Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Ayurveda has given importance to both preventive and curative aspects of health. One can, after having read and practiced Ayurveda thoroughly, tell that Ayurveda has predominantly touched upon the preventive aspects. The initial chapters of the most ancient to medieval Ayurvedic treatises have emphasized preventive measures for comprehensive maintenance of health. Ratri Charya is one among those concepts.
There are certain things which are meant to be done during night time and certain things which need to be avoided. Diet, sleep, sex and lifestyle activities are included in the discussion. All these topics are dealt under a topic called ‘Ratri Charya’.
Ratri = Night
Charya = Activities, Regimen, Conducts
Ratri Charya = Activities and Regimen to be followed during Night time
The regimen followed between evening hours (sunset) and night shall be included under Ratricharya. These activities shall be strictly followed for maintenance of health and also to prevent many diseases.
Inclusions under Ratri Charya
Sandhya Varjya – Contraindications during evening time
The below mentioned 5 actions should be strictly contraindicated during the Sandhya Kala or evening (Sandhya = junction period between the day and evening, or junction between end of the day and beginning of the evening or time of sunset).
- Aaharam – Intake of food should be avoided during the evening time. It is not an ideal time for intake of food. If food is taken during this time it will not be digested and will eventually lead to manifestation of many diseases.
- Maithunam – One should not indulge in ntercourse during the evening time. If one practices sex during the evening time it will lead to Garbha Vikriti i.e. fetal abnormalities.
- Nidra – One should not sleep during the Sandhya Kala or evening time. Sleeping during evening time leads to poverty. The word poverty (niswata) here means poverty in all terms, i.e. loss of health, wealth, wisdom and intelligence. (One can sleep during night, not evening).
- Sampaatam / Paatam – Reading activities (academic involvement) is contraindicated during evening time. Reading during evening or night time (after sunset) is said to cause Ayu Hani i.e. loss of life. In modern day we have facility of artificial lighting in which reading and academic activities are done. In olden days it was not available. Reading in dark was supposed to strain the sense organs and damage the vital organs and their functioning, which could lead to manifestation of many diseases leading to ayu hani.
- Adhwa Gamana – One should not walk for long distances during evening (after sunset) and in night times. If done it is said to cause bhaya i.e. fear and insecurity. Walking during evening times is not safe and can prove dangerous.
According to Daksha Smriti treatise –
The hours before night (later part of evening, junction between evening and night) should be used for Veda Abhyasa i.e. to read and practice Vedas and other treatises. The first two praharas (6 hours) of the night shall be used for studies and the last two praharas (6 hours) shall be used for sleep.
Jyotsna, Avashyaya, Tama
Effect of Jyotsna (moonlight), Avashyaya (mist) and Tama (darkness) on health:
Effect of Moonlight on the body –
Moonlight has good and healing effect on one’s body. Therefore it is good to get exposed to Jyotsna or moonlight. It bestows the below mentioned benefits on regular exposure –
- Sheeta – Cold and soothing effect
- Smarananda prada – Enhances sexual desire
- Trishna Hrit – Pacifies thirst
- Pitta Hrit – Pacifies the aggravated pitta and brings it to normalcy
- Daha Hrit – Pacifies burning sensation
Effect of Mist on the body –
Mist at the night time has the below mentioned effects on the body:
- Heena Gunaaha – Inferior in quality
- Vata Kopa karaka – Causes aggravation of Vata
- Kapha Kopa karaka – Causes aggravation of Kapha
Effect of Darkness on the body –
Tama or Darkness prevailing during the night time has the below mentioned effects on regular exposure –
- Bhayaavaham – Creates fear
- Mohadi Janakam – Creates delusion, confusion in recognition of directions
- Pitta Hrit – Alleviates Pitta
- Kapha Hrit – Alleviates Kapha
- Kama Vardhanam – Enhances sexual desires
- Klama Krit – Causes tiredness
While the darkness causes tiredness and creates fear and delusion on one side, it alleviates morbid pitta and kapha and enhances sexual desire on the other side. Roaming or strolling in darkness of the night is contraindicated, but it has its benefits also. Therefore the activities to be done at night should be wisely chosen.
Ratri Bhojana – Ideal qualities of dinner:
The below mentioned rules should be followed while taking food at night (dinner) –
- Bhojanam Prathama Prahara Antare – Dinner should be consumed in the first Prahara (first 3 hours) of the night.
- Kinchit oonam Samashniyaat – Food should be taken in lesser quantity, in comparison to the food taken during noon (lunch).
- Durjaram Varjayet – One should avoid taking the foods which are hard to digest. Vagbhata also advices intake of Laghu (light) and Hita (conducive and wholesome) ahara (food) at night time for those targeting good health.
