Friday, December 24, 2010

********Merry Christmas********

It's Christmas and

I just wanted to say

"Thank You" and that....

It's been a pleasure

blogging with you this past year...

And may the essence of Christmas remains always with you...

**** Merry Christmas to all my blogger friends and my blog readers/visitors ****

May Jesus shower all HIS blessings on you and your families !!!.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Light and Depression.

The causes of depression are many and complex, but who'd have thought too much light could be part of the problem? Hamsters who sleep in total darkness are less susceptible to depression, and the same could be true of humans.Basking in the glow of your TV, smart phone or living room lights late into the night may put you at risk for depression, suggests a new study. **Exposure to dim lights when it should be dark may contribute to depression. **Light exposure at the wrong times of day has been linked to all sorts of health problems. **To boost your mood, it might help to give yourself some solid hours of true darkness at night.

The research, which involved hamsters, adds to growing evidence in both animals and people that exposure to even dim lights at night can lead to all sorts of negative health consequences, including breast cancer, sleep disorders and weight gain. Ohio State neuroscientist Tracy Bedrosian placed hamsters in one of two different environments. In the first, the hamsters spent 16 hours in daylight and then spent 8 hours in absolute darkness. The second group still got 16 hours of daylight, but their 8 sleeping hours were spent in the company of a dim light, roughly the equivalent of leaving one's TV on all night in an otherwise dark room.

Eight weeks later, Bedrosian tested the hamsters for signs of depression. The easiest way to spot depression in an animal like a hamster is see whether they demonstrate a preference for pleasurable treats like sugar water. The hamsters that spent 8 hours in total darkness showed a clear preference for sugar water over regular water, but the hamsters that slept with a dim light showed no preference at all. That suggests they're suffering from anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure, a key indicator of depression.Indeed, there were key differences in the brains of the two hamster groups. The hamsters that slept with the light had fewer dendritic spines, in the hippocampus area of brain. Dendritic spines are hair-like protrusions that brain cells use to communicate with one another. This ties in with human studies of depression that show the disease correlates with a shrinking of the hippocampus region.
Shown here is a PET scan revealing "hot spots"(orange-yellow areas) of increased activity in a non-depressed brain comparing a depressed brain and shrinkage in size of depressed brain.
Bedrosian suggests that these brain changes could be caused by a deficiency in the hormone melatonin. The hormone is essential in letting the body know that it's nighttime, but nearby light sources can reduce its production. Other studies have revealed melatonin's antidepressant qualities, which suggests a lack of it could spur on depression. This also fits neatly with studies demonstrating an increased risk of mood disorders for people who work at night.To explain how light exposure at night might affect the moods of both hamsters and people, the researchers turn to a hormone called melatonin. Our bodies start churning out the hormone as soon as we sense darkness, and its influence is broad. Among other roles, melatonin acts as an antioxidant. It regulates our circadian rhythms. It helps us fall asleep, and it controls the release of other hormones.With even a small amount of ambient light at night, the body might release the wrong amount of melatonin, or melatonin might get produced at the wrong time, leading to any number of problems, said neurologist Phyllis Zee, director of the Sleep Disorders Program at Northwestern University in Chicago. Studies have already implicated problems in the melatonin system with mood disorders, diabetes and sleep disturbances.
"They're all somehow related," Zee said, "and perhaps melatonin helps explain why there is this very strong relationship between depression, sleep, and circadian rhythms, as well as obesity and metabolism."
"Light affects so many biological systems," she added. "Light is a very powerful drug for the brain."
Major depression has grown more common in recent decades. And while there is probably no single reason for the trend, researchers suspect that light disturbances may play a part.
That suspicion is based, in part, on the simple observation that people today are exposed to far more sources of artificial light at night than they were 100 years ago. More people have computers in their bedrooms. More people fall asleep with the TV on.
Studies have also found that people who work night shifts have higher rates of mood disorders compared to people who sleep when their bodies are supposed to sleep.
It might be a good idea to avoid falling asleep with the TV or other light sources on. If nothing else, turning these off before you go to sleep will save on electricity bills, and that should be enough to buoy anyone's spirits.(Live Science)

Friday, October 22, 2010

CANCER - How much do we know ?.

Isn't it alarming that each year, over 12 million people receive a cancer diagnosis and 7.6 million die of the disease even when we know that approx.40 % of cancers are potentially preventable.
What is Cancer ?.
Cancer is an abnormal and uncontrolled division of cells which are able to invade and damage the organ in which they develop and also invade the other organs in their vicinity.Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body through blood or lymph.
How cancer develops ?
Cancer development is a highly complex process occurring at intracellular level.The following two videos are self explanatory of the mechanism of development of cancer at the cell level and its further progression.

