Ghee & the Modern Man

 

Known as Ghrit or ghrta in Sanskrit, ghee is considered is a staple in Indian cooking and has been a host of good health for thousands of years. I love both butter & ghee, & growing up have eaten loads of it. After she was done churning, my mother kept the butter floating in a dish of water on the dining table & every time we passed by a portion of it went into mouth!! Both Butter & Ghee are usually solid in cooler conditions & melts as it warms. The smooth texture, melting in the mouth gives that classy feeling like the melting chocolate. Butter, Sri Krishna’s favourite dish, has a limited shelf life but a simple process turns the same butter into ghee (Clarified butter, we call it “Nei” & Kannada “tuppa”). Ghee’s own shelf life is almost one hundred years if stored properly!!! That’s makes it survive longer than us.

Boiling the butter on low fire yields the ghee. My mother added few betel leaves for flavor towards the end. The butterfat is bottled after cooling, leaving the proteins (casein, way & other milk solids such as lactose, etc.) collected at the bottom. We kids waited for the chance to collect the bottom solids & ate with banana or simply dhal which is prepared in the same vessel and smelt so good.. became so tasty… my mouth is watering. We fought for the lion share of the betel leaves cooked crisp.

Food for the Mind & Spirit

Unfortunately, modern science came up with the idea that ghee is bad, corrupting every mind & until recently not realizing the value of it. So ghee became a No… No in the modern meals…. In a way they might be right too because their study came from the cows eating all sorts of manmade concoction including plastic & ground bones (powder) of other dead animals. On the other hand, in Aryurveda, our Rishis spoke of the cows which ate grass straight from Mother Nature’s lap. I think that when the cows eat the fresh grass roaming freely in the meadows, the grass smells so good – like how the mowing brings out the unusual smell, enhancing good feeling in ourselves – making the cow happy & calm. That pleasantness (of the mind – which makes us believe either we are happy or sad) is then radiated into the entire body of the cow like the sweet fragrance, including the udder (perhaps mainly udder because cow produces milk for its baby, the calf not for us the thieves).

Everyone knows that Body & Mind of the beings works in unison when the conditions are pleasant, communicating through chemical signals creating harmony with each other. Even though we cannot see, we can experience it! Also it is noteworthy that when we are happy, small little problems just does not get any attention from us which shows that positive thinking & healthy mind condition could also reduce negativity in us. The milk in the udder comes to man, then it is converted into many different forms such as curd, buttermilk, butter, cheese, etc., etc.

Now the scientists are turning around & says its goooodddd…. Mr. Ghee is trust worthy… after Mr. Ghee, Mr. Coconut also got a praise… Lol… wonder whether Indians & Ayurveda really need certificate from the Modern Science & their chameleonic theories.

Mrs. Cows graze mainly on grass & other greens, fruits & vegetables or rice, etc. So all the vitamins & medicinal properties of the food consumed is absorbed & transported to milk. So we get the nourishment like taking a supplement in modern terms!! It’s an antioxidant & has antiviral properties too. It contains Omega 3 (so called good cholesterol) & 6, which are boosters for brain & nervous system for smooth functioning. Let’s see some of the qualifications of Mr. GHEE.

In Ayurveda it is considered as a Satvic food & like all the Satvic foods, it promotes positivity, growth & expansion of the consciousness. Even though it is a diary product, coming from another body, like mother’s milk it is accepted by everyone including pure vegetarian Brahmins. That’s one of the main reason Cow is respected & regarded highly in India. Sadly, people think it is related to religion & kill them… losing long term benefits for less than an hour’s craving…

Ghee has a high smoking point (about 250 Degree C) so it will not break down into so called free radicals like other oils. It is rich in oil soluble Vitamin A & E, K2 & CLA as well as medium chain fatty acids, which are absorbed directly by the liver like carbs & burned as energy, which does not result in fat storage. It is rich in butyric acid (so named because it was first discovered in butter & it increases its concentration in ghee), which is considered beneficial to the digestive & immune systems in many ways.

