“Open your eyes, my son!” and he gradually did so. His eyes were blinded with the bright light emerging from the front. He rubbed his eyes and dropped on his knees genuflecting himself in utter devotion. The divine voice continued “your firm devoutness has elated me. Bhagirath, what do you wish for?” He lifted his face, with tears trickling down his cheeks, to see the eldest of the Hindu trinity and saw all 4 faces of the God smiling at him. He stammered and said in a parched and low voice “Salvation, my lord, salvation. Not mine, but for all 60,000 descendants of Rishi Sagar. Maa Ganga be descended to Earth”.
The omniscient Brahma beamed and said “So it shall be”. Immediately, Ganga was summoned. Fearing that earth would not be able to tolerate the pressure of her frothy waters, she protected herself in the tangled locks of Shiva’s long and unruffled hair. Thereafter, she emerged like an enormous fountain and followed the path lead by Bhagirath, thereby absolving the sins of Sagar’s sons and bringing ‘moksha’ for them.
The above narrative has been repeated innumerable times in Indian mythology and highlights a very important aspect. Yes, a snaan (bath) even after one dies can bring in ultimate salvation. And that’s the importance of shower placed in Indian culture, in Hinduism. The timing and nature of a bath undertaken by an individual is of critical importance. The scriptures are very clear about the right way and timing of your showers. The ideal way to begin your day is to take a good cold shower before you get on with your daily routine preferably before the sunrise. The regime doesn’t end there because after you take a bath, you need to give the same to ‘Surya Dev’ (sun god) by offering water to it. This is further followed by prayers to all the idols and deities. Hold your breath, before you start praying all the gods should be given a bath in the holy water of Ganga River.
Apart from the daily routine, every stage of one’s life is defined by the kind of bath one should undertake. When a child is born, the first bath is given on the second day of birth with cow milk. The diseased or sick people should be given their shower laced in neem leaves. During marriage, the bride and groom are applied turmeric powder paste all over the body and then given a bath in warm water with aromatic rose water. Such baths are believed to enhance sensuousness in the newly married couple. Before any puja or yagna all the deities and idols are given a bath, post which they are adorned with janeu (sacred thread), itra (perfume) and then served a wholesome meal. At the last stage of one’s life, the body is given bath again in Ganga water and after the death the ashes are also submerged in the holy rivers. It is believed that this brings salvation and gives one riddance from the cycle of life and death.
There are seven types of bath defined by Hindu mythology:-
- Mantra snaan (Hymns bath) – cleansing of one’s mind through chanting of mantras and hymns
- Agni snaan (Fire bath) – cleansing of the body by applying the ashes of fire remains
- Bhaum snaan (Earthy bath) – using of earth/ soil for the bath
- Vaayavya snaan (North west bath) – use of cows hoofs for taking the bath
- Maansik snaan (Internal bath) – Hinduism not only believes in external cleansing but lays a huge emphasis on cleansing yourself internally i.e. mentally, emotionally and purity of thoughts. This bath involves purification of one’s thoughts and internal self through introspection and retrospection.
- Varun snaan (bath by water) – a bath by taking a dip in the running water, river or taking a typical shower.
- Divya snaan (divine bath) – sunbathing would be the most appropriate way to define this kind of bath.
Although, normally we consider a typical splash of water from the top as shower, but Indian scriptures and rituals identify various other ways for self-cleansing. And it elevates the hygiene merely from the physical way to a much higher level of cleansing your mind and evolving yourself in divine and spiritual way. This definitely takes the hygiene to a different level and it really reflects an evolved and matured thought centuries ago. In recent times we have seen that other ways of baths have found their way into the western culture in form of sunbathing, spa, sauna, mud baths and more contemporary ways of taking baths, which has their roots in our rich culture and heritage. It brings an immense sense of pride when these practices have not only being recognized but has permeated into our lives in recent times.
A good bath not only leads to your physical hygiene but also strengthens your mental, emotional, spiritual self. PAQOS is dedicated whole-heartedly to lead you through this journey of discovering yourself and evolving the divinity in you.