What causes Cancer ?.
Apparently it is difficult to identify reasoning for most cancers.However, certain risk factors like smoking, chewing tobacco etc. are known to increase the chance that you are more likely to develop certain cancers of mouth,throat and lung.The substances, excessive exposure of which can lead to cancer are called Carcinogens.
Well known examples of Carcinogens are :
(1) Tobacco : 
Cancer Cures Smoking.
Smoking Grave.
Cancer Lips in a tobacco chewer.
Rick Bender,a former base ball player and tobacco chewer,after cancer surgery of lower jaw.

If you smoke or chew tobacco, you are more likely to develop cancer of the lungs,mouth,throat, esophagus bladder and pancreas.Smoking is thought to cause about a quarter of of all cancers.The heavier you smoke,the greater the risk.
(2) Workplace Chemicals : 

 Chemicals such as Asbestos,Benzene, Formalin etc.are known carcinogens.If you have worked with these chemicals without protection ,you have an increased risk of developing certain cancers like urinary bladder cancer,lung cancer,and skin cancers.For example a cancer called Mesothelioma is linked to past exposure to asbestos.Exhausts from factories and automobile sector is the biggest  problem now.
A common question often asked is "Doctor I have never taken any alcohol and tobacco in my entire life and also I have always lead  a healthy lifestyle,still I developed cancer,what actually happened ?"
(3) Radiation : 
Radiation is a well known carcinogen.Present day telecommunication advances viz. TV towers,wireless towers,cell phones etc pose a great threat to cancer development and its impact will be overt in 10-15 years time.Unnecessary medical irradiation in form of needless X-rays,ultrasounds,CT scans ,MRI's etc are also a great threat. Increasing sun rays radiation, 2nd world war aftermaths, and nuclear power plant disasters are a more than testimony to carcinogenesis.
There are certain other risks related to causation of cancer although they are highly variable in different settings : 
(a) Age : A good majority of certain cancers like breast cancer,prostate cancer,are attributable to age.
The reason for this lies in the fact that as you become older,there is an inappreciable accumulation of damage to cells in the body over time.For example,the ability to repair damaged cells and the immune system which may have destroyed the abnormal cells,may become less efficient with age.So,eventually one damaged cell may manage to survive and multiply 'out of control' into a cancer.
Women after 40 years of age and men after 50 years of age should undergo regular cancer screening programme to detect them at the earliest stage when they are most curable.
(b) Lifestyle factors : Diet and other lifestyle factors may increase or decrease the risk of developing cancer.
For example : 
 If you eat a a lot of fruits and vegetables you have a reduced  risk of developing certain cancers like stomach and intestinal cancers.The exact way in which they protect against cancer is not fully understood.They form the 'roughage' which lead to better bowel movements and efficient fecal clearance and therefore less exposure of intestines to harmful chemicals and by-products in the food and body, thus preventing cancer formation.These foods are also rich in vitamins and minerals,and also contain chemicals called 'anti-oxidants' which neutralize these harmful chemicals formed in the body.
'Dos' and 'Donts' to your dietary habits : 
*We should try to have at least some portions of fruits and vegetables per day (Experts recommend as much as possible).
* Eating too much of fatty foods possibly increases the risk of developing certain cancers like intestinal,prostate and uterus cancers.
*The risk of developing certain cancers is increased by obesity and lack of regular exercises,and drinking a lot of alcohol.
(c) Alcohol : Alcohol, a well known recreational and euphoric drink,always demands its dividends in form of soooo many human diseases.
In people of Indian origin,there is an increased risk of developing alcohol related diseases and ca
ncers as compared to western population.
Alcohol consumption increases the chances of liver,breast,colon,pancreas,stomach,throat and food pipe cancers as shown in the above diagram.
Polyamines-natural compounds essential for cell growth-react with acetaldehyde,which is produced when alcohol is metabolized in the body, to trigger a series of reactions that damage DNA - an event that can lead to formation of cancer.
It's not just heavy drinking - even small amounts of alcohol increases risk, but the more you drink, the greater the risk.
Despite some evidence that drinking regular, small amounts of alcohol (e.g. red wine) may reduce heart disease in older adults, there's no evidence that alcohol helps protect you from any type of cancer.
Your risk of cancer is the same for all types of alcohol including beer, wine and spirits.
How much should I drink?
To reduce the risk of cancer, you should limit your intake of alcohol or, better still, avoid it all together.
For those who do drink alcohol, we recommend no more than 2 standard drinks a day.
We also recommend those who drink avoid binge drinking (a single occasion of heavy drinking over a short period of time) and have at least 1 or 2 alcohol-free days each week.
Tips for drinking less
If you choose to drink:
# Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones like sparkling or plain water (soda, lime and bitters is a great alternative to alcohol).
# Eat some food when you drink alcohol. Think of a glass of wine or beer as something to have with a meal rather than on its own.
# Dilute alcoholic drinks, for example, try a shandy (beer and lemonade) or white wine and mineral water.
# Choose a low-alcohol (or no-alcohol) beer and/or wine.
# Use water to quench your thirst and sip alcoholic drinks slowly.
# Offer to be the designated driver when you go out so you drink less, but make sure you stay under .05