It protects the body, aids digestion & strengthens immune system. In Ayurveda, ghee is used as a carrier for the nutrients in herbs & to lubricate the intestinal tract & all the tissues inside the body. Bowl movement & Digestion related problem, is a big problem for many people in the modern world. Our body is designed to digest. However, many suffer from digestive stress & it is said that an estimated one in four Americans suffers from gastrointestinal (GI) track & digestive maladies! (no study is done in India…)

Ghee preventing onset of body ache, joint pain, alzimers, cancer, etc., etc. So don’t feel bad if you want to consume gheeeeee….. However, people suffering from heart ailments & diabetics should be little careful & if doctor says no then please don’t eat it!!

Finally, the ghee enhances the taste & flavor of the food. Cook dhal, chicken or biryani with ghee & see how great it tastes & smells!! My mother used to narrate this fable: Kai guna Mavayya or nei guna Mavayya (is it merit of the cook’s hand or the ghee). A wife had been cooking for her husband all her married life. He never really appreciated or perhaps did not show openly. Time passed, her son grew up to be nice young man & got married, & the daughter-in-law, let’s call her Asha came home. Once wife was away for few days & the Asha cooked the food. The food was so tasty… Mava (father-in-law) could not believe his tongue. When his wife returned, all that she heard was that how good was Asha’s food… all her dishes. Suddenly/sadly the old man felt wife’s cooking was not good, nothing in front of Asha!! Poor Mavi (mother-in-law), a good cook herself could not understand how come her food is not tasty to her husband any more. So one day she hid herself & watched Asha cooking everything with ghee. So next day the smart lady hid the ghee container. Asha could not find the ghee & unable to ask anyone, finished cooking with oil. After tasting Mava said why Asha did not cook today.. the food is not tasty…. Wife was waiting for this & told her husband to ask Asha “Kai guna or nei guna”? Asha shyly answered “Nei guna Mavayya”, ending Mava’s nagging of his wife for good!

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Why Kodavas eat pork and not beef – Part 2/2

Why Kodavas don’t eat beef? It’s simple….. Pure common sense, sense of gratitude & in harmony with the nature. Realization that a living cow is more valuable than a dead one. What would be referred in Corporate & Banking Sector as Profits & Return on Investment (ROI)!! So the far-sighted Kodava fore-parents developed the culture of respecting the cows & prohibiting the slaughter & consumption.

No other animal is as important & panacea* than the cow to mankind. It provides milk twice a day – morning & evening religiously. Milk is a complex substance, & a variety of constituents can be extract from it for use as ingredients in other foods. Who never tasted the cow’s milk & its byproducts known as dairy products like curd/yogurt, buttermilk, butter, ghee, cheese, ice cream, condensed & dried milk, etc., etc? If a child unfortunately loses his/her mother or mother does not have sufficient milk, the child can be raised only on cow’s milk & in majority of the counties there is no other alternate too. Even if the mother is alive, once we reach a certain age we grow up (cradle to grave perhaps) drinking milk obtaining all the nourishment.

Bullock is used to plough the field to grow different kinds of crops; the cow-dung is the best natural manure which makes the soil fertile & produces the purest organic food!! Flattened & dried cow-dung is also used as renewable fuel in many developing countries. The hide (leather) of the cow is used, the bone & fat extracts are used in various products &, even the dead cow becomes manure after it disintegrates in the nature. Those who can’t afford cement use diluted cow-dung to cover the mud floor to prevent dust. So I guess most of the readers agree with me that the cow definitely deserves to be respected & not killed & consumed.

It reminds me of a simple lesson my mother taught: because you cannot extract all the milk from the udder, you don’t cut the udder. You have enough common-sense to know it’s of no use…

Cows grown naturally eat only greens or fruits in other words only vegetables & eating different types of grass & leaves, the milk produced is very nutritious. There is one complaint from the scientists that it produces loads of methane… well even that can be harvested & used as gobar-gas for cooking & heating. Sometimes I wonder what would be the human production of methane particularly the ones who eat beef!! Just kidding….

The cute faced, humble eyed calves running around happily with their bell in the neck is a site to behold & slaughtering it as veal… the thought makes my heart heavy.

