"oh lord, let us see for one hundred autumns, let us live for one hundred autumns, let us hear for one hundred autumns, make us free from miseries for one hundred autumns."
- Yajur Veda
"One should adopt only the means of livelihood as does not clash with virtuous path. One should follow the path of peace and engage himself in studies. This is how one can attain happiness."
- Charaka Samhita - Chikitsa Stana Sutra 57-62
Water is an essential element existing throughout the universe and in great amounts in our bodies, our brains, our hearts, our food, our environment, our atmosphere and all life as we know it on earth.
In this Kali Yuga (the present age of destructiveness that is prevailing the planet), water has largely become polluted. At a recent sustainability summit in Johannesburg it was reported that the majority of the world’s water has become directly or indirectly polluted.
Rain is sacred to all cultures around the world, in Botswana the word for rain is the word for wealth and prosperity. Rain nourishes all life and the ancient scriptures refer to Rain as a Divine wealth that is offered to the fertile earth so all life may rejoice and be happy and prosperous.
In today’s world rain has become polluted with atmospheric emissions and due to inter-continental flight and large industry even one living in a remote area can not be sure that the rain that reaches there is indeed pure.
Ayurveda is a great healing science for all mankind that was given by our ancient sages so that all may live a healthy life and come to realize God in this lifetime. Water is an essential annupana or vehicle when taking food or medicines and water is an essential component of our diet for maintaining the body. Here we reflect upon some of our great Rishis teachings on water.
Special note, my own commentary is placed on Charaka’s translated sutras in [square brackets].
Charaka is indeed the father of Ayurveda as we know it. His sutras are studied and memorized by all, he is famous for his detailed embryology giving deepest insights into a science that has only recently been revealed to the ‘modern world’. Charaka’s sutras are the greatest living text of Ayurveda and hence in honour for this great sage and his long lineage of teachers we are mentioning his sutras on water first.
Herewith I offer some translated sutras of Charaka’s sutras on water, its nature, qualities, how to select and use it for maximal health benefits. Water contains Soma, the essence and sap of nature, water should nourish, refresh and rejuvenate the body if it is pure. It should give strength and vitality and nourish the heart and brain.
all water is ultimately sourced from rain [ultimately without rain there would exist no life as we know it on this planet, rain is thus the gift of the heavens and special ancient Vedic sacrifices were performed to bring rain.]
rainwater has six innate qualities: coldness, purity, benevolence, pleasantness and sacredness [Charaka emphasizes the cooling quality of fresh water thus it refreshes and nourishes just like Soma. He also indicates how pure rainwater is pure, good and auspicious i.e. sattvik in nature. In today’s world most people are ruled by Rajas – Passion and Tamas – Impurity and Dullness. Modern society is dominated by Rajas and also Tamas. Sattva is the light of the lotus lamp in the heart, it is the ultimate medicine for this world and we must do all we can in our lifetimes to increase Sattva. By supplying pure water full of Soma we can increase Sattva in the society. Water that has been treated with man made chemicals or has been polluted is Tamasic and will cause ill health and disturbance of the mind, heart and body over long term usage]
after rain has fallen, its properties are determined by the place it happens to fall
white earth gives it an astringent taste
yellowish-white earth gives it a bitter taste
brown earth makes it alkaline
a mountain valley gives it a pungent taste
black soil gives a sweet taste
[Charaka is teaching us that everything in nature is effected by it’s environment and association. Just like a child born in a family where goodness prevails will take this way too, so water, where it falls, will be thus tainted. Each taste is a great medicine in Ayurveda and rasa or taste is the basis of the medicinal value of herbs. Thus we learn that water fallen on the earth and collected in the surrounding nature is tainted by the earth that prevails in that area. We can use this knowledge to use the water to treat various diseases.]
rain water falling from the sky and collected in a suitable vessel is known as aindra and is fit for kings
[Once again Charaka is stressing the magical nature of rainwater. Sadly in this age rainwater is no longer pure. Rain water is thus water which has been distilled in the atmosphere and then purified by contact with the beams of the sun and moon.]
the best of all seasons for collection of rainwater is autumn
[Charaka is teaching us to be aware of the effect of the seasons, the great cycles of time on rain. Autumn is a time when nature is getting cooler and there is a cooling and drying effect in the atmosphere. This cooling effect is similar the innate quality of water and thus it increases it’s natural coolness.]
each season gives the water a slightly different quality
The water of rivers originating in the Himalayas which has been flowing over stones is sacred and wholesome and used by Divine sages
[Charaka now teaches us how the Himalayas which are sacred Godly mountains give divine qualities to the water. Hence all waters coming from the Himalayas such as Ganga and Yamuna is pure. Also it teaches us that the vibration or potency of a place will effect the quality of the water. Also the mention of water flowing over stones indicates that if water is thrashed on stones it is increasing in good effects too.]
waters of pond, well, lake and spring get their merits or demerits from the place they are situated.
[This explains how water has a magnetic memory and stores the vibration of the place where it has been sourced. Water is conscious matter and thus if it is from a beautiful and Sattvik place, it’s effects will be similarly.]
