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Longevity and the Hunza Culture
Lifestyle of the Hunzakuts and its Relation to Their Longevity
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The Hunzakuts, who live in a charming remote region of the world, in a valley surrounded by picturesque mountains, are known to be some of the happiest and friendliest people on earth, delivering memorable hospitality, coupled with stunning geographic sites that provide aesthetic experiences to outside visitors. Although, we cannot make use of participant observation to examine the Hunza culture and its relation to their exceptional good health, we can, on the other hand use ethno history to examine the Hunzakut longevity. Only through a series of fact based research documents, hypothesis and cultural anthropology studies, can we come to a theory on the Hunzakuts long life span. Looking past our own ethnocentrism, we will be better able to decipher the variables surrounding the Hunzakut adaptation to their environment and the implications to the longevity in question. Peeking through a cultural relativism lens at a range of variables such as the Hunzakuts religious practices, patterns of subsistence, agricultural styles, living habits or their overall social structure
can provide us with legitimate insights into the cause and effect on the cultures overall well being.
Animism is woven into the Hunzakuts religious beliefs, where the “Peri”, the supernatural mountain beings that inhabit all aspects of nature, influence, take vengeance or guide the Hunzakuts, play important pivotal roles, in their everyday lives. Shaman’s, known as “Bitans” in the Hunza culture are revered as holy men who are chosen to communicate directly with the Peri, perform and use their gifted abilities for the good within the community such as performing rites of intensification, “For example, in the name of the Pari they might voice objections to state taxes, or challenge the improprieties of members of the upper class; these were issues that ordinary Hunzakut could not directly express for fear of being punished” (Sidky, 67-96). Divination, healing or rites of passage to name a few, are rituals performed by the Bitans that add to the Hunzakuts emotional wellbeing. Being that it is a scientific fact
that your emotional state directly affects your health, the close relationship between the Bitan and the community on a daily basis in some way or form has a positive impact on the health of the Hunzakuts. Unlike western pluralistic societies where many different religions co-exist or the practice of religion is distinctly separated from their everyday lives, acknowledged only during particular time slots and viewed more as a social affair than a spiritual matter, the Hunzakuts spiritual beliefs on the other hand are integrated through the process of enculturation where religious practices are interwoven into the very fabric of their society. The Hunzakuts live a relatively simple and natural lifestyle, uncomplicated by modern technologies, processed foods or chemical laden industrial products. Hunza culture type exploits only what is needed to sustain themselves, leaving their environment and ecosystem in its natural state. Hunzakuts are horticulturists who are self-sufficient, working the crops painstakingly by hand, from plowing to hand picking weeds; they view cultivation as a fine art. The leveling mechanism of the Hunzas, leaves no member of their communities hungry, as they practice the art of working together and sharing together.
The Hunzakuts diet is simple and wholesome, consisting of organic foods that may include apricots, pears, peaches, mulberries and many other fruits that we see in our grocery stores here in America. Hunza Chapatti Bread is a staple, a mainstay in the Hunzas diet and consumed on a daily basis, made in the same painstaking way from
scratch, with many different types of organically grown grains that they wash down with glacial waters or known as "Glacial Milk" because it has a milky white color to it.
The apricot and its pit, exalted above all other foods, is at the heart of the Hunzakuts culture core and known as Hunza Gold, as it is their main form of revenue that runs on an informal economy system where social class is measured by symbolic indicators, in this case, the number of apricot trees a Hunzakut owns. Many studies have been done surrounding the apricot pit and its relation to the Hunzakuts longevity and disease free culture due to the apricot being their number one dietary mainstay, “Healthy living advocate J.I. Rodale wrote a book called The Healthy Hunzas in 1955 that asserted that the Hunzas, noted for their longevity and many centenarians, were long-lived because of their consumption of healthy organic foods such as dried apricots and almonds", (Wiki).
The second theory surrounding the Hunzas exceptional health is the glacier water known as "Glacial Milk", consumed in abundance on a daily basis. Studies seem to confirm and substantiate the connection of longevity and the intake of glacial water, more so than the consumption of the apricot and its pit, “Dr. Flanagan studied 5 isolated locations where people live healthy lives well past 120 years. The only common denominator among these communities is the composition of the water they drink, all of which comes from melted glaciers (hence the name, “glacial milk”), (Collins). The Hunzakuts exceptionally healthy exercise habits of hiking up rugged mountains trails and their patterns of hard physical labor is a winning combination that keeps them fit and vibrant. Climbing alongside steep and rugged mountain trails to tend their crops many times a day, not to mention working their crops by hand only, would be considered very rigorous exercise, which is good for one’s health.
