Sunday, August 31, 2008
Ayurveda, an age-old system of India is widely used by millions in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka since ages and is also being increasingly used in the Western world as an alternative medicine system. Ayurveda or Ayurvedic medicine is the most ancient of the six recognized Indian Systems of Medicine of the Indian subcontinent. It has its origins in the oral advice on living from the Vedic metaphysics (Charaka Samhita). The importance of Ayurveda, the science of life, the origin of most forms of natural and alternative medicine, is mentioned in the Rig Veda, one of the oldest philosophical texts of the world. It is widely considered to be the oldest continously practiced system of medicine on the planet, dating back to the pre-vedic period of 5000 BC. The Atharva-veda discuss Ayurveda in more detail, and classical Ayurvedic texts of Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita were written around 1000 BC. The Sutrasthana of Charaka Samhita, a much referred ayurvedic text, says; "The three—body, mind and soul—are like a tripod, the world stand by their combination; in them everything abides."
The word "Ayurveda" is a tatpurusha compound of the word Ayus meaning "life," "life principle," or "longevity" and the word "veda", which refers to a system of "knowledge" or "wisdom." Thus "Ayurveda" roughly translates as the "wisdom for living" or "knowledge of a long life". The related term of Suddha (pure) medicine refers to classical Ayurvedic medicine. According to this perspective, Ayurveda is concerned with measures to protect "ayus", which includes healthy living along with therapeutic measures that relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony. Ayurveda is also one among the few traditional systems of medicine to contain a sophisticated system of surgery (which is referred to as "salya-chikitsa" (chikitsa=examination)).
Where ayurvedic knowledge ultimately developed is unknown, but oral myths, circumstantial evidence, and several early texts have been used to research its origins. Indigenous Indian medicine is probably as old as the Indus Valley Civilization dating back to 3000 BCE. The meticulously planned cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro are pointers not only to India’s rich cultural heritage but also to its advanced systems of hygiene and health care. The remains of deer antler and bitumen found in Harappa testify to the existence of a medical practice. It was between 1200 and 700 BCE, that the four sacred Vedas were composed. References to diseases, herbs and herbal cures can be seen in all the four Vedas especially in the Rig Veda. The Atharva Veda has many hymns eulogizing herbs. Many plants were worshipped as deities and invoked by incantations. There were also many Mantras (invocations) to combat jaundice, consumption and hereditary diseases among others. The Atharvan hymns chanted for the cure of diseases were known as Bhaishajyams and those for attaining longevity and prosperity were called Ayushyams. These hymns, especially the Ayushyams are considered to be the foundation for advances in later medicine.
In India, research in Ayurveda is largely undertaken by the statutory body of the Central Government, the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS), through a national network of research institutes. However, there is a huge gap between the number of sources of ayurvedic medicines and their proper scientific analysis. As a traditional medicine, many ayurvedic products have not been tested in rigorous scientific studies and clinical trials. Most clinical trials of Ayurvedic approaches have been small, had problems with research designs, lacked appropriate control groups, or had other issues that affected how meaningful the results were.
Despite these misgivings, some ayurvedic products, mainly herbs used for phytotherapy, have been tested with promising results. Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since 1900 BC, and its derivative curcumin appears to have beneficial properties. Tinspora cordifolia has been tested. Among the medhya rasayanas (intellect rejuvenation), two varieties of sage have been been tested; one improved word recall in young adults, and another improved symptoms in Alzheimer's patients. In some cases Ayurvedic medicine may provide clues to therapeutic compounds. For example, derivatives of snake venom have various therapeutic properties. Many plants used as rasayana (rejuvenation) medications are potent antioxidants. Neem also contains beneficial pharmacological propertie. A review of Ayurveda and cardiovascular disease concluded that while the herbal evidence is not yet convincing, the spices are appropriate, some herbs are promising, and yoga is also a promising complementary treatment.
Ashtanga are the eight branches of Ayurveda:
1. Internal medicine - Kayachikitsa
2. Pediatrics - Kaumarabhritya Tantra
3. Psychology/Psychiatry - Bhuta Vidya
4. Ears, eyes, nose and throat - Shalakya tantra
5. Surgery - Shalya Tantra
6. Toxicology - Agada Tantra
7. Rejuvenation - Rasayana Tantra
8. Fertility Therapy - Vajikarana Tantra
(note: Tantra as a Sanskrit term is broadly defined as a system characterized by threads of multiply diverse techniques, methods, and practices used in special ways in order to achieve mental, physical and spiritual change, or knowledge through complex action)
The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily humours or doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Disease is said to occur whenever the balance between these doshas is disturbed.
