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Kashmir’s Herbal Bath Delivery (Louse Aab): Preserving Cultural Heritage through Wellness

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By: Hilal Ahmad Tantray

In Kashmir, there’s a traditional postpartum practice of bath known as “Louse Aab.” Prepare the Louse Ghassi (mixture of herbs, shrubs, leaves, wild fruits and roots together) by boiling it in a spacious container filled with water, preferably using a copper vessel, for a duration of one to two hours. After boiling, allow it to cool slightly locally known as Sakboul aab, without adding cold water. 

During the bathing process, gently scrub the lady’s body with the Louse Ghassi and rinse her with its water. Additionally, it is sometimes recommended to chew pieces of grass to help restore the strength of teeth that may have been weakened due to labor pains.  It’s a ritualistic bath that women undergo after giving birth, typically within 7 and 40 days post-delivery. The bath is believed to have therapeutic benefits and helps in the recovery process after childbirth.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process:

Preparation of the Water: The first step involves heating water in copper vessel until it reaches a high temperature.

Addition of Louse Ghassi: Louse Ghassi is a huge mixture of herbs, shrubs, leaves, wild fruits and roots together, people bring these herbs from Bohru shops. Once the water is hot, various medicinal herbs, traditionally sourced, are added. 

These herbs include a range of botanicals such as Lasora (Sapistan), Liquorica roots (Shanger), Prunella Vulagaris (Kalaveuth), Curima (Laedri Gandri), Saussurea iappa (Kuth), Adiantum Pedatum (Gawtheer), Macrotomia benthami (Khazaban),Arnebia Benthami (Goazaban), Calendula (Marigold),  Jujubi Fruits (Unab), Halale, Balale, Sweet Violet (Banafsha), Thulbalol, Taraxacum officinale (Handh), Kasni (Kasun posh), Rheum emodi (Pumbachalan), among others. They are believed to have healing properties and aid in postpartum recovery.

Pakistani Salt: Pakistani salt (Pakistani Noon), known to be free of chemicals, is also added to the water mixture. This addition may have specific cultural or medicinal significance in the context of postpartum care.

Heating of Iron Rod or Baked Brick: As the water simmers with the herbs and salt, an iron rod or baked brick is heated in the fire until it becomes red-hot. The hot iron rod is then carefully immersed into the water mixture. This process releases bubbles and imparts additional therapeutic qualities to the water.

Straining the Water: Once the water has absorbed the essence of the herbs and the iron, it is strained to remove any solid particles.

Bathing Ritual: The postpartum woman then bathes with this specially prepared water. The warm herbal-infused water is believed to help cleanse and refresh the body after childbirth.

Joint Massage: During the bath, the woman’s joints are massaged with the herbal water. This massage is intended to alleviate any pain or discomfort associated with childbirth and promote relaxation.

Sweating on the Bed: After the bath, it is customary for the woman to lie on a bed and sweat. This sweating is seen as an indication of the effectiveness of the bath in expelling toxins and promoting overall well-being.

Significance and Continuation: The traditional postpartum practice of Louse Aab in Kashmir holds profound significance, not only as a vital aspect of postnatal care but also as a testament to the region’s rich cultural heritage. 

This ritualistic bath, infused with medicinal herbs and steeped in tradition, symbolizes a deep connection to nature and the wisdom passed down through generations. Beyond its therapeutic benefits for physical recovery, Louse Aab fosters emotional well-being and strengthens community bonds by providing support and nurturing for new mothers. 

Despite the tide of modernization, the continuation of Louse Aab remains steadfast, serving as a poignant reminder of the importance of preserving cultural traditions. Through its continued practice, Kashmiri families not only ensure the well-being of mothers but also safeguard a legacy of wellness and cultural identity for generations to come.

The writer is a PhD Research Scholar, Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

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