Also along with smoking it further increases your chances of developing  cancers of mouth,throat,food pipe,breathing pipe and stomach.
(d) Infections : Infections in certaion parts of the body (mostly viral) are linked to certain cancers.
HPV-virus of cancer cervix.
For example,people with persistent infection with Hepatitis B virus or the Hepatitis C virus have an increased risk of developing cancer of the liver.Certain other infections,attributable to poor hygiene, like Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can lead to cervical,penile and anal canal cancers.Most (possibly all) women who develop cervix cancer have been infected with a strain of the HPV virus at some point in their life.Similarly,infections with AIDS virus (Retrovirus), Herpes virus and Epstein Barr (EB) virus have lead to cancer development.
An important point here is that although these infections can be transmitted from one person to another, cancer is not a communicable disease i.e. it doesn't spread from one person to another by touch,living together,eating together,working together etc.
About 21% of global cancer burden is caused by  infections. The incidence of infections related cancer is only 10% in the Western or developed countries. The incidence is a high 40% in Asian, African and Latin American developing countries. In general society and persons living in poor sanitary and hygiene conditions are at higher risk of getting carcinogenic infections. Chronic infections can lead to cancer. The key factors increasing cancer risk are : age of infection, co-infection, smoking, immunocompromised status, malnutrition and poor hygiene. Development of vaccines and antiviral and antiparasitic agents can offer a cost effective treatment and prevention to high cost anticancer drugs. Herpes, Papilloma and retroviruses are the most important human infectious carcinogens. Chronic infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori also causes stomach cancer.
(e) Immune System : If you are week in your defenses to protect your own territories,then you are always in danger of intrusion by enemies/diseases.
People with a poor immune system have an increased risk of developing certain cancers.This is because our body has a natural immunity against development and progression of cancers. For example,people with AIDS,or people on immunosuppressive drugs/therapy are likely to develop blood cancers,sarcomas (soft tissues cancer), and cervix cancers.
(f) Your Genetic Make-up : Your genes are the mirror images/reflections of your biological life chemistry.
There are more chances of developing cancers when your relatives (blood relations) have history of cancers.This risk increases when the number of relatives suffering with cancer increases.Common examples are cancers of breast ,thyroid,adrenals and large intestines (colon).We should be aware regarding the risk of development of these cancers and in consultation with a specialist get regular checkups at the defined age and time period.
Most cancers are probably due to a combination of factors.
Not everybody who comes in contact with a carcinogen or has an unhealthy lifestyle will develop cancer. For example,not all smokers develop cancer of the lung.In fact,we are all probably exposed to low doses of carcinogens a lot of the time.The body has certain mechanisms which may protect us from developing cancer.For example, it is thought that many cells which are damaged by carcinogens can repair themselves instead of turning cancerous and similarly the body's immune system may be able to destroy some of these carcinogen induced abnormal cells (who haven't repaired themselves) before they multiply and turn into a cancer.In many cases it is likely that a combination of of factors such as genetic make-up,exposure to a carcinogen,age,diet,the state of your immune system, a part to trigger a cell to become abnormal,and allow it to multiply 'out of control' into a cancer.
How is Cancer detected ?
Early signs of Cancer (CAUTION) :
*Change in bowel or bladder (stool or urine) habits.
*A sore or an ulcer or a wound that does not heal..
*Unusual bleeding or discharge anywhere in body..
*Thickening or lump in breast or elsewhere in body
*Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing or breathing
*Obvious change in size /color of a wart/mole/lump
*Nagging cough,irritation or hoarseness of voice....
Besides,these seven words of CAUTION, a few other constitutional symptoms may point towards cancer development like :
* loss of weight,
 * loss of appetite,
* undue fatigue,
* persitent breathlessness,
* increasing anemia or falling hemoglobin,
* appearance of jaundice in middle or old age,
* bleeding from any outlet of the body,
* pigmentation in mouth,over face or over any part of the body.
Some tumor/cancer markers to remember :
(1).Cancer Ovary :      CA-125, CEA
(2).Cancer Pancreas :     CA-19.9, CEA
(3).Cancer Breast :     CA-15.3, CA-27.29, HER-2/neu
(4).Cancer Prostate :     PSA, PAP 
(5).Cancer Colon :      CEA, p53
(6).Cancer Stomach :     CA-72.4, CEA
(7).Cancer Liver :      AFP, CEA
(8).Cancer Lung :     Cyfra-21.1, NSE
(9).Cancer Cervix :     HPV
(10).Cancer Placenta :     Beta HCG
(11).Cancer Testes :     AFP, Beta HCG 
(12).Cancer Thyroid :     Calcitonin, TG
(13).Cancer Adrenals :    VMA, Chromogranin
Cancer Diagnosis : 
2. Biopsy
3. Ultrasonography
4. Radio-imaging
5. MRI/CAT Scan
6. Tumor markers
How is cancer treated ?
1. Surgery
2. Chemotherapy
3. Radiotherapy
4. Combined therapy
Is Cancer Curable ?
A  simple answer to this question is YES. 
Yes cancer is curable when detected in the early curable stage. Although it is a very general statement but more than 80 % of cancers today are completely curable if treated early.
For a cancer to be curable there are 3 factors : 
1. Type of cancer
2. The stage of the cancer
3.How well does the patient finally respond to the therapy and his mental approach to the disease

