Modern Science Validates our Scriptures on Nutritive Value of Cow-Milk

Sh. I. K. Narang

Milk has been recognized as a complete food by nutritionists all over the world. It has all the ingredients and nutrients necessary for growth and maintenance of a healthy human body.  Modern science as well ancient Indian texts and scriptures are full of references eulogizing the virtues of milk as a complete food. Indian scriptures have described milk as the elixir of life or Amṛta.  

अमृतं वै गवां क्षीरमित्याह त्रिदशाधिप:।

तस्माद् ददाति यो धेनुममृतं स प्रयच्छति॥

(Mahābhārata 65-46)

Similar reference which means ‘Cow-milk is Amṛta, It protects us (from disease). Therefore, if someone donates a cow, he actually donates the Amṛta.

Goshu priyamamrutam rakshmana

(ṚgVeda 1-71-9)

ṚgVeda in another Mantra (5-19-4) describes Cow-milk as the most desirable and likeable drink. There are several similar descriptions in other scriptures, which enumerate the health-providing, prophylactic and curative properties of milk. Milk has been described as a drink providing vitality, immunity, (the inner strength to fight diseases), a complete balanced diet, which gives ‘Subudhi’ or the right thinking power or wisdom. Charak has described milk as:

स्वादुशीतं मृदु स्निग्धं बहलं श्लक्ष्णपिच्छिलम्।

गुरू मन्दं प्रसन्नं च गव्यं दशगुणं पयः॥

(Charka-Samhita 27-217)

This describes the Organoleptic and nutritional properties of milk. It says Cow’s milk is tasteful, sweet, has a fine/subtle flavor, is dense, and contains good fat, but light, easily digestible, and not easily spoiled. It gives us tranquility and cheerfulness. Charka 27-214 states ‘kshiryojaskar pusam’ which means milk increases the vitality and Virility in man. Dhanvantri another ancient Indian physician has described cow’s milk is a desirable and preferred diet in all types of ailments and that its regular use protects the human body from Vātta, Pitta, Kafa. ‘Raj Nighantu’, another authoritative treatise on ‘Ayurveda’ also describes milk as Amṛta or Piyush. Similar properties of milk as provider of vitality and strength are –

यूयं गावो मेद्यथाम कृशं चिद्श्रीरं चित कृणुथाम सुप्रतीकम

भद्र गृहम कृणुथ भद्रवाचो बृहद वो उच्यते सुभासु

(Atharv Veda 4-21-6)

The Cow, through its milk, transforms a weak and sick person into an energetic person, provides vitality to those without it and by doing so, makes the family prosperous and respectable in the ‘civilized society’.

The curative value of cow milk in heart diseases and Jaundice like diseases (Hriday Rog and Pāndu Rog), milk from cows of red colour was considered to be the only remedy for this.  

अनु सुर्यमुदयतां हृदयोतो हरिमा च ते।

गो रोहितस्य वर्णेन तेन त्वा परिदध्मसि॥

(Atharv Veda 1-22-1)

Validation of the above claims by Modern Science:

What is for consideration here is whether Cow-milk has been compared with or described as ‘Amṛta’ only on sentimental/emotional or religious grounds or whether there is any description of certain specific qualities or properties of milk and milk products which enhance the longevity or vitality of life to the extent of making the regular consumer of milk a healthy person with a long life and help cure certain ailments.  Let  us therefore have a look at the findings of modern science to validate what our scriptures have stated.

 Source: National Institute of Nutrition – Hyderabad

In modern science Cow-milk occupies a special position among foods as it is an animal food that has a vegetarian connotation. The above table shows the various nutrients found in milk. All these make the milk a complete food. It carries almost all nutrients needed by any human being for growth and development be it children, adolescent, elderly people, pregnant and nursing mothers. It is considered as a protective food. Milk helps to balance human diet by supplementing good quality fat, protein, calcium and vitamins particularly, vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. In addition milk contains several bio-protective molecules that ensure health security to humans. Component wise discussion is given below:

