the skin, reducing any risk of dry skin occurs. Wash the towels and dry after each use as bacteria multiplies in moist towel spreading infections. Avoid the use of sponges and flannels.
Recent studies show that cold shower bath triggers the “blue spot” in the brain releasing hormone noradrenaline, alleviating depression. The hormone jolts positive vibes of energy improving mental alertness and deep breathing that improves blood flow to the brain and other important organs. Thus, both the hot and cold baths only have positive effects on mental, physical and emotional well-being. The choice of using a bath or a shower is individualistic although we presume that a shower uses less water than bathing.
Dr. Sitaram Dixit, Chairman – Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI)