Ayurveda, the science of life continues to remain the most sacred & is honoured by those proficient in the veda because of its utility in both the worlds that is this world & the world beyond. Food is an integral part of human life. It is any substance consumed for the purpose of acquiring nutrition.
The utility of the food is determined with the help of the Ashtavidha Ahara Viseshayatana mentioned in Caraka Samhita Vimanasthana. The process of food consumption is like a celestial submission which needs to strictly follow the rules illustrated in the scriptures to get the desired results.
Nutritional Research deals with efforts referring to the nurturing of the body, in an ability to keep it healthy & functioning as it is supposed to do. According to theorists the eight factors included in the Ashtavidha Ahara Viseshayatana encompass all facets of nutrition. The fifth factor of these is ‘Desa’ which refers to the habitat of a drug. Acarya Caraka defines it as follows:
Desa relates to the habitat. It determines attributes due to procreation, movement of substances in a particular locality and their acclimatisation to that region. This definition is quoted with respect to the cultivation & transport of various food items & their properties in accordance with the place they are grown. That is why Cakrapani clarifies further that the word habitat should be associated to both, the crops cultivated at that place as well as the people inhabiting that area.
The adaptation of food products opposite in quality to that of the habitat is generally accepted. For example, with regards to cultivation & origin, drugs growing in the Himalayas are considered very efficacious & those from desert area are light in property. Similarly, the meat of animals grazing light food, those inhabiting deserts & those who move about a lot are light in nature & those opposite are heavy. Whereas taking into consideration the residents, the use of hot & un-unctuous substances in marshy land or cold & unctuous articles in deserts is encouraged.
Furthermore in Ayurveda, desa is broadly classified into two – bhumi desa (habitat) and sarira desa (individual body). While considering the diet & regimen for both, application of contrasting qualities is advised in order to counteract the forces & maintain a state of equilibrium.
An exception to this rule is seen in case of okasatmya or abhyasa satmya where substances are made homologous to the body by their slow & gradual use. This is well explained by Caraka in Yonivyapatchikitsitamadhyaya. He says that if a non-homologous item has become homologous to a person or a habitat because of habitual use, then sudden & total withdrawal of this substance, despite of it being unwholesome does not prove to be constructive for the person He also quotes beautiful examples to illustrate abhyasa satmya with respect to desa, like the people residing in Eastern part of India have made fish homologous for them. Eastern India is a coastal area & an arid zone with predominance of kapha dosa. As a result the residents are expected to consume food with preponderance of katu, tikta, kashaya rasa & light qualities. Varieties of fishes obtained from sea are heavy, unctuous, sweet, vata alleviating, aphrodisiac, increases faeces & kapha. But the individuals have made the diet containing fish homologous for them with regular intake.
Cakrapani further clarifies that though the above mentioned example describes abhyasa satmya with respect to bhumi desa, they should be associated to sarira desa as it is difficult to cite examples on individual basis due to variations in the individual constitutions.
The objectives of Nutritional Research include prevention, alleviation or correction of nutritional problems. This depends on the country, its administration, literacy & finally economy. Situations in which malnutrition exists vary widely from place to place, interventions tend to be:
Ill adapted or poorly accepted
There is a tendency to ignore certain problems or important factors.
A careful observation of all these intrusions helps in determining the place of knowledge regarding habitat & one’s body in the process of nutrition. An individual should be mandatorily acquainted with what type of food will be best adapted to the place resided by the person & also his body constitution. An attempt should be made to educate people regarding wholesome & unwholesome food as regards their affectivity. It should be borne in mind that desa not only refers to the habitat but to the individual body also. Also familiarity to cost effective victuals which are at the same time nutritious is essential. Talking about important factors apt information always remains the prime factor.
Ayurveda considers desa & kala as two factors which form the pedestal for determination of most of its principles. Here the former represents the Law of co-existence & the latter stands for the Law of succession. Individuals have to exist in harmony with the nature & its variations & at the same time give due respect to one’s requirements. Nature exhibits uniformity & hence provides the same platform for all. It is the responsibility of every individual to select for he the best suited adapts. ‘Staying healthy’ is itself the major challenge that every single person faces. As such one should be well aware of the changing nature of the habitat as well as one’s own body & accordingly meet the demands of nutrition.