Thursday, November 4, 2010

Diwali Abhyanga Snan Materials and Procedure

The word Abhyanga has Sanskrit roots: ang means motion and abhi means different or contrary. The word snan means bath. Hence, the meaning of Abhyanga Snan is a bath-cum-massage of the body with herbs-and-flower-based paste. Abhyanga Snan is a ritual bath that is done during the Diwali Festival, specifically on the day of Narak Chaturdasi.

Narakchaturdashi Story: According to legend, it was on this day that Lord Krishna’s wife Satyabhama killed the demon Narakasura, who always disrespected the Gods and women due to a boon he received from Lord Brahma that he would die only at the hands of a woman. After Satyabhama killed the demon, Lord Krishna smeared his entire body with the demon’s blood. On returning home, grand preparations were made for a bath to cleanse the blood. The people lit diyas at sunset and burst firecrackers. Thus, this day came to be known also as Chota Diwali.

After the abyang snan, Karit fruit (its botanical name is cucumis melo var agrestis)  is crushed by pressing it under the large toe of the foot. Crushing of the karit on Diwali Narakchaturdashi day signifies the killing of the demon Narkasura.This fruit is green and resembles the parval vegetable, but is smaller in size and shape (see image below).
Karit fruit

When to do the Abhyang Snan

The Abhyanga Snan is done on the morning of Narakchaturdashi (this year it is on October 22nd 2014).

Note: Some people also have an Abhyanga Snan on the other days of Diwali. In fact, it is recommended to have an abhyanga snan daily as it has immense health benefits, such as making the skin soft by removing dead skin cells, increasing blood circulation, and calming the mind.

What is used for an Abhyanga Snan?

1. Scented oil

2. Utane: This is a powder mainly containing 5 ingredients:
* Kapur (camphor)
* Chandan (sandalwood)
* Haldi (turmeric)
* Manjistha (this is a herb which is said to purify blood; the botanical name is Rubia cordifolia)
* Rose petals extracts
* Orange peel
* Other flowers/herbs

Utane powder
Utane is generally sold in an envelope, with the instructions of how to use it sometimes given on the backside of the envelope (see images below) . It costs Rs.5/-.

The envelope gives instructions: mix the powder with coconut oil and apply before bathing

2. Fragrant perfumed soap (some people use only the utane and do not use soap at all)
You can use sandalwood or rose-scented soap for the abhyanga snan

How to do the Abhyanga Snana?

* Apply the scented oil and let the skin absorb the oil for about 15-20 minutes
* Apply the utane
* Rinse off with water
* Bathe with a perfumed soap
* Dry off
* Dress in new clothes

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