Other factors to take into consideration that could directly aide in the Hunza valleys amazing health would be; ● They breathe fresh mountain air every day, free from pollutants. ● They wear loose fitting clothing called a choga or cloak to encourage good blood flow. ● They breast feed only. ● They keep their carrying capacity down by balancing the population, “A keen struggle goes on to keep the population in balance against the forces that produce
the sustenance of the people. From time to time some of them must emigrate. As has already been related, one such group came down with disease because of the poorer food they consumed in the new location", (Rodale). ● The women have shorter menstruations, only two days, compared to most other parts of the world due to the high quality of nutrition consumed. ● The Hunza nuclear family and its lifestyle are strict, structured and high moral standards are of the utmost importance, consequently divorce is rare. ● The Hunzakuts religious beliefs, practiced on a regular, daily basis.
● Their strenuous exercise routine of climbing along mountainsides every day. ● The nurturance of children in Hunza is of firm guidance and strict schedules but no public school teachings, as children do not learn from books but rather from stories told by their elders.
In conclusion, the overview of the available resources surrounding longevity of the Hunzakuts is vast but the informational resources are repetitive in nature with the exception of available books for purchase. We can surmise several hypotheses from the available information on the internet, that one, whatever the dietary equation is; it has to be a food, drink or herb that they consume on a daily basis and in abundance as well. Using these hypothesis we can safely form, figuratively, a theory that the Hunzakuts exceptional health and longevity is either due to the consumption of the apricot and its pit or the glacial milk, considering the overall consensus of documented articles concurring
on the link between the apricot, it's pit or the glacier waters and longevity. Surely, the other good habits of the Hunzakuts in question must aide in the overall impact on longevity but only when researchers practice participant observation within the culture, will they actualize the mystery behind the Hunza valleys longevity.
Sources; Shamans and Mountain Spirits in Hunza By Homayun Sidky Homayun Sidky Asian Folklore Studies, Volume 53, 1994: 67-96 http://www.khyber.org/publications/046-050/shamanhunza.shtml In traditional Hunzakut society bitan were an integral part of the state's ritual and politico-ideological apparatus. They were consulted during national celebrations, agricultural feasts, and other important state-sponsored events. These oracles always spoke of contemporary events and concerns, and their revelations were often seen as indicating supernatural approval for state activities. Homayun Sidky, Shamans and Mountain Spirits in Hunza, Khyber.org, Asian Folklore Studies, http://www.khyber.org/publications/046-050/shamanhunza.shtml , Khyber Gateway Publishing, Volume 53, 1994: 67-96. ____________________________________________________________________
Burusho or Brusho/ Hunza people, or Hunzakuts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burusho_people Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Brusho people, Wikipedia, Influence in the Western world, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burusho_people, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., last modified on 13 November 2012. ____________________________________________________________________
The Real Fountain of Youth From Glacial Milk By Danica Collins
http://undergroundhealthreporter.com/longevity-glacial-milk#ixzz2DID6Ag5x Danica Collins, The Real Fountain of Youth From Glacial Milk, Underground Health Reporter, health conditions, http://undergroundhealthreporter.com/longevity-glacial-milk#ixzz2E79hXWbK 2011 Underground Health Reporter, located in anti-aging, no date. ______________________________________________________________________________
Soil And Health Library The Intelligent Hunzukuts by J.I. Rodale, EDITOR OF ORGANIC GARDENING http://www.soilandhealth.org/index.html In traditional Hunzakut society bitan were an integral part of the state's ritual and politico-ideological apparatus. They were consulted during national celebrations, agricultural feasts, and other important state-sponsored events. These oracles always spoke of contemporary events and concerns, and their revelations were often seen as indicating supernatural approval for state activities. _______________________________________________________________________________ Homayun Sidky, Shamans and Mountain Spirits in Hunza, Khyber.org, Asian Folklore Studies, http://www.khyber.org/publications/046-050/shamanhunza.shtml , Khyber Gateway Publishing, Volume 53, 1994: 67-96.
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