Understanding the Cultural Significance of Mustard Oil

Mustard Oil is Grandma’s favourite and here is why we should understand its significance?

Even though mustard oil is a featured item in every Indian dish, its significance extends way beyond the kitchen. Mustard oil has found a place in every Indian’s life in the form of religious, cultural, medicinal, beautification and many more applications.

The cultural significance of mustard oil comes not only from its usage in cooking Indian dishes but also its use as a form of an Ayurvedic ingredient.

Ayurvedic uses of Mustard Oil

A very common grandma’s medicine that we all have received is mustard oil. It was given to us when we were sick and suffering from cold and cough. Rubbing mustard oil on our chest or soles of our feet is said to provide heat to our body. This is also a great practice that can be followed regularly in winter months. Another way through which mustard oil can provide relief to us during cold is to use it for nasya- nasal insufflation.

Mustard oil falls under the category of Shiro virechana Gana, which means that it is used to clear the cranial cavity.

Our navel is considered as a gateway to the nourishing vessels of the body (known as siras). Pouring mustard into the belly button every night before sleeping can work wonders for our skin. It helps in combating dryness of the skin and makes it supple and smooth.

The issues of excess vata and kapha can also be solved through the use of mustard oil as a form of massage oil.

Mustard Oil is a part of every kitchen in India

A lot of dishes are best prepared when made in mustard oil alone. Bengali dishes rely heavily on this oil for all its cooking needs.

The pungent smell and hot potency are an important differentiating factor from other cooking oils. It also helps in improving digestion and deals with that extra fat.

Changing notions about mustard oil

The use of mustard oil is not a recent phenomenon, it has been present for centuries and they also have a place in ancient Ayurvedic texts.

However, with the change in times and our obsession with everything that is “not Indian” and more “western”, mustard oil has quickly been replaced by olive oil. This is not to discount the benefits of olive oil, which in itself is an excellent oil for cooking and other purposes.  But, the millennial generation has somewhat assumed that it is better than mustard oil.

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This shift in generational thinking has led people to buy olive oil even though it’s a much expensive alternative.  Here, we need to pause a moment and reflect a little on the use of oils according to certain requirements. Mustard oil is much suited for Indian climate and hence has seen such a wise presence vis-à-vis olive oil.

However, we have over time forgotten to recognise the importance our history and culture plays in helping us make decisions that lead to a better and healthier life. Our current generation needs to know how and why mustard oil is so important and its benefits. This awareness can probably help to make a better decision and fall back into our old grandma’s way.

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Harshita Bajaj

Harshita has a background in Psychology and Criminology and is currently pursuing her PhD in Criminology. She can be found reading crime thrillers (or any other book for that matter) or binge-watching shows on Netflix when she is not in hibernation.
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