Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Selection of the fat for Abhyangam


Adding on to the further discussion to the Abhyangam, herewith I will be discussing issues concerned with selection of the fat prior to the execution of the massage. Details regarding this can be found in Charaka samhhita, Sootra sathan, Chapter no. 13.

While answering questions of his most intelligent and intellectual student, Agnivesha, Atreya reveals all secretes of fats/ oils and their properties. Probably, this was the giant leap in the process of compilation of Ayurvedic knowledge. Agnivesha, who always asked treacherous questions to his great teacher and in turn who always satisfied his student with his undoubted intellect, discussion among student and teacher is really a treat to read. Agnivesha asks, “Kati sneha, ke cha guna prithaka?” How many fats are there and what are their qualities? And discussion goes on….

The word used for the oil/ fat in classical books is Sneha, and in the further discussion of the topic, I will be referring the same word.

Meaning of word Sneha


Sneha means Love. Indeed it’s Love and wisely it has been named so. Love is factor responsible for the mutual bonding and due to the same property it helps in rejuvenation and increases strength of the body. It helps in the mutual bonding of the muscles and due to the strengthening properties and being penetrative it tends to reach into the smallest of the channels of body.

Types of sneha

There are two types of sneha basically in this world:-
A) Sthavara – Vegetable origin = Thailam i. e. Oil
B) Jangama – Animal origin
Under the Jangam category, following fats have been included:-
1) Ghrita- Purified butter
2) Vasa- Animal fat
3) Majja- Bone marrow.

Practically, out of these four types of sneha, only Ghrita(purified butter), and thailam(Oil) are in general use. But, utility of two other fats can not be ruled out and they can be extremely useful in some conditions.
As a general conclusion, Charka has considered Ghrita as the best among all kind of fats and safe. He says that while treating Ghrita with other medicines, it acquires the quality of the same and doesn’t leave its own properties as well. Due to this property, which is called as ‘Sansakara anuvartana’, ghrita becomes the fat of choice and can be devised in innumerable formulations as per the requirement.
For the purpose of massage, factor which has to be considered as most important is ‘Prakriti’ of an individual. The basic constitution of an individual would be a deciding factor while picking up a fat in healthy person, while choosing fat for the massage in diseased person depends upon multiple factors. Though some intellectual people may find a controversial point in it, but this point can not be left as an individual choice.
So, its better to know the properties of these fats and then I will come back to the same.

Properties of fats

Ghrita(purified butter)

As per Charaka samhita, qualities of ghrita are as following
1) Pittaanila haram- pacifies pitta and vata.
2) Rasa oja shukra hitam- improves the quality of plasma, oja and semen.
3) Nirvapanam- pacifies burning sensation.
4) Mridukaram- generates softness.
5) Swara varna prasadnam- improves complexion and quality of sound.

Thailam(oil)

1) Marutghanam- pacifies Vata
2) Na cha shlesma vardhanam- it doesn’t increases Kapha
3) Bala vardhanam- increases strength.
4) Twachyam- improves the quality of skin.
5) Sthirakarm- induces stability.
6) Yoni vishodhanam- purifies vaginal toxins(?)
Depending upon above criterion, if we divide constitution in three types as per single dosha predominance,
Vata predominant, Pitta predominant, Kapha predominant, we can select fat as following:-

Vata- Oil
Pitta- Purified butter
Kapha- Oil

Further criterion and intricacies I will discuss in my next write up.
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