A belief that "vaccine can cure cancer" is a myth. Vaccine can help against a disease caused by a germ like virus which later on can lead to cancer development.
Preventive measures for Cancer :
"seven wonders" 
 The risk of developing cancer can significantly be reduced through simple measures : 
1. Stop tobacco use and avoid exposure to second hand smoke.
2. Avoid or limit alcohol consumption.
3. Avoid excessive sun exposure.
4. Strengthen your immune system.
5. Maintain a healthy weight by healthy diet and regular exercise.
6. Protect against cancer causing infections.
7. Adopt regular cancer screening pro-gramme after 40 years of age.

I had highlighted about Breast cancer (the leading cancer worldwide)  in one of my older posts and now I am highlighting Cervix Cancer (the 2nd most common cancer worldwide and leading cancer in India) through following informative videos.
Please see and listen to them and spread the more and more information about this 2nd deadly killer worldwide.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Living With A Full Heart With Aging.

We Can Control How We Age.
(Successful Aging)
What does it take to age successfully--to maintain both a sound body and mind ?
How do some people age so successfully ? 
Many of us think that it takes genes or dumb luck.But many recent studies have revealed that we are very much in control of our own aging.The secret to a long and happy life,it seems,does not lie as much in our stars as in ourselves.
The recent studies at International Life Sciences Institute-India and Harvard Medical School are a medical rarity because these have examined the lives of the well,not the sick.
Old age is like a minefield. If you see  footprints leading to the other side,step in them.These results show a clear path that "Baby Boomers" and "Gen X-ers" can follow to lead a long,happy life. Both"Happy-Well" and "Sad-Sick"persons between 60-80 years of age were included in the studies.
It's not in our genes......
A major finding was that good genes did not account for better aging.Nor did income.Good care  obviously is important, "but the trick is not going to the hospital in the first place."
The studies dispute the assumption that with aging comes decay.When 30- and 50-year old brains are compared,the older one is better developed.Advancing age impairs some motor skills,but maturation can make people sharper at emotional tasks.
......but in ourselves.
Why not celebrate another birthday ?.Social engagement helps keep you active and promotes good mental health.
Many of the study's findings focus on psychological and social health.As we age,we should try to develop more mature coping styles."Our defenses are always more mature when we are not hungry,angry,lonely,tired and drunk."
Taking people inside oneself emotionally is important."Popular people can be extraordinarily lonely and depressed.The paradox is that they starve,yet there's plenty of food." I quote the example of Marilyn Monroe,who made Arthur Miller and others feel cared for yet was unable to feel that love within herself.
Although developmental psychologists often say that personality is formed by the age 5, the studies have found otherwise.By 70, it's how we mature ourselves throughout our lifetimes that takes precedence over nature.
.Interestingly,many people who aged well unconsciously reinterpreted early events in their lives in a more positive light as they grew older.Those who clung to negative events were less happy adults.Forever blaming parents for a rotten childhood seems to impede maturity.
"What goes right in childhood predicts the future far better than what goes wrong." Especially important was a feeling of acceptance.
As one ages,remaining connected to life is crucial--as is learning the rules of a changing world.On the other hand, "One task of living out the last half of life is excavating and recovering those whom,we loved in the first half.The recovery of lost loves becomes an important way in which the past affects the present."
A heightened appreciation of the positive with less worry about cholesterol and more about gratitude and forgiveness are the key holes for successful aging.
Four psychosocial attributes vital to successful aging :
(1).Orientation towards the future : The ability to anticipate,to plan and to hope.
(2).Gratitude,Forgiveness and Optimism : We need to see the glass as half-full,not half empty.
(3).Empathy : The ability to imagine the world as it seems to the other person.
(4).The ability to reach out : We should want to do things with people,not do things to people or ruminate that they do things to us.In other words we need to "leave the screen door unlatched."

