Sanathana Dharma: 3 H’s of Wellness

Sanathana Dharma, as we are aware is not just a set of religious tenets but is a way of life. Thus wellness is an integral part of the same. In this post we shall look at how wellness is ingrained in Sanathana Dharma in the form of 3 Hs, namely Hygiene, Health and Healing.

Sanathana Dharma
Sanathana Dharma Series


The Sanskrit word for cleanliness is ‘shaucham‘. Cleanliness is a way of relating to God. As per Bhagavad Gita, it is one of the divine qualities which one must practice. In Srimad Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna explains to Uddhava thus: “My dear Uddhava: general cleanliness, washing the hands, bathing, performing daily rituals, prayers, visiting holy places, avoiding the uneatable and realizing my existence within all living entities — these principles should be followed by all members of society.”

Dharmashastras outline several rules for cleanliness, some of which are given below:

  • Before visiting holy places (temples, ritualistic places etc), everyone is expected to take a bath
  • When entering the houses of relatives or others, it is necessary to wash one’s feet before entering. There is an anecdote where King Nala didn’t wash his feet properly as a result of which Lord Shani entered into his life and subjected him to a lot of hardship.
  • There are extensive rules for purification after someone uses the bathroom. This includes disinfection with cow dung or ash and gargling.
  • It is necessary to take a bath after visiting a place of mourning. Also, depending on the closeness to the deceased person, they have to isolate themselves and not participate in festivals and visiting temples for a certain number of days.
  • Almost every festival involves cleaning the house. On ‘Aayudha puja’ day, we clean every possible item in the household and decorate it!
  • In general elderly people maintain distance from others. We would have seen our grandparents poking with a stick when someone gets too near! It is common for elders to have their own utensils separate from the other ones in the house.
  • It was prohibited for everyone except merchants to cross the ocean and explore other lands. When someone violates this rule, they are segregated and not allowed to mingle with the community.

If only we followed these hygiene rules, don’t you think a certain calamity could have been avoided?


Both food and exercise find significant mention in our scriptures. Our traditional meals contain several herbs and medicinal components that not only provide us the right nutrients, but builds immunity as well. Items such as basil (thulasi), neem flowers, curry leaves, amla, ginger, nutmeg, licorice, pepper, turmeric, fenugreek etc, are referred in Ayurveda (more details below) for their medicinal properties.  Interestingly, our toothpastes and toothbrushes are now getting neem, salt and charcoal as their ingredients! 

While celebrating festivals such as Diwali with sweets and other food, there is a ritual of preparing a lehyam (herbal concoction/paste) which has the tendency to neutralize any gastric illnesses due to overeating. As per Ayurveda, food is classified into three categories and there is a mention of what to eat under what circumstances  (more details here). It is only inevitable that we gradually go back to our traditional foods now despite the availability of processed foods. 

During the consumption of food, it is stipulated that we thank all of those who are instrumental in getting it to us. Also, according to Ayurveda, half of the stomach is to be filled with food, a quarter with water, and the remaining part is to be left empty. After food, chewing of betel-leaf with certain aromatics and spices such as betel nut, lime, nutmeg etc is advised. Do note that use of tobacco in any form is against the shastras.

A rather unique custom in our practice is the ‘oil bath’ also known as ‘Abyanga snaanam’. In this method, oil is gently applied all over the body after which a natural bath powder (herbs like Shikakai) is used as a cleansing solution. By this bath, several skin diseases, toxins and bad odors would be eliminated resulting in good sleep, shiny skin and improved digestion.

Yoga is another wellness instrument that India has gifted the world. An aasana is a general term for a sitting meditation pose. The sage Patanjali defines “aasana” as a position that is steady and comfortable. Studies have proved that Yoga helps to improve flexibility, strength, and balance while reducing stress. Yoga has been proven to alleviate some diseases such as asthma and diabetes.

Yoga for Health


While our wellness had been protected by our proven and established hygiene and health practices, there are times when there is prevalence of diseases. That’s where Ayurveda played a major role in treating them. The word “ayurveda” means knowledge of life and longevity. As per Sushruta Samhita, Dhanvantri, the God of medicine, taught medicine to a group of physicians, including Sushruta who is known as the father of Indian medicine. Ayurveda has evolved over several millennia and is based on natural herbal compounds, minerals and metals. Ancient Ayurveda texts also taught surgical techniques, including rhinoplasty, kidney stone extractions, sutures, and the extraction of foreign objects.


Ayurveda includes three elemental bodily humors, namely Vaata, Pitta and Kapa, and states that a balance of the three results in health, while imbalance results in disease. Each person should modulate their behavior or environment to increase or decrease the doshas to maintain their natural state.

As per Mahabharata, Ayurvedic treatment is divided into eight components

  • Kaya chikitsa: general medicine, medicine of the body
  • Kaumara bhrtya (Pediatrics): Discussions about prenatal and postnatal care of baby and mother, childhood diseases and midwifery.
  • Salya tantra: surgical techniques and the extraction of foreign objects
  • Shalakya tantra: treatment of ailments affecting ears, eyes, nose, mouth (“ENT”)
  • Bhuta vidya: pacification of possessing spirits, and the people whose minds are affected by such possession
  • Vishagaravairodha Tantra (Toxicology): Details on epidemics, toxins in animals, vegetables and minerals and their antidotes
  • Rasayana tantra: rejuvenation and tonics for increasing lifespan, intellect and strength
  • Vajikarana tantra: aphrodisiacs and treatments for infertility and spiritual development

Ayurvedic practices focus on the overall well-being and not limited to the symptomatic treatment of Western medicine which cures but potentially leaves several side effects which results in another treatment cycle.

As a recognition of Ayurveda and other alternate medicines,  the Indian Government established CCIM (Central Council of Indian Medicine) in 1971 under the Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), to promote awareness and application of alternate medicine.

Conclusion: It is rather very surprising that in the time of crisis, we find more power in embracing our traditional wellness practices in the areas of Hygiene, Health and Healing. This may be a rude awakening, but this pandemic has helped by pointing to the right direction for achieving wellness. We need to continue our traditional practices even long after this crisis is gone.  By doing this, we not only become healthy human beings, but also the join the group of practitioners of Sanathana Dharma.

Author Details

Rangarajan has been blogging for over 12 years now on various topics. With Thedal, he becomes one with the universe and he is hoping that his search will help him discover the eternal truth.  Please join him as he traverses through the universe across temples, philosophies and science!

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