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The Origins & Cultural Significances Of Banyas

The banya refers to a traditional Russian bathhouse. This bathhouse is unique in its feature of a steam bath caused by a wooden stove for dry or wet sessions. It was made of three separate rooms with each dedicated for specific functions such as the entrance room, steam room and washing room. The entrance room served as a guest room where people enjoyed drinks as they waited to enter the steam room. The steam room was the most significant as the heat is extreme, and sweats ensure the steam does not affect one’s skin negatively. The process concludes with a washing room that cooled off the body after the exposure to extreme temperatures. 

On average the temperatures in the banyas are perceived and known to reach primarily 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Such high temperatures inflict a sense of relaxation for each of the individuals and patrons. Traditionally, the banya served many purposes including a healing, ritual, and just an entertainment center. The banya is a strong cultural identity of the Russians that despite the misconceptions associated with it; benefits the health of its partakers.

Banyas emerged long before current Russia and is now an integral part of the lives of the Russian people. In the large densely populated urban centers, people visit public banyas to have clean exposure and a unique experience. However, in the rural sides and the holiday homes (dachas), it is a common practice for people to own private banyas on their premises. Banyas makes a huge part of Russia’s folklore with songs, poems, tales, and many artworks dedicated to it. By telling tales associated with the banyas, the Russian people ensure the practice lives on. Likewise, Russians hold the cultural significance of banya beyond day-to-day events. There are significant events linked to the banya ritual, which would give patrons the ability to use the premises, which for the most part exhibits fruitful results in coming to fruition. It can be ascertained that the uses of banyas in the past are distinctive when compared to its uses in the current day and age, but the basis of its meaning to people still stands strong to this day. 

In the traditional banyas, mid-wives received training on how to deliver women in the banyas. Couples would immediately visit the banya after getting married and it was a custom for the grooms to take their new wives into the banyas for banya rituals to avoid complications during childbirths. Furthermore, death brought together the mourners to the banya after the burial of a beloved one. The belief was that gathering at the banya ensured that the dead were warm enough as they moved into the afterlife. 

Even though most of the beliefs that traditionally applied are less significant today, many Russians still gather in the banyas as a sense of community during times of morning and celebration. The sensational experience after a dry or wet heat steam bath offers a relaxing mood for the people to share good times together. This is an important representation to make as it continues to provide the necessity for banyas in populations that heavily favor attending establishments that provide these meaningful and cultural services.

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