So how could anyone who does more good than harm could be mistreated or harmed? Just like a mother does for the child, cow is practically sacrifices its entire life for the good of humans. Someone once told me that God made the cows to slave, serve & be human food. That makes me wonder, why did God really made the humans? Is it just to propagate? Aggrandize? Destroy everything on the path just to fulfil the greed?

If you have grown up around the farm land you will realize how gentle & social the Cows are. They maintain the meadows by grazing evenly & maintenance of the grass is very important. Grass acts like sponge in absorbing & holding the rain water which seeps slowly into the ground. Cows are as diverse as cats, dogs & people. Some are bright, bold, adventurous, some are friendly, they cry (tears in the eyes) when in pain or sad & mourn the loss. They are intelligent, interact in socially complex ways & have cognitive abilities. They always come home in the evening & stand in their place at the pen.

According to Ayurveda cow’s ghee is the best compared to all the other fat products & is used intensively in the medicine. I remember while growing up, my mother left the freshly churned butter on the dining table inside a pool of butter milk. Every time I passed in front of the table, a small glob of butter went to my stomach. There were many occasions nothing left for the next day breakfast. Yet she left it on the table, perhaps indirectly encouraging us to eat. And I was always very slim. Then that butter was made out of the milk from the free roaming cows fed on green grass/hay & other greens/fruits, unlike the present day cows which are fed anything from animal protein to God know what??

Among all domesticated animals, cows hold a special place in the human evolution. Relationship between humans & Cows perhaps stretch as far back as the existence of humans or cows itself! The divine wish granting cow Kamadhenu (Kama = desire, wish & dhenu=give or grant), believed to be the ancestor of the present day cows came out during Sagar-manthan (churning the ocean) for Amrita (Ambrosia – the drink of immortality) & the story of Punyakoti is practically known to all the Indians. Kamadhenu (aka cow of plenty, Surabhi, Shaval, Aditi & Kamduh) is considered holiest jive (soul) on earth since creation & it is said that if a child is born under unlucky star is passed under the body of a cow to offset the effects.

For those who city dweller who never heard of, a sweet dish is prepared similar to thick custard by steaming the new milk (colostrum – after the calf is born) along with jaggery/sugar to taste & little cardamom powder. This delicacy is rare as it is made out of new-milk only. We call it Ginnu (AKA Ginnu in Kannada, Foosa in Kokni – Maharashtra & Barhi in Karachi, Pakistan). You cannot drink or use colostrum in beverages. When I asked my mother why we are depriving the calf of its mother’s milk, I was told that the calf cannot have more as it causes lose motion & we have to extract it whether we use it or not!! More over if we don’t extract, like humans they also have pain which might result in fever or shock.

Note: It’s ironic that inspite of not eating beef, all most all of us taste/tasted the traces of cow’s bone in our diet every day!! Don’t trust me read my next article…..

Informational:

*Animal byproducts.. Interesting… most of the goods mentioned are the byproducts of cattle.

I am not discouraging anyone from using but just telling how much the animals are part of our system. Many people are allergic to animal products & you can find non-animal related products too. I use many of the products mentioned but like they say ignorance is bliss… as long as we don’t see… the raw material we will keep using the things. After all man is a creature of habits & we are already seasoned users of most of the things.

Gelatin (unless specifically mentioned vegetarian), what is Jello is made from the connective tissues of the cow. Gelatin also found in some gums, fruit snacks like gummy bears & marshmallows!

Animals like cows, sheep & swine have remarkable similarities to human bodies, & many anti-rejection drugs used in organ transplant (heart, liver, etc) & the natural insulin (used by diabetics) contain animal byproducts.

Some ointments for burns & first aid creams may contain animal byproducts.

The little white tablets called enzymatic cleaners used to clean contact lenses contain enzymes, an animal protein. Enzymes are also used in laundry pre-treatments.

Expensive wool & woolen material including the beautiful shawls comes from animals. The smooth beautiful silk is the cocoon of silk worm!! Leather jackets, wallets, shoes, belts, gloves, watch bands, car seats, chairs, etc., etc., are made from leather. The saddle soap used to help the leather to maintain its softness contains…

Fatty acids from cow CAN BE USED to make adhesives (remember the sticky part of the bandages), in toilet papers to make it soft, dish soap that helps make your hand soft, nail polish remover (gelatin) that gives strength to nails, soaps-lotions-makeup-lipsticks-shaving cream-deodorants (may contain stearic acid, a fatty acid or lanolin from sheep), etc.

