The ancient sage knew that Indians are prone to vitamin D deficiency and made rituals to prevent them in the form of  “snans or holy baths in sun” at sun rise or sunset.

The ritual is “Maha Kumbh” held every 12 years, “Ardha Kumbh” held every Six years or “ Mii Kumbh held in on Kumbh years) in the months of January- February, on the banks of the holy confluence (Sangam) of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.

During this period a tent city comes up for more than a month, where large number of devotees live for the whole duration of the mela and lead a sacred life. This is called KALPAVAS and these people are called KALPVASEE.

The main bathing days are Makar Sankranti, Paush Purnima, Mauni Amavasya, Basant Panchmi, Maghi Poornima and Maha Shivratri. Mauni Amavasya being the main bathing day attracts the largest number of devotees.

Other than Magh month other auspicious months for holy bath are the months of Vaisakh and Kartik.

The ritual is holy bath in the Brahma muhurta (the period with maximum non toxic UVB) rays and eating calcium rich foods.

The spiritual recommendation has been to have 1, 2 or 3 baths per day. If one should be sun rise and if two sun rise and sunset and if three the additional being in the mid day.

Facts about vitamin D

1. Vitamin D deficiency causes severe bone loss in adults across northernIndiadespite abundant sunlight in the region.

2. The factors are inadequate exposure to sunlight and poor nutrition.

3. The resultant disease is osteomalacia, the loss of calcium from bones brought about by vitamin D deficiency.

4. It can lead to life threatening emergencies in young adults. The examples are acute respiratory failure caused by a grossly deformed thoracic cage resulting from advanced bone loss in the spine and thoracic cage and pregnant women with poor intake of calcium and excessive demand leading to bone pains.

5. Over 50% of healthy people have low vitamin D levels.

6. Sun is the main source of Vitamin D.

7. Human body makes Vitamin D when sunlight touches the bare skin.

8. However, too much exposure to direct sunlight increases the risk of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.

9. Despite the harmful effects up to 40 minutes of sunlight per day, is actually good for the health.

10. The sun gives off three types of ultraviolet radiation based on the wavelength: UVC – 100 to 290 nm; UVB – 290 to 320 nm and UVA – 320 to 400 nm.

11. It’s the ultraviolet B rays which produces vitamin D in the body and also responsible for sunburns.

12. It is most intense between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm when the sunlight is brightest. It is also more intense in the summer months accounting for 70% of a person’s yearly UVB dose.

13. UVB does not penetrate glass and cotton cloths.

About the author: Dr K K Aggarwal is Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee, President Heart Care Foundation of India and National Vice President Elect IMA.

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