- Samvishet – Sleeping is an important part of night activities. One should have a proper sleep in terms of quality and quantity. Acharya Vagbhata tells that one should go to sleep with pleasant mind in his bed, after having offered prayers to his favorite God.
Bhojana Uttara karma
Bhojana Uttara Karma (Post dinner activities)
The below mentioned activities should be done after taking dinner.
- Pani Prakshalana – One should thoroughly wash his hands until the food particles are completely washed off the hands.
- Danta Shodhana – The teeth should be cleansed by brushing; the food particles should be removed from in between the teeth using teeth picks.
- Mukha Prakshalana / SHodhana – If there is coating or bad odour in the mouth, one should gargle the mouth with sterile water or oil and cleanse the mouth thoroughly.
- Netra Sparsha – One should touch the eyes with moist finger tips after having washed the hands (post dinner).
- Tambula Sevana – One should chew betel leaves to cleanse and clear the mouth. Chewing betel leaves also provides freshness and good odor to the mouth.
- Dhumapana – One should take medicated smoking to remove the stagnant or coated kapha from the mouth and throat.
- Gamana – Before sleeping, one should walk for pada shata matra (hundred steps distance).
- Samveshana – One should sleep on the left lateral position.
- Raja vat aseeta – According to Acharya Sushruta, one should sit comfortably like a king until the heaviness and discomfort of food gets settled down. After that, one should walk for shata pada (hundred steps). After that he should lie down on comfortable bed turning to the left side.
Those who have consumed excessive liquid food should sleep for less duration.
Triphala for Eye Health
Triphala or 3 fruits or recipes prepared from Triphala is said to be the best for maintaining eye health and also to cure eye ailments. It can be consumed at any part of the day, but it yields best results when taken during the night time.
How to use?
Powders of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica) and Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) mixed together is called Triphala (powders of the fruits of the mentioned herbs). This Triphala Churna should be given mixed in honey and ghee at night. When given in this form, Triphala Churna is said to strengthen the eyes and vision.
Anjana – Collyrium
Collyriums cure eye diseases and also enhance eye health. Collyrium can also be applied at night time. Sauviranjana is the best collyrium and shall be used daily. Rasanjana has cleansing properties. It shall be used once in 5 or 7 days to expel the aggravated doshas from the eyes and also to purify the eyes.
Dhumapana or medicated smoking
Medicated smoking or Dhumapana can be practiced at night, after food. This alleviates vitiated Kapha.
Nidra – Sleep
Sleep is one of the Traya Upastambhas (3 supporting pillars of life). Sleep in terms of quality and quantity is essential to maintain an optimum health. Serious sleep disturbances can lead to many diseases and also to death.
Given an opportunity, we can sleep at any time, but that is not good for health. One should sleep only at night. Sleeping at night is conducive to health and prevents many diseases.
Among many factors responsible for sustenance of the body and its health, sleep is the prime factor.
Sleep is also said to destroy half of our diseases.
In a person who gets good sleep at night and has a capacity to digest food properly, the Kayagni or Jataragni (gut fire, metabolism) will get enhanced. This in turn nourishes the body properly.
Maithuna – Intercourse
Sex is one of the natural instincts. People get indulged in sex at various parts of the day, but sex during night time is good and wholesome for health. Therefore sex shall be practiced at night time.
As is said in BhavaPrakasha –
Man will have sexual desire every day. When he suppresses the urge to have sex, he will suffer from Meha (urinary disorders, diabetes), Meod Vriddhi (obesity, deposition of fat in the body) and Tanu Shitilata (looseness or laxity of body and body parts).
Having sex during day time or evening is said to be harmful to health.
Time for intercourse –
(Ref – Bhava Prakasha 5/278)
- At night time during cold seasons
- At day time in summer (hot season)
- At day or night in spring season
- When thunderbolts are heard and in presence of sexual urge in rainy season
Sexual intercourse should not be done (Ref – Bhava Prakasha 5/279)
- During evenings
- During full moon day
- During new moon day
- Time when cows are let out from the huts for grazing
- During midnight
- During mid day
Beneficial practices after sexual intercourse
One should practice one or more of the below mentioned, after sexual intercourse –
- Milk with sugar
- Recipes prepared from sugarcane juice
- Cool breeze
- Meat soup
Just Before Finishing –
Night is an important part of our life. Night is meant for taking a break from our activities, a time for rest, to reactivate, rejuvenate and refresh ourselves and get ready for next day’s activities. Ratri Charya, a concept explained in Ayurveda explains the activities which need to be done and which need to be avoided during night time. In this article I have covered the compiled references from Ayurvedic treatises which explain the regimen of night in a comprehensive way.
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