The world over,populations have been aging.Although India has the youngest population with people over 60 years of age presently constituting about 7-10 per cent,it is estimated that, in the next two decades,this percentage will go up to 12 per cent.In absolute numbers the elderly in India will exceed 160 million in 2025 which would be 3.9 times the number in Japan and about 1.9 times the number in the US in that year.
A variety of changes take place during the aging process viz. decline in antioxidant defenses,loss of muscle mass,loss of bone density.loss of appetite,loss of gut functions and exposure to old age related diseases.Surveys indicate that in India there is also prevalence of chronic energy deficiency as measured by BMI.Aging changes begin even at the age of 30 and menifest later in life.While these changes are inevitable,they can be slowed down if early initiatives are taken.
The problems are multifarious and include social,economic,physiological,nutritional and pathological.Major concern is about non-communicable diseases like cardiac diseases,cancer,cataract,osteoporosis,muscular and mental impairments.

The strategy of seven keys to successful aging.:
(1).Healthy diet and weight : 
Dietary guidelines of WHO for elderly,recommend prudent selection of nutrient dense foods such as fish,lean meat,liver,eggs,soy products,low fats,fruits,vegetables,herbs,spices,whole grain cereals,nuts and seeds.Oils high in n-3 and n-6 fats (canola,soybean and olive) are recommended.Fats shouldn't exceed 25% of the total calorie intake.
WHO has recommended consumption of at least five fruits a day.
Both green and black tea have functional properties and contribute to longevity.Green tea esp. has good anti oxidant properties.High consumption of both green tea and soy has been proven to reduce the incidence of heart diseases,cancer and osteoporosis in Japan.
Daily intake of water or non alcoholic fluids equivalent to weight in kg x 33 ml is very essential to flush out toxic agents from our body.Obesity and over weight are both a risk factor for poor health in later life.
(2).Physical activity : 
The studies have shown that the Happy-Well usually did "some exercise."Exercise lowers the risks of heart disease,breast cancer,diabetes,bone loss (osteoporosis),hip fracture,muscular weakness and protects functional decline.
Of particular importance are aerobic exercise "Take Ten" program and Yoga.Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise per day with strength training for 2/3 days have been recommended in elderly by WHO. 
"Take Ten" program recommends exercise for 10 minutes at a time at least thrice during the day.
Yoga has also been found to be highly beneficial in elderly.It combines three aspects of human personality viz. physical,psychic and spiritual and offers a path to stress free life that leads to healthy aging while remaining physically active and mentally alert.
It is important to exercise regularly.But no age is too late to begin regular physical activity.The very old can equally benefit.The benefits of fitness also extended to mental health.
(3).Not smoking or Quitting early : 
Those who quit the habit before 50 were,at 70, as healthy as those who had never smoked.And heavy smoking was 10 times more prevalent among the Prematurely Dead than among the Happy-Well.Smoking is probably the most significant factor in terms of health.
(4).Copping with life's stresses : 
The ability to take life's ups and downs in stride has been found to boost successful aging.If you can make lemonade out of lemons,then you have an adaptive coping style,also known as "mature defenses." Mature defenses don't actually ensure good health at an older age.But a person will suffer less from life's real problems if he or she has the ability to roll with the punches.
"Life ain't easy.Terrible things happen to everyone.You have to keep your sense of humor,give something of yourself to others,make friends who are younger than you,learn new things and have fun."
(5).Absence of Alcohol abuse : 
"Abusing alcohol destroys both your physical and mental health." It has been found that a partner's alcoholism can destroy a marriage,which also may have an impact on how one ages.
(6).A solid and strong marriage : 
A good marriage contributes to a long and happy life.This is important for both physical and psychological health.The studies have found that,overall,marriages improved with time--if people were willing to work out the bumps."Happy-Well people were six times more likely to be in good marriages than were the Sad-Sick."
(7).Continuing Education : 
The studies have revealed that"the more years of school people have, the more they tend to age successfully." Continuing education has been linked to healthy aging and it has been speculated that people to whom "self care and perseverance"are important are also more likely to continue their educations.These individuals are able to take the long view."People seek education because they believe it is possible to control the course of their lives." People with less education also were more likely to be obese.Their physical health at age 65 was close to that of the more-educated group at 75.
Inference or Conclusions :
People who had four or more of these seven factors at age 50 were one-third less likely to be dead by 80.
People who had three or fewer of these factors  at 50--even though they were in good physical shape--were three times as likely to die during the following 30 years.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Haridwar Maha Kumbh Mela (Fair) 2010--A Lifetime Experience.