Coating of the film (contains gelatin), crayons (can also be soybeans), paint brush (mostly horse hair), some printing inks like high gloss printing, industrial cleaners contains animal byproducts. Candles may contain the fat to give them more strength, longevity (last longer) & make them more opulent.

Cow’s hooves & horns are used to make glue in the labels. The world famous, exclusive bone china, (a fine material is the brain child of English potter Josiah Spode created in 1748) is made using the bone ash, feldspathic material & kaolin…

Sports equipment is made from the cow’s hide like basketballs, baseballs, footballs, volleyballs, soccer balls & gloves. Football is also made from pigskin.

The binding agent in asphalt on highways, stearic acid in the tires which helps to maintain their elasticity contains animal byproduct. Chances are that even the hydraulic brake fluid, car wax & glycerol in antifreeze contains animal byproducts.

There are many more to list… the question is how much more we want from the animals particularly the cattle & how do we repay them?

Legends of Magical Tala-Kaveri, River Kaveri and the Kodavas

If someone asks how old is River Kaveri… what could be the right answer? Well I guess she has been around forever!! Then how old is the Brahma Kundige? Unfortunately no carbon dating possible I guess… perhaps the old Ashwata-mara could have given a clue… it’s too late for that too…

The River Kaveri (anglicized as Cauvery) is a name every soul in Karnataka is familiar with. If they have the privilege of getting Kaveri water supplied to their homes, they go an extra mile in telling with a note of pride… “We get Kaveri water (as opposed bore-well water)”… its tasty & brings the flavour in the food. Don’t believe me, try it out!! Every visitor to Mysore will have the trip to KRS in their itinerary. Yeh.. The Krishna Rajendra Sagar dam is built across the river Kaveri by our late Maharaja Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar IV, under the guidance of Sir M. Vishveshwariah, one of the greatest Engineers Karnataka has ever produced. However, she is equally revered in Tamil Nadu. Ironically the two neighboring states Karnataka & Tamil Nadu constantly fight* over the distribution of water too.

Kaveri (birth name Lopamudra), born with the blessing of Lord Brahma, is the daughter of Sage Kavera, who had given up his throne to do tapsya seeking moksha (salvation) & for the welfare of his subjects. Then Kodagu & the surrounding area is said to be barren filled with only rocks & dirt. Wife of great Sage Agasthya, she came to be known as Kaveri, after her father Kavera muni.

“Brahma Kundige” (Kundu – pond in Kodava dialect) at Talakaveri (aka Dakshina Kashi) on the picturesque Brahmagiri betta (hill) at an altitude of 1276 meters above sea level, Kodagu district in the Western Ghats is the Ugama-Sthana (birth place) of the Jeevanadi (life supporting river) Kaveri. After originating at the little Kundige, flows down inconspicuously as Guptagamini, re-emerging at a distance downwards at Nagateerta. So called as the rock formation looks like the water is flowing out of a Cobra’s hood. It is also said that on Sage Agastya’s behest Nagas along with their king tried to stop her at this point. But when Kaveri told them her heart’s desire of serving the mankind, they let her go with utmost respect. From there she flows downstream joining river Kannike & mythical river Sujothi at Triveni Sangama (the confluence of 3-rivers) in Bhagamandala.

From Kundige, the steps lead up to the nearby Brahmagri betta with breath taking 360 degree panoramic view, where the Sapta Maharishis are said to have performed a special yagna. The Brahmagiri range was supposed to known as Agnigiri, Vayugiri & Gangagiri in the Puranas. With the misty clouds it literally gives the feeling that you are climbing the STAIRWAY to HEAVEN!! The butterfly kiss of fresh gentle air feels like God Almighty thyself caressing you gives the feeling of elation. A sentiment even the baring of tree on the hill is for a purpose: just to let the angles kiss you gently!! Time seems to be frozen & transporting one into another era/yuga… The thought of sharing the same ground once walked by the greatest souls, watching the same mountains & the misty clouds… wishing the feeling never ends… When you are up there your mind plays trick on you & you feel like as if you are transported into nothingness with the sound of Omkar in your ears. I have personally experienced it on every visit.