General curative effects of water – from Charaka’s treatments of diseases:
Is good for morbid thirst, burning sensations, fainting, giddiness, mental fatigue, alcoholism, bleeding, poisoning and all pitta ailments (pitta ailments are any inflammatory or ‘hot’ diseases such as rashes or heartburn)
water boiled and then cooled:
is good for sannipatika (certain types of fever)
is excellent for hiccup, asthma, early stage of a fever, rhinitis, throat and chest diseases and all kapha and vayu diseases.
[Charaka is showing us the alchemy of preparing water. In Ayurveda one can use water to cure so many diseases. The most famous use of water is to drink boiled water which is a boon for good health for all on earth. Hot water removes toxins and opens the micro-channels so the body can be cleaned. It is digestive and a very good general medicine for all.]
This is one of the three most famous Ayurvedic texts and is commonly used in Kerala as the main text of study. It is presented by Vagbhata a great Rishi. It is a more condensed version of Charaka and gives many precious insights into health and life.
rain water contacted with sun and moon is comforting, good for the heart and mind refreshing, stimulating intellect, slightly sweet and cold and nectar like.
[Once again rain water is extolled for it’s health giving properties. The contact with Sun and Moon are the key here and these two cosmic bodies energise the water with Agni and Soma. The moon’s rays increase Soma and thus cool and nourish and the Sun’s rays increase Agni and thus transform and purify.
it becomes good or bad depending on region or season
[Thus we should become sensitive to where water is collected from and also when.]
Test for water’s purity:
place boiled rice on a silver plate in some rain water or other water and if it stays fresh this water is pure and good for drinking.
[This ancient test allows us to test the Prana or life force in the water. If there is abundant life force the water is good for human health.]
In absence of pure rainwater, water of the earth which resembles rainwater in qualities and collected in a clean place having black or white soil and exposed to sunlight and breeze.
[Vagbhata must have foreseen that there would come a day where rainwater might no longer be entirely pure across the planet. There are similar prophecies in Charaka that we would have times of great pollution as we do today. So thus water of the earth be it from pond or spring which has similar qualities and passes the test of pure water can be used. The place should be beautiful and the qualities of the water will be reflected by the place.]
This is a beautiful and concise text of sutras from various authors. It is deeply loved by all Ayurvedic practitioners for its great recipes and insights into life and health.
water exposed to sunrays in day and to moonlight in night is holy pure and capable of curing diseases
[This powerful statement shows us how the great heavenly bodies of the Sun and Moon which are considered the father and mother of this earth give healing rays to water. We all know about the moons gravitational influence on life on earth and the oceans and also of the sun flares and cycles of catastrophes such as earth quakes which have been well documented. Our Rishis observed the subtle effects of the Sun and Moon. In Vedic Astrology the Sun is the Atma or soul and the Moon the Mana or mind.]
This is a truly beautiful recipe book of Ayurveda in a song form of sutras. It is allegedly authored by King Madanapala so that all in his kingdom could be healthy.
Of all over ground waters, rainwater collected before reaching the ground is the finest.
Ganga is the name for the purest of rain waters from pure and clean source.
To test for purity put some boiled short grain rice in the water and note if it deteriorates or not, if not, this water is deemed Ganga.
This water is tridoshic (completely balancing to the entire physiology) and removes poison and toxins from the body so it is ideal.
When rain water is not available:
Spring water from a beautiful natural place is most excellent.
It is light and digestive and a cardiac tonic.
Water exposed to sun in the day and the moon at night is called hamsodaka.
This water is especially magnificent. It is rejuvenating, gives much strength, increases intelligence, reduces all three doshas. It is said to have nectar like qualities and is most excellent.
Special Note: There is a mention of water being impregnated with the rays of Agastya star (Canopus). This indicates that having water exposed to starlight in general is also a good thing. Canopus is indeed the 2nd brightest star in the sky
[King Madanapalas goes on to repeat what Charaka and Vagbhata have shared about water. Water should be sourced from a beautiful and natural place indeed.]
Method to purify any polluted water:
Boil the water
Expose it to the sun rays
Immerse iron, sunstone (suryamani) and sandstone pebbles
Guggul (a kind of myrrh like resin)
Punnaga (calophyllum inophyllum)
Patala (stereospermum uaveolens)
Cool the water by adding pieces of gold and pearl.
Maharishi Ayurveda Council of Physicians:
"water is referred to throughout the Vedas as a primary life-giving substance. Ayurveda recommends drinking plenty of water throughout the day and sipping hot water with meals for good digestion.”
Ayurveda speak strongly against taking water with ice or too cold.
Reverse Osmosis is recommended by Maharishi Ayurveda as a good method of filtration.
Ayurveda is strongly opposed to carbonation of water. It has a harmful effect on digestion.
Charaka Samhita - Vaidya Bhagwan Dash and RK Sharma Vol I – 7
Astanga Hridyam – Professor KR Srikanthamurthy
Madanapalas Nighanthu – Vaidya Bhagavan Dash
Heaven’s Banquet – Miriam Hospodar
Yoga Ratnakara – Dr. Maddham Shetty Suresh Babu