Tuesday September 25, 2018

Religion and Conversation – Haldi and Hindu women in Trinidad

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Image source: knowyourindianroots.blogspot.com
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By Annesha Das Gupta

In the above video, Dr. Kumar Mahabir -an anthropologists and faculty at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, talks about his findings on the link of Hindu women and ecosystems. It may be noted that Trinidad and Tobago is home to a huge Indian diaspora. Out of 1.3 million population of Trinidad, at least 550 thousand (5.5 Lakh) people have their ancestry rooted in East Indians.

One should not be astonished, at such an approach because of the strong connection that has been exhibited by the village women with their surrounding lands, is a common knowledge for centuries in India. For instance, the famous Chipko Movement, will give a proper idea of what is been talked about here. Similarly, Mahabir, wants to explain that how some of the essential medicinal plants has been on the verge of being extinct and a unique formulation of insight by the conservationists can save us much time.

This, he states, can be done by studying the affinity which the Hindu women shares with the ‘scared’ plants like Haldi and Tulsi. Though, Mahabir here specifically concentrates his research on the cultural and religious aspects that the plant of haldi or turmeric (Curcuma domestica), still have its hold on the Indian community. And of course how it can help in sustaining, our floundering biodiversity.

While being on it we can give out some inputs that has been mentioned in Mahabir’s findings about the importance of turmeric –

  • His ethnographical researches suggest that the Hindu families readily grow this common herb in their gardens and also share it among their community.
  • The community holds the item more as an object of religious rites than as a sacred herb.
  • The plant is readily used as an ingredient in cosmetics, medicine and food.
  • In Hindu marriages, a turmeric paste, consisting of grounded stems mixed with coconut oil is applied, covering the whole body of both the bride and the groom, on the day of their marriage. This tradition indicates an aspect of the herb which is believed to have properties to increase a person’s fertility.
  • Among the medicinal benefits, there is the coating of the lower abdomen of a woman who has just given birth. It is to known to have firm the skin. While, the stems are also boiled with milk (Haldi Doodh) and drink to cleanse the stomach.
  • Other than that the mixture is used as a means of gaining a brighter complexion and still is widely popular among the womenfolk of the community.

Dr. Mahabir, wants us to acknowledge the opening of doors in the ecological research by delving into the relationships that the religious groups fosters with different herbs and plants that were used to be found easily in their backyards and thus being an almost indispensible part of their daily lives.

To give out a brief in his own words, he opines that ‘Little research has been done in the Caribbean and elsewhere on the inter-connections between religious practices and environmental protection. It is widely known that many medicinal plants face the imminent threat of extinction, as the world advances towards an ecological crisis. Hindus use hardi/tumeric (Curcuma domestica) more as an object in religious rituals than as a sacred item. They also use the plant as an ingredient in food, cosmetics and medicine. This paper uses ethnographic research to investigate exactly how Hindu women ritualists in Trinidad use, cultivate, and conserve the plants in their gardens for ready use at home and in the community. In their tireless attempts to promote biodiversity, conservationists may have adopt a new approach by working with religious groups, and demonstrate to the public at large how plant protection is related to religious values.’

This article has been prepared by Annesha DasGupta with input from a video produced by Dr. Kumar Mahabir. Follow Annesha on twitter @Dancingbluepen

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Researchers Have Successfully Created Artificial Placenta

Initial tests have already shown that the artificial placenta on the chip does in fact behave in a similar way to a natural placenta: small molecules are allowed to pass through, while large ones are held back, the researchers noted.

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Artificial placenta created in lab using 3D printing. Flickr
Artificial placenta created in lab using 3D printing. Flickr

Using a high-resolution 3D printing process, Austrian researchers have succeeded in creating an artificial placenta barrier on a chip, a development that can be used to investigate important aspects of nutrient transport from the mother to the foetus.

The placenta ensures the exchange of important substances between the mother and her unborn child, whilst simultaneously blocking other substances from passing through.

“The transport of substances through biological membranes plays an important role in various areas of medicine,” said Aleksandr Ovsianikov, professor at the TU Wien university in Vienna.

“These include the blood-brain barrier, ingestion of food in the stomach and intestine, and also the placenta.”

This can help provide clarity on how the exchange of glucose between mother and child takes place. Wikimedia Commons
This can help provide clarity on how the exchange of glucose between mother and child takes place. Wikimedia Commons

Studies have shown that diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure in the mother can affect the transport of substances to the foetus. Until now however, it has been almost impossible to investigate the way in which the many parameters involved interact in such cases.

Using the 3D printing made it possible to produce customised hydrogel membranes directly within microfluidic chips, which are then populated with placenta cells.

This can help provide clarity on how the exchange of glucose between mother and child takes place, the researchers said.

The novel chip consists of two areas — one represents the foetus, the other the mother. Using a specially developed femtosecond laser-based 3D printing process helped produce a partition between them — the artificial placenta membrane.

The high-resolution 3D printing involved a hydrogel with good biocompatibility.

Also Read: Obesity During Pregnancy May up Kid’s Risk of Epilepsy

“Based on the model of the natural placenta, we produce a surface with small, curved villi. The placenta cells can then colonise it, creating a barrier very similar to the natural placenta,” Ovsianikov explained.

Initial tests have already shown that the artificial placenta on the chip does in fact behave in a similar way to a natural placenta: small molecules are allowed to pass through, while large ones are held back, the researchers noted. (IANS)

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