Maha Shiv-Ratri Royal Bath at Haridwar Maha Kumbh Fair.(Feb.12,2010)
(Maha=huge/vast, Kumbh=pot)
I had a life long dream to visit,see and share the world's biggest devotional congregation of humanity on this planet in the holy city of Haridwar (India),i.e."Maha Kumbh" happening once in 12 years time.
My journey/visit to Maha Kumbh Mela on 12th Feb.2010 in Haridwar and a holy dip in the sacred  waters of the river"The Ganges"(at a water temp. of  2*c) was an eternal experience.
As I write this post late night after returning home on midnight 13-14th Feb.2010, I am tuned into TV channels and can you imagine that a record breaking 55 Lakhs (5.5 million) devotees had a holy dip in the Ganges in 24 hours during Royal Bath on the Mahashivratri day (Feb.12th). I can believe it as I was a testimony to this devotional mega event for nearly 32 hours.Nowhere on this planet it can be possible except Haridwar,India.
I left for the holy city of Haridwar early in the morning of Feb.12th, in my car and reached there at 9.30 A.M.after a 5 hours of long journey from my home town Bhiwani. 
  It was a very special and pious Maha Shiv Ratri day i.e.Feb.12th (day on which Hindu God-Lord Shiva married Goddess Parwati), a day for the first Grand Royal bath by Naga Sadhus or Babas (The naked Indian holy men/monks who normally live in quite isolation in the Himalayan mountains,caves or forests in India).
Waves upon waves of bliss,the darshan(view)-the blessings-of all the magnificent saints and yogis who come out of their Himalayan caves only once every 12 years in order to bless the people.This is the Kumbh Mela (the festival of the pot of nectar of immortality).Truly a once in life time,unforgettable event.
 Open photography by cameras was not allowed for the foreign tourists by the authorities due to Royal Bath by bare-bodied Naga Saints during day time on 12th Feb. but I  managed to capture some of the unforgettable,aesthetic,and sheer devotional moments with my Kodak and mobile cameras.Here are a few of them, revealing a universe of devotion,faith,trust,belief and divinity.
HARIDWAR : Har Ki Pauri.
Ground view in day time.
Aerial view (Har Ki Pauri) from hotel top in the evening.
Main center stage site i.e. Har Ki Pauri at Haridwar (Har=God,Ki=of,Pauri=Footsteps, means Footsteps of God) and Haridwar means Gateway to God (Hari=God,dwar=gateway).Huge gathering on both banks of the river"The Ganges"having a holy dip in it.
Haridwar is an ancient holy city of India for Hindus.The river Ganges from Himalayan mountains,enters the plains at Haridwar.The water of river Ganga is considered so sacred at Haridwar that pilgrims carry the water back home for its use on all the auspicious occasions throughout the year.It is believed that Haridwar has been sanctified by the presence of three Hindu Gods : Brahma,Vishnu and Shiva.Devout believers feel that they will attain salvation after a dip in the sacred Ganga at Haridwar.The center of this activity is Ha- ki-Pauri : "Footsteps of God", lined with multiple steps down the river for a holy dip by the pilgrims and multiple temples on both the banks of the river.It is here at the Har Ki Pauri ( the spot : Brahmakund),drops of the elixir of immortality fell by accidental spillage from the pitcher (Kumbh) carried by the celestial bird Garuda.Therefore,a dip in the Brahmakund at Har Ki Pauri at Kumbh Mela is considered very auspicious.By  bathing here all sins are cleansed and unification with God is possible.
The Kumbh fair takes place in Haridwar when Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries.This planetary position is said to medicate the waters of Ganges at Har Ki Pauri,and turns it into nectar(Amrit) on these days,thereby attracting millions to purify their sins and inner-self  through holy bathing rituals.Spiritually,position of planets during the Kumbh Mela or fair is good for concentration and meditation.This planetary position (one round of Jupiter through the zodiac) occurs once in 12 years time at Haridwar,hence it attracts the mind of any tourist to this place.
Etymology : "Kumbha" is a Sanskrit language word for the Pitcher (a roundish pot with no handles) sometimes referred to as Kalasha.It is also a zodiac sign in Indian astrology for Aquarious,while "Mela" means 'a gathering' or a meet or simply a fair.
History : Hindu mythological scriptures and mythological legends say that at the beginning of creation,all the Gods were under a curse that made them weak and coward.Brahma- the creator God,advised them to retrieve the Kumbh (earthen pot) containing the nectar of immortality (Amrit) by churning the then primitive or primordial white sea, intake of which will make them immortal.The Gods alone were unable to churn the sea so they sought the help of demons for the purpose.Gods and demons made a temporary arrangement to work together in obtaining the nectar of immortality and to share this equally later on.The Mandara Mountain was used as a churning rod and  Vasuki-the king of serpents,became the rope for churning.With the demigods at Vasuki's tail and the demons at his head,they churned the ocean for 1,000 years.However,as Dhanvantari-the divine healer,appeared with the Kumbh (pot) containing nectar in his palms,a great fight ensued between the Gods and the demons to wrest the pitcher.The demons ran away with the pot and were chased by the Gods.A fierce battle ensued between Gods and demons.For 12 days and 12 nights(equivalent to 12 human years), the Gods and demons fought in the sky for the possession of this pot of nectar of immortality.It is said that during the battle,a few drops of nectar fell on to four different places on the earth : Prayag,Haridwar,Nasik and Ujjain (India).Since then,when the planets align in the same position,pilgrims and devotees converge to commemorate this divine event at these four cities of India turn wise every 12 years.
Holy procession of Naga Saints and,
 Somersaults,Dance and Music during Mahashivratri Royal Bath......
Brandishing glittering swords and flashing silver maces,thousands of (exact figure : 250,000) bare-bodied and bare-footed Naga Sadhus (saints) danced to the beat of drums,turned somersaults and chanted fervently as they took a nearly 2 km long procession at 10 AM from their tents in Cantt. area, through the streets/roads of holy city Haridwar and rushing towards the revered Ganges to perform the first and much awaited Shahi Snan(Royal Bath) of this century on the occasion of Mahashivratri,Friday (Feb.12th), one of the biggest days of the ongoing Kumbh Mela at Haridwar.It took nearly 2 hours for them to reach the Har ki Pauri. I followed the strong and world's biggest ever contingent of 250,000 Naga saints during this mesmerizing,unique,ecstatic,auspicious and thrilling devotional journey.
 The greatest feature of Kumbh fair was furious and exotic Naga Sadhus (The Naked Saints) covered in ash with long and matted hairs.They are known as preserver of faith and are seen in public only once in 12 years during Kumbh Fair.Rest 0f the years they reside in isolation in The Himalayan forests and caves,completely cut off from this hustling-bustling materialistic world.