  1. Milk fat
  • The average cholesterol content in cow- milk is only 2.8 mg/g fat. Moreover, humans absorb 10-14% of dietary cholesterol, thus only 20-40 mg cholesterol will be absorbed from 50g of dietary milk fat. On the other hand, the body itself synthesizes cholesterol (1-4g daily) in much higher amounts than what is absorbed from the diet.
  • Milk fat has high proportion of short and medium-chain saturated fatty acids, which do not raise serum cholesterol levels. Experiments with volunteers have shown that cholesterol levels do not rise when as much as 2 litters of milk is consumed daily. On the contrary, the cholesterol level is reduced. It has been suggested that the regular intake of milk keeps blood vessels healthy.
  • Compared to other fats and oils, milk fat is easily digestible. The digestibility of milk fat is 99%. The excellent digestibility of milk fat is due to dispersion of fat globules in the aqueous phase of milk forming an emulsion. They are absorbed directly unlike other dietary fats that have to be emulsified by bile, pancreatic enzymes and intestinal lipases before they can pass through intestinal well. The easy digestibility of milk fat makes it a valuable dietary constituent in diseases of stomach, intestine, liver, gall bladder, kidney and disorders of fat digestion. Milk fat has a protective effect against human tooth decay.
  • Protective effect of milk fat against some types of cancer (colon, breast and skin) has recently been reported. A specific fatty acid (a cis-trans isomer of linoleic acid) has been identified in milk fat, which appears to be an inhibitor of cancerous growth.

2. Milk proteins

  • Milk proteins are rich in essential amino acids. The digestibility of milk proteins is rated higher (96%) much more than that of plant proteins (74-78%).
  • The milk proteins are useful in the diet of patients suffering from liver and gall bladder diseases, hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Patients with impaired kidney functions rely on protein with high BV for relieving strain on the excretory function of the kidney.
  • Modern medical science tells us that milk helps in curing uric acid problems and acidity conditions in stomach, treatment of inflammation of mucous lining of stomach and of stomach ulcers, preventing hyperacidity. This due to buffering effect of protein in milk.  Drinking milk is, therefore, advised in case of hyper acidity or peptic ulcer formation.  
  • Immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, lysozyme, lactoperoxidase and vitamin B12-binding protein have antimicrobial effect also. They not only act against the microorganisms in the intestine but also prevent the absorption of foreign proteins.
  • Lactoferrin is an iron binding glycoprotein that occurs in cow milk at a level of 0.2 mg/ml. It plays an important role in the resistance against intestinal infection, particularly Escherichia coli.
  • The milk proteins are used in slimming diets also.

3. Milk sugar

  • Lactose, the principal milk sugar, is slowly metabolised and therefore, a considerable portion of it passes into the large intestine where it promotes the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria. lactose promotes the utilization of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
  • The blood glucose does not rise rapidly on lactose diet.
  • Milk consumption, therefore, enables the diabetic person to obtain the biologically highly valuable milk proteins without running the risk of rise in blood glucose levels.

4. Minerals in Milk 

  • Milk and dairy products are the most important source of calcium in readily available form. A 250 ml serving of cow milk contains calcium equivalent to 60% of ICMR’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults. Incorporation of milk in the diet also improves the bioavailability of calcium from vegetable foods.
  • Recent research has shown that poor nutritional status with respect to calcium is related to diseases like osteoporosis, hypertension and colon cancer.
  • The hypertensive patients have shown significant reduction in blood pressure in response to increased calcium intake.
  • Introduction of increased dietary calcium through dairy products has been shown to reduce incidences in colon cancer and hyper-proliferation in the colonic mucosa in rodents.
  • Milk is rich in phosphorus that reduces urinary calcium excretion. Milk and most dairy products,  have a near 1:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio considered to be ideal for retention of calcium in the body

5. Rich source of vitamins

  • Milk is a rich source of vitamins not only in terms of their contents but also their better bioavailability.
  • Milk is one of the richest natural sources of riboflavin (vitamin B2). A 250 ml serving of cow milk contains riboflavin equivalent to 50% of the daily requirement of a pre-school child.
  • It is a very good source of niacin (Vitamin B3) though in small amounts. Indeed, milk is used as dietary ingredient for patient suffering from pellagra, a niacin deficiency disease.
  • For vegetarians, milk is sole natural source of vitamin B12, as this vitamin is present only in animal foods.
  • Milk is also a good source of folic acid. / Vitamin A.  