I remember my mother mentioning that there is supposed to be a very small pond filled with perennial water on top of the betta which is said to be made by Lakshmana from shooting his arrow to get water for cooking & drinking during his Vanavasa with Sri Rama. But I have never seen it. A lot of stories are attached with her origin & is supposed to be visited by Gods & Goddesses & many mythological characters. (It’s very interesting story appearing in Skanda purana but too long to cover here). Snaking through arduous journey joined by numerous tributaries, turning into a mighty maiden & nourishing/helping millions in various forms makes her way to merge with Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar covering almost a distance of 800 kms. There are numerous holy places & shrines built on her way so also bunds, dams, hydroelectric plant (Shivansamudra – Asia’s first built in 1902), etc.

We celebrate her birthday, Kaveri Sankramana on Tula-Sankramana day (the first day of Makara-masa in Hindu calendar), which normally falls on the 17th of October every year. On that day occurs the spectacular emerging of the holy spring from the Brahma-kundige known as THIRTHODBHAVA. A very unique natural phenomenon which does not have any scientific explanation & I am sure there never ever going to be one!! The fountain head rises when water gushes up from the spring at a predetermined moment, predicted in advance an year earlier. {Thirtha = holy water & udbhava = springing from/growing/origin). The Kundige is never allowed to over flow as it is believed that overflowing would bring famine. The priests will pour out the thirtha on the devotees mostly with tonsured heads who jumps into the main pond in frenzy to get the glimpse of the occurrence & collect it in containers. I feel that there is enough & more Thirtha in the Kundige (roughly about 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 sq ft between the shrine & tank located on the platform enclosing the temple tank) for the entire worshipers & more.

Kodava men in traditional dress render traditional dudi-kott-paat (dudi is a small native drum, kott-beating & paat-singing), singing the glory of the mother. The Nandi (bull) at the small Lord Agasteshwara (Shiva) temple seems to be watching over the tank for mischief mongers. The prabhavali at the sanctum sanctorum close to the Brahma-kundige bedecked with grand floral arrangements adds momentum & fragrance. The whole atmosphere religiously surcharged amidst the relentless chanting of Vedic hymns by posse of priests, is electrifying as everyone praying/thinking in unison on the lap of peaceful serene Mother Nature. It’s something one has to experience & cannot be explained. Even though it is at a very high altitude & millions of pots of water are taken out each year, irrespective of the global warming, the magical Kundige has the same level of water 365 days. Earlier Thirtha used to be preserved for number of years at home without any preservative & expiry date, thanks to pollution; now it cannot be stored very long. This year (2014) the annual spectacle of Thirthodbhava occurred on October 17th Friday at 6:04 pm just 3 minutes before the calculated time, followed by heavy rains. For next one month tens of thousands of devotees will make a pilgrimage trip to particpate in the Tula Sankrmana jathre (fair).

Growing up we were told that all across Kodagu, all water bodies in the paddy fields to wells to ponds to streams to rivers, you can see bubbles rushing out at the same time. Also come what may it will rain at least a little. Such is the power of Kaveri. Legend has it that every year Mother Ganga comes via an underground route to Kaveri for a cleansing dip to wash off the sins accumated from the devotees.

Being a Kodava/Coorgi, the river Kaveri holds a very special place in my heart. She is not only our Kula Devate & we consider her the Big Mother & believe that Kodagu flourishes because of her blessing. To mark our gratitude we name our children after her: girls are called Kaveramma/Kaveri & boys Kaverappa. Our civilization developed in her banks, our culture & tradition revolves around her, & even the unique way of draping our sari is in her honour. As a Kodava, for us she does not have a form & the name Kaveri always brings the Kundige to our mind as traditionally we don’t have a statue/image. Her beauty, character & legend par excellence, it’s impossible to fathom a shape or form. All the statues you see all around Karnataka or beyond is a recent addition to fit into each one’s mind set. This is how things including legends get contorted & contaminated generally…