To watch a Kumbh procession of Naga saints is to witness the march of centuries.The noise baffled all descriptions,the shouts and cries of ash-smeared sadhus or saints co-mingled with the neighing of horses,the grunts of camels,the bellowing of bulls,the trumpeting of elephants,as well as gongs and drums beating,trumpets blaring,conch shells blowing,and bells ringing.In the midst of all this discord,musicians performed. I thought I had come out of ages with bliss and devotion all around me with an inherent desire to march like this in a scent of eternity forever.
Women Naga Sadhvis(saints) in procession before reaching Har ki Pauri for a holy dip in the Ganges.
Seeing women saints including some foreigners was delightful and I thought how lucky were these women who were closest to the God away from the mortal world of hatred,tensions,hurries and worries.
The sacred procession of Nagas through streets of Haridwar with people or devotees lined up on both sides with their folded hands as a mark of respect and prayer..(wonderful devotional scenes).

Palanquins of Naga saints used in the holy march..( a devotional flavor )

Devotees on camels.

Musical bands in the holy march of saints.

Saints or Nagas on the silver chariot with large musical nagaras or bands at the front with soulful loud tunes of devotion and eternity.Chariot is pulled by devotees themselves.

Other chariots carrying sadhus.

A chariot with purple blue umbrella..

Another silver chariot.

A golden chariot.
As the holy saints passed by on their various and sundry conveyances, they were continually transmitting waves of powerful energy to all the devotees lined up on the sides of their way to Har ki Pauri and seeing/witnessing this awe-inspiring and most auspicious event.Devotees were overwhelmed by the palpable spiritual vibrations that pervaded the entire atmosphere.This unique event blended religious and cultural features alike.With the entire atmosphere saturated with chiming bells,incense and flower fragrance,Vedic hymns,mantras,with gold and silver chariots being pulled by devotees,as they showed their strength and skills--pure enchantment of soul. 
Colorful variety of dresses worn by saints.:-

Saffron color-a pious Hindu religion color predominates in dresses of saints and their belongings.