* Vata is the dynamic "kinetic" principle. It is the one of the most premier dosha that is responsible for major physiological actions in the body. It is not an organ that can be seen in the body but it is a presumed physiological character in the body that is responsible for the movements of other dosha i.e pitta and Kapha.
* Pitta is the thermal, explosive force behind the ability to transform everything. Pitta is generally designated as fire. It represents all the hot properties. This force represents transformation. Though they are unable to change but have the capability to change or modify and control the very important activities taking place in the body. The main activity of pitta in the body is to perform metabolism. It controls body temperature, maintains skin coloration, intelligence and understanding is also under control of pitta. In the psychological aspect of the body, pitta signifies anger, hate and feeling of jealousy. The place or the seat of pitta in the body where it resides is mainly our upper abdomen, including the organs like stomach and small intestines. It also resides in sweat glands, eyes, blood and skin. It also is involved in absorption, assimilation and providing nutrition to the body.
* Kapha is the cohesion that holds everything together. Kapha is referred to as the lubricating element in our body. It is moist in nature. It circulates in whole body and then nourishes the organs. It helps in connecting the various organs of the body, which without it may not be able to be united. Kapha holds the cells and the tissues of the body and helps in maintaining the bodily resistance. It is responsible for providing strength and maintains the natural resistance among the tissues. Kapha is present in the chest region, throat, head, sinuses of head and face, nose, mouth, stomach, body joints and is present in the form of mucus.
All Ayurvedic physicians believe that these ancient ideas, based in the knowledge discovered by the Rishis and Munis, exist in harmony with physical reality. These Ayurvedic concepts allow physicians to examine the homeostasis of the whole system. People may be of a predominant dosha or constitution, but all doshas have the basic elements within them.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Spearheaded by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India will launch Chandrayan I in 2008. According to ISRO, Chandrayan-1 is the first mission in "India's foray into a planetary exploration era in the coming decades." Chandrayan-1 will be the "forerunner of more ambitious planetary missions in the years to come, including landing robots on the Moon and visits by Indian spacecraft to other planets in the Solar System." The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) calls the Moon flight project Chandrayan Pratham, which has been translated as First Journey to the Moon or Moonshot One.
Chandrayan I, India's first unmanned mission to moon was announced on August 15, 2003. The 1,157-lb. Chandrayan-1 would be launched in the fourth quarter of 2008. The Chandrayan I mission envisages placing a 525 kg satellite in a polar orbit 100 km above the moon and it will be launched using a modified version of India's indigenous Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). At first, the spacecraft would circle Earth in a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). From there, it would fly on out into a polar orbit of the Moon some 60 miles above the lunar surface. The mission is expected to have an operational life of about 2 years.
The project's main objectives are high-resolution photography of the lunar surface using remote-sensing instruments sensitive to visible light, near-infrared light, and low-energy and high-energy X-rays. This will be accomplished using several payloads such as X-ray and gamma-ray spectrometers selected for the mission. In addition a total of about 10 kg payload weight and 10 W power are earmarked for proposals, which are now solicited. It will send back data that scientists on Earth would use to produce a high-resolution digital map of the lunar surface.
Considering the interest shown by the international scientific community, a provision has also been made to accommodate instruments from other countries, on Chandrayan-1. ISRO signed an agreement with ESA for including European instruments on board Chandrayan-1. The European Space Agency (ESA) has agreed to support India's plan to send a probe to the Moon by providing three science instruments for Chandrayan-1. They will be identical to those already in orbit around the Moon on ESA's Smart 1 spacecraft, which is surveying chemical elements on the lunar surface. The lunar satellite would also house a U.S. radar instrument designed to locate water ice. These instruments are to complement the main Indian experiments.
Mission Objectives in detail:
* Carry out high resolution mapping of topographic features in 3D, distribution of various minerals and elemental chemical species including radioactive nuclides covering the entire lunar surface using a set of remote sensing payloads. The new set of data would help in unravelling mysteries about the origin and evolution of solar system in general and that of the moon in particular.
* Realize the mission goal of harnessing the science payloads, lunar craft and the launch vehicle with suitable ground support system including DSN station, integration and testing, launching and achieving lunar orbit of ~100 km, in-orbit operation of experiments, communication/telecommand, telemetry data reception, quick look data and archival for scientific utilization by identified group of scientists.
Specific areas of study:
* High resolution mineralogical and chemical imaging of permanently shadowed north and south polar regions
* Search for surface or sub-surface water-ice on the moon, specially at lunar pole
* Identification of chemical end members of lunar high land rocks
* Chemical stratigraphy of lunar crust by remote sensing of central upland of large lunar craters, South Pole Aitken Region (SPAR) etc., where interior material may be expected
* To map the height variation of the lunar surface features along the satellite track
* Observation of X-ray spectrum greater than 10 keV and stereographic coverage of most of the moon's surface with 5 m resolution, to provide new insights in understanding the moon's origin and evolution
India has announced that it plans to explore the Moon and will send an unmanned probe there by 2008.