6. Enzymes :

A number of enzymes in milk are involved in the milk immune system. These are lactoperoxidase, xanthin oxidase and lysozyme. The lactoperoxidase-thiocyanate-system  destroys the harmful  microorganisms.

 It is because of these qualities of cow’s milk that cow has been treated as “Gau Mātā”, a provider of Amṛta, provider of health, wealth, prosperity, fame and respect. This also made the cow an object of worship and reverence. While praying for freedom and prosperity for nation, the Aryans, prayed for high yielding milk cows –

दोग्ध्री धेनु

(Yajurveda 22-22)

OUR ANCESTORS WERE DAIRY SCIENTISTS  :

This analysis is a pointer to believe that our Ṛṣis were Dairy Scientists They understood the:

  • The nutritive value of various components of milk & milk products
  • The Curative – preventive and therapeutic  properties of milk,
  • Therapeutic and Immunological  properties and extra-nutritional role of milk constituents
  • Immunological aspects of proteins

NEED FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

This   discussion provides a lead to further investigate and validate the claims like producing medicated milks and research in to medicinal effects of milk drawn from different colour cows through modern methods of diagnostic medicine.

Mr. I. K. Narang, Former Assistant Commissioner (Dairy Development) Government of India

Connecting with Mā Gangā

Ms. Neera Misra

Introduction

Gangā! The very name creates a sense of sanctity, devotion and reverence. It is the only flowing body of sacred waters whose history of origin through superhuman efforts, has been immortalized in legendary films and arts, and termed Gangā Avtaraṇa or even as Bhāgiratha Prayathna. We get a detailed description of Gangā Avtaraṇa  in Srimad Vālmīki Ramāyana.

कथं गङ्गावतरणं कथं तेषां जलक्रिया….॥ (बालकाण्ड, द्विचत्वारिंश सर्ग ६)

भगीरथस्तु राजर्षिर्धार्मिको…..राज्यं गङ्गावतरणे रत:॥ (वही, ११-१२)

(Source of Image : ‘Gangā Avtaraṇa गङ्गावतरण ‘ – A famous painting by Sh. Raja Ravi Verma

The water deity, identified with ‘makara’ at her feet, brings with it unique power of salvation from sins. It is the spiritual river that has defined Bhārata’s culture and civilization since time immemorial.

The Gangā occupies an unrivalled position among the rivers of the world. No other river is so closely identified with a country as the Gangā is with India’, says Jagmohan Mahajan in Gangā Observed (Foreign accounts of the river). ‘Cities and pilgrimage centers teeming with temples and shrines have sprung up all along its course (milestones in the history of the land and the growth of Indian civilization). The Gangetic plain has indeed been the pole towards which the political, economic and religious life of the country has gravitated’.  Gangā is much more.

‘पतित पावनी जीवनदायनी’ Mā Gangā is integral to us from birth to death. Its water is used at every ceremony for purification, as a charm to ward off evil spirits, sprinkled at weddings over the bride and bridegroom, and dropped into the mouths of the dying, and also serving as a medium for oath taking. Geographer Strabo calls it ‘the largest river’. The English traveller Thomas Coryat, who visited India from 1612 to 1617, has called it ‘the captains of all rivers in the world’.

Yet this water of life and death is not just a naturally existing river as perceived by many. Descending from the heavens as rain, she was created as a channel for human salvation with the vision of Solar Dynasty King Sagara and his five generations of descendants, a task finally accomplished by Bhāgiratha with the blessings of Lord Shiva. Gangā is not just flowing waters but divine waters endowed with unique properties for our ‘mokṣa’. Some scholars believe that our current understanding and approach to ‘river’ is based on European ideas and very different from what ancient seers of Bhārata conceived. Dilip da Cunha, in his book ‘The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Gangā’s Descent‘, (published 2018 November by the University of Pennsylvania) attributes the colonial understanding of river and banks, the separation of land and water, to be derivative from Alexander’s concept and ancient Greek cartography. He explains ‘Although Alexander the Great never saw the Ganges, he conceived of it as a flowing body of water, with sources, destinations, and banks that marked the separation of land from water. This Alexandrine view of the river, as per Dilip da Cunha ‘has been pursued and adopted across time and around the world.