Holy procession of Naga saints: view from roof of a house in the way.
A closer view of Naga saints with shaved scalps and body smeared in ash.
The procession lined up at the final destination i.e. near Har ki Pauri on the banks of Ganges for the pious,and much awaited Royal bath.
The final line up on Har ki Pauri by Naga sadhus to go for the most auspicious,sacred and once in a 12 years event (first of this century) i.e. a holy dip (Royal Bath)  in The Ganges sanctified water.
And here they go with their palanquins too for purification.
And here they go for the final lifetime wish.
Thrill and excitement were writ large on their faces that normally remain expressionless,when the Naga Sadhus stepped into the water.At that time the ghats (bathing site) became vibrant and reverberated with ecstatic shouts of 'Har Har Gange',Jai Ganga Maiya','Har Har Mahadev', as they plunged into the river for the Royal Bath--symbolising their having dedicated themselves to holy river.
Naga saints with bathing weapons.(scenes of devotional excitement and fervor... incomparable ecstasy).
Thrill and excitement writ large on faces of Naga saints with brandishing of their swords while running for a holy dip in the Ganges.(oh!oh!...enlightening moments one can ever wish in his lifetime).
Waving the saffron or red flag while bathing.Red or saffron colored flag or clothing is considered as most pious/auspicious in Hindu religion.
The Royal Bath--also known as the royal entourage of the Gods--appeared nothing less than a festival when a sea of  Naga saints showered the Ganges with rose petals and marigolds and sang holy hymns even when  they were taking a holy dip in the ice cold waters of the river" TheGanges".
A Naga Saint brandishing glittering swords with shouts of 'Har Har Mahadev'. A woman (foreigner) saint also seen with Nagas having a holy dip.
Naga Saint praying for peace and devotion on this earth while submerged in sacred Ganges water.
Another view of saints having the first Royal Bath of this century at Har ki Pauri on Feb.,12,2010.
The much awaited and much participated Arti (prayer) of The sacred River "The Ganges" in the evening daily since ages, is one of the events that no pilgrim visiting Haridwar would like to miss.Standing bare-footed on banks of Ganges at Har ki Pauri with large burning sacred flames and chanting of 'Jai Gange Maiya' with soulful beating of drums and bells loudly, fills the whole atmosphere with sanctity and bliss.
A closer view of evening Ganges Prayer.
More closer view.
The sacred flame held high in hands with clothing on handles of flame for heat insulation during The Ganges prayer in the evening.
Devotees  too getting blessings during arti or Ganges prayer.
Participant devotees in morning prayers at Har ki Pauri on Feb.13th.
Like the evening prayer,daily morning prayer after a holy bath in The Ganges is also the most sanctful moments at Har KI Pauri since ages. 
A saint  praying and praising the mother Ganges in his own sacred style, after his early morning holy bath/dip and the ceremonial morning Ganges prayer.

Early morning view of sacred banks of Ganges.
The sea of crowd having the native groups in every imaginable costume,some shine in clothes of gold,surrounded by followers splendidly arranged,others in less expensive but picturesquely dressed attires,and many half or fully naked or wildly clad.The melange of priests,soldiers,religious mendicants,half beggars-half bandits,with a smattering of Europeans,exhibit all together an exotic display--unique in the whole world on this planet.
Early morning view at Har ki Pauri before sunrise  with devotees still lined up on both the banks of Ganges for a holy dip.No Nagas today.They will be seen now only on the day of 2nd Royal Bath scheduled for March,15th,2010.

View at sunrise away from Har ki Pauri.

Devotees(public) having a holy dip and offering prayers to The Ganges and the rising Sun-God in the morning.

A view of Har ki Pauri a little later.General devotees flocking the Har ki Pauri for a pious dip in the ice cold Ganges water to wash their sins and bow down to "Mother Gange".

Devotees praying with holy bath.
A devotee offering the sacred Ganges water to The Sun in her prayers.
 12th Feb.--Shivratri day in a Hindu temple where women devotees offered milk to Shivling (God Shiva's holy stone) on the auspicious day of Shivratri (the day on which God Shiva married Goddess Parwati).Indian married women worship Lord Shiva for their husband's long life and health, while unmarried girls worship Shiv Linga for getting married to an handsome and healthy husband.Goddess Parwati too worshiped Shiv Linga for years before getting married to Lord Shiva.

Nearly 20,000 police and security guards were deployed in an area of 130 of the Kumbh Fair on Feb,12,2010 for smooth conclusion of Royal Bath. Har ki Pauri was handed over to the Rapid Action Force.Thirty two police stations and 41 police chowki's were set up in the 130 area of the fair for the smooth conduction of the first and a record 5.5 million devotees Royal Bath in one day.

This Maha Kumbh fair at Haridwar is being held from January,14th to April,28,2010 (total 105 days : longest ever in the world)
The second Royal Bath is scheduled for 15th March,2010 and God willing I will be coming here again to witness this world's largest devotional congregation of Maha Kumbh,Haridwar (India).
A video of Evening Prayers (Aarti) of "Mother Ganges"at Har ki Pauri (archives You tube).
Video of an awesome devotional song by a young Indian woman praying Mother Gange for the long life of her husband.
( Maiya -o -Ganga maiya, Maiya-o-Ganga Maiya=O my Mother Ganges,O my Mother Ganges,
Ganga maiya mein jab tak ke paani rahe = Till there is water in the sacred Ganges river,
Mere sajna teri jindgani rahe  =  My beloved, you live long till that time.)..