She is called as the Ganges of South & one of the Sapta Sindhu (Seven sacred rivers) of India. We consider her holier than Ganges & our lives from birth to death & in-between is associated with her. Our final journey ends with our ashes immersed in her. When a Kodava dies his/her ashes will be immersed in Triveni sangama at Bhagamandala & believed that, only then the soul will be liberated. It is customary that after a Kodava gets married both has to make a trip to Tala-Kaveri (tala means head) & take a dip in the kola (pool) together in front of Kundige to SEAL the marriage. Basically Kodavas are not very religious & we just have a very special eternal maternal bonding/love affair with River Kaveri just like a “Mother & Child” as genetic inheritance!! After that as long as both are alive, both cannot make a solo trip to Tala-Kaveri. It may surprise the readers that Kodava wedding is performed with the Blessings of Elders of the community without the presence of a Priest!! Believe me up until the last decade or so divorce was never heard of in Kodava community. Also I am proud to say that there is no Dowry System as well & considered a shameful act. Every Kodava household keeps the thirtha at home & before taking up a long journey, a little is consumed pouring on the cup of the palm for protection on the way. When someone is above to die, the last drop of water given is the Kaveri thirtha. Generally, Hindus believe that anyone who dies without last sip of water in the mouth, be it Ganges or coconut or any water, his soul will not rest.

All said & done, Mythical incidents are beyond the understanding capacity of ordinary human mind, science or technology. Perhaps it’s subtler than the understanding on why a little “toddler cloud” from Africa causes havoc & misery in USA as “hurricane”. According to a mythical legend, the trimurthis, Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara, gave darshana to the great sage Agastya under the holy Ashwatha tree (was pretty small compared to its age) just above the Kundige which stood test of time for thousands of years. It’s noteworthy that dark skinned Agastya, one of the most powerful sages of his time was born in a Kumbha (pot), himself was very short, almost a dwarf. Finally about 15 – 20 years ago when some modern thinkers, wanting to please tourists, attempted to build a katte to the tree (perhaps out of good intentions) & while doing so managed to kill the tree itself. The one you see now is the modern one!! They had to clear lorry loads & loads of roots perhaps one for each year the tree stood there!! The whole Tala-Kaveri is given a facelift lately. People are really strange, an Indian colleague of mine suggested that someone should dig up the place between Talakaveri & Nagateerta to find out how the river flows gupta-gamini & I said sure if you are funding!! So until he comes up with funds, secret is safe!!

Sometimes human meddling in Nature might have negative consequences. For some unknown reason the insects & birds population in Kodagu have noticabley dwindled in the last decade along with scores of plant species, which is noteworthy.

Another interesting theology is that Kaveri wanted to be the holiest river & she did tapsya to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu told her Ganga is holy as she started from the touch of his feet. Kaveri would be his garland, close to his heart & therefore would be more sacred. Incidentally three of the holiest shrines of Lord Vishnu are found at Srirangapatna, Shivanasamudra & Shrirangam called Adi-Ranga, Madhya-Ranga & Antya-Ranga respectively. Incidentally all the three temples are on island with the Kaveri encircling it just like the mythical garland!

I can write volumes… Next time you drink the Kaveri water just think how blessed you are to be part of a great legend! Mortal man came & gone, comes & goes, but legend lives on…. irrespective of the doubts in anyone’s mind. As for me even though River Kaveri is extra special, I have equal respect to entire water body of the earth irrespective of the size or legend. PLEASE conserve the water & help Mother Nature in whatever way possible for the betterment of our Future Generation & welfare of the Universe. Don’t let your future generation suffer & say what the heck my predecessors were thinking or doing? Simple fact of life: Mother Nature does not need us for her survival (perhaps better off) but we definitely cannot do without her!!

 

*When my younger daughter who is named after River Kaveri was 4-years old, she happened to be in Mysore with my cousins. There was a protest march & every one was shouting we want Kaveri… Kaveri is ours… (of course in Kannada) & when my daughter heard that got so scared & started crying bitterly, uncontrollable & shivering with fear. After that for a long time she did not even wanted to leave the house!!