Dilip da Cunha, indirectly agrees with the Vedic view that Gangā descended from heavens, when he argues that ‘the articulation of the river Ganges has placed it at odds with Gangā, a “rain terrain that does not conform to the line of separation, containment, and calibration that are the formalities of a river’ He explains  that ‘What we take to be natural features of the earth’s surface, according to da Cunha, are products of human design’, thus again authenticating the ‘itihāsa’ of Sagar and Bhāgiratha.

In the 4th century BC, Megasthenes came from Greece as ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, leaving the first detailed account of India by a foreign visitor. He noted that the Indians worshipped the rain-bringing Zeus (Indra), the Gangā River and local deities. The Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions that ‘during drought shall Indra, the Gangā, mountains and Mahakachha (sea or ocean) be worshipped. Textual references prove that the Gangā is actually channeled rainwater (Ṛgveda 1.32.11-12).

इन्द्रो यद् वॄत्रमवधीन्नदी….| (ॠग्वेद १.५२.२)

Mysterious purifying powers

Gangā that we revere is the very special living divine liquid energy with mysterious purifying properties. This unique and mystifying trait of the Gangā has intrigued modern scientists for long but till date none have succeeded in decoding the Gangā’s spiritual powers.

Mark Twain notes that a scientist named Mr. Henkin, who was employee of the government of Agra, concluded experiments to examine the water. He went to Banāras for his tests and took water from the mouths of the sewers where they empty into the river at the bathing-ghāts; Tests revealed that a cubic centimeter of it contained millions of germs; but at the end of six hours they were all dead. He then also caught a floating corpse, towed it to shore, “ … and from beside it he dipped up water that was swarming with cholera germs; at the end of six hours they were all dead’ writes J Mahajan (Virgo Publication, 1994). Repeatedly, he took pure well-water which was barren of animal life, and put into it a few cholera germs, they always began to propagate at once, and always within six hours they swarmed- and were numerable by millions upon millions.

Europeans wondered, as many of us still do, ‘how did they find out the water’s secret in those ancient ages? Had they germ-scientists then? We do not know. We only know that they had a civilization long before we emerged from savagery’ (Mark Twain: Following the Equator, 1897).

(Source of image : ‘Devprayāg’ where the Bhāgirathi joins Alakhnandā to form Gangā. Image courtsey by Sh. Abhay Mishra)

This most telling image from Devprayāg distinctly shows here two flowing water bodies of very different colors. It is pertinent to note that this is the sacred place of the ‘divine confluence’ (Devprayāg) of two rivers that join together, creating Gangā’s emergence as the single flow towards the plains. Also, that the chemical properties of such contrasting waters will be different is clear to even an ordinary person.

How does the mixture of two or more variant waters, flowing through mineral rich pristine areas, affect the final properties of the Gangā waters that have mysterious purifying qualities? Was this confluence natural or man-made? We know of Panchprayāg (five confluences) at Uttarākhand. Waters descend crossing through Vishnuprayāg (DhauliGangā-Alakhnandā), Nandprayāg (Alakhnandā-Nandākinī), Karnaprayāg (Alakhnandā-Pindar) and Rudraprayāg where Alakhnandā meets Mandakinī.

What is the significance of the name ‘Devprayāg’ as ancient seers named people or places with certain symbolic identifications? Where or what is the initial source of the mystical properties of Gangā waters? We know that – Gangā water is always sacred as germs do not develop in it. Gangā water is always pure. It has medicinal properties in it. This drinking water has divine traits as stated in ancient texts –

शं नो देवीरभिष्टय आपो भवन्तु पीतये शं योरभि स्रवन्तु न:। (ॠग्वेद १.९.४)

Germ free pure water is also mentioned –

यथोदकं शुद्धे शुद्धमासिक्तं तादृगेव भवति। (कठोपनिषद् २.१.१५)

It is notable that where the Gangā waters fall on Hemkunt as spring,  gold particles are found there. In several places in the Gangā valley there is a tradition to strain gold particles. This gold is called ‘Gangāye’ Periplus mentions this.