Why send a probe to the Moon? While the South Asian nation has the second largest population on Earth, it is not a rich country with millions of uneducated and even homeless residents. Like all other nations sending machines and people to space, India considers funding of its space program to be a matter of prestige. In making the announcement in 2003, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said a Moon flight would showcase India's scientific capabilities.
A former science minster in the Indian government, physicist M.G.K. Menon told news media that Chandrayan-1 "will excite the younger generation." Menon also said the Moon flight would have the effect of "enormously increasing the confidence of the nation".
Whether India should embark on a manned mission or not is a subject of national debate since sending a man to the moon is a very costly affair. A manned mission would take seven to ten years to accomplish and would cost at least $2.2 billion. It was on July 20, 1969 that "Eagle", the lunar module landed on the moon and American Astronaut Neil Armstrong took "that one small step" paving way for "a giant leap for mankind". The last man landed on moon in the 70's. However, after such a "giant leap", the moon mission was mysteriously discontinued. It seems strange that man has not yet constructed a permanent manned base on the moon. A manned mission from India is yet to be decided. However, for the near future, there is the planned project of Chandrayan-2. More (Click Here)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Majuli or Majoli is a river island in the Brahmaputra river, in the Indian state of Assam. Majuli is often erroneously cited as the largest river island in the world by the Indian media, but in fact it is merely the largest freshwater island in South Asia. All of the above the river, its tributaries, the wet lands and the chaporis along with the island of Majuli make it the largest mid river delta system in the world. It is a pollution free fresh water island. Total area of the island was 1250 sq.km., now it is about 577 sq.km., having lost significant area due to erosion. Its length from east to west is about 90 km. & width from north to south is avg. 16 km. Majuli is a natural & cultural heritage site. With water bodies covering most of the areas , Majuli attracts plenty of birds both local & migratory. The island was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit.
The island is about 200 kilometres east from the state’s largest city — Guwahati, and is accessible by ferries from the town of Jorhat. It is located 20 km. off Jorhat town. Majuli is a civil sub-division of Jorhat District.
Majoli is also the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture. About 25—26 Satras are remaining now in Majuli of which the Satras of Kamalabari, Auniati & Garmur are worth mentioning. These Satras are propagating the religious ideology of great Assamese medieval Vaisnavite Saint Sankardeva & Madhavdeva, preaching Satria culture.
The concept of 0 (zero) was introduced in India as early as the 3rd century B.C. It was passed on to the Arabian scholars and also to the Chinese in the 9th century A.D. European scholars grasped the inmportance of zero in the 10th century A.D.
The value of “pi” was first calculated by the Indian Mathematician Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century, which was long before the European mathematicians.
Algebra, trigonometry and calculus also orignated from India. Quadratic equations were introduced by Aryabhatta-I. Quadratic equations were also used by Sridhar Acharya in the 11th century. The largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Hindus used numbers as big as 10*53 ( i.e 10 to the power of 53 ) with specific names as early as 5000 B.C. during the Vedic period. Even today, the largest used number is Tera: 10*12( 10 to the power of 12 ).
The earliest available writing on astrology is Jatakatilaka by Sridhar Acharya, a Jain who also authored a work on general science called Sastrakavita and was patronised by Western Chalukya King Somesvara I.
Aryabhatta (AD 476 – 550) was the first in the line of great mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy. Aryabhata is the father of the Hindu-Arabic number system which has become universal today. His most famous works are the Aryabhatiya (AD 499 at age of 23 years) and Arya-Siddhanta.
Brahmagupta was an Indian mathematician and astronomer. Brahmagupta’s most famous work is his Brahmasphutasiddhanta. It is composed in elliptic verse, as was common practice in Indian mathematics, and consequently has a poetic ring to it. Brahmagupta had very important contributions in varied branches of mathematics as linear equations, quadratic equations, indeterminate equations, series theory, the number zero, Diophantine analysis, Pythagorean triples, Pell’s equation, geometry and trigonometry.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The official Sanskrit name for India is Bharat. India has been called Bharat even in the very early ages, at the very dawn of civilization.
The name `India’ is derived from the River Indus, the valleys around which were the home of the early settlers. It was the home of the earliest urban civilization of India, namely the Harappan Civilization. The most famous sites of the Harappan Civilization are Mohenjodaro and Harappa. The Aryan settlers also started the spread of their civilization from the Indus valley. The Aryan worshippers referred to the river Indus as the Sindhu.
The Persian invaders converted it into Hindu. The name `Hindustan’ combines Sindhu and Hindu and thus refers to the land of the Hindus.