Gangā is called the ‘Das Pāpa Hara Devī’ as she provides solution for ten problems. Gangā Daśera is festival celebrated in recognition of Gangā’s power of washing away ten ‘Pāpa’ or sins (sin means problems). It is also mentioned by Bhojrāj (Rajmartand) [quoted in गङ्गा नदी : उद्भव एवं देवत्व – एक सांस्कृतिक यात्रा, presented by Prof. Deen Bandhu Pande, at Draupadi Dream Trust Gangā Conference, 6th Dec 2018, Delhi]. Was course of waters having divergent properties chartered to form the miracle water?

Rajnīkānt describes the ten traits of Gangā, by which it helps us keep away problems. These ten natural qualities of Gangā are –

1. शीतत्वम्, 2. स्वादुत्वम्,  3. स्वच्छत्वम् ,  4.  अत्यन्तरुचत्वम् , 5. पत्थ्यत्वम्, 6. पावनत्वम्  7. पापहारित्वम्,  8. तृष्णामोहध्वंसनत्वम् 9. दीपत्वम्, 10. प्रज्ञाधारित्वम्.

As the British interests in India increased, they also started exploring its natural resources. Gangā, Yamuna, Brahmaputra and other rivers originating from the Himalayas attracted their attention, during 1800s and early part of 1900s. British surveyors surveyed these rivers comprehensively, and Sir William Willcox, the Director General of Irrigation of India has, in his book, shows his understanding of high standards of ancient documentations. He writes that Indian ancient writers wrote about physical facts in a spiritual manner. Regarding the rivers he states that every flow which went southwards whether, big as the Bhagirathi or not, originally started as a canal and that these canals were lined out, dug and placed just at the distance that canals should be placed. Sir William Willcox reasons that Gangā or the River Bhāgirathī was a canal constructed by our ancient visionaries. The bringing of the Gangā from the heights of Meru to the plains of India would be the greatest accomplishment of engineering in India, or even in human history.

Divine water

What is the mystery of this Divine water?

Modern scientists are gradually realising the science of Ayurveda, Meditation, Yoga and even ‘ritual fasting, but will take many decades, if not centuries, to unlock all the secrets unearthed by our ancient seers. Knowledge of our Rishi’s came through centuries of penance by understanding and connecting with nature. They unravelled the depths of ‘vijñāna’ and planned for welfare of humanity.

The gospel of preventive medicine and science of life ‘Ayurveda’ is the ‘Charak Samhitā’ which means research by travelling to various parts of the land. It was not commercial exploitation as Vedic dharma is based on the principles of

सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग्भवेत्।।

Gangā too was channeled from heavenly waters for the welfare of mankind. It is the perfect blend of nature and culture for social engineering the welfare of a civilization that believed in divine nature of man, nature and all earthy beings.

Gangā Mā is a marvelous gift of visionary King Sagara, dedicated efforts of his 60,000 population and sons Anshumān, Dilipa and especially Bhāgiratha, who is immortalized through Bhāgirathī river which joins Alakhnandā at Devprayāg, to finally form the Gangā we know.

Since time immemorial Mother Gangā is flowing through our heartlands and we use her pure waters for all our holy rituals. But in this auspicious Śrāvan māsa we pay special tribute to the heavenly Divine Gangā. People travel for days, covering thousands of miles up the mountains to bring the freshest waters of Gangā river to pour on Lord Shiva, thanking him for blessing us by bringing Mā Gangā to us mortals. It is like a thanksgiving celebration, so integral to our sanskriti.

Jai Mā Gange!

Om Namay Shivāye!

Ms. Neera Misra, Independent scholar on Vedic and Mahābhārata Heritage, Chairperson-Trustee Draupadi Dream Trust