By Prabhath P
As Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal, India, celebrates 100 years of its founding, it boasts branches and outlets all over the country. And if people from all over the world throng to the Indian State of Kerala now for availing the benefits of ayurveda, the credit undoubtedly goes to Arya Vaidya Sala, a name synonymous with the purest, authentic form of ayurveda
What are the major treatments available at the Arya Vaidya Sala?
We provide patients with genuine ayurvedic medicines, classic ayurvedic treatment such as panchakarma, rasayana therapy as well as Kerala special treatments. A few treatments designed by us out of clinical experience are also included.
Is there a Kerala School of Ayurveda? If yes, how is it different from the Ayurveda practiced in North India?
Ayurveda is taught in our Ayurvedic College following the CCIM syllabus. But in practice, Kerala has a rich and salient tradition in ayurveda, which could be called ‘Kerala School of thought’ in ayurvedic system.
Do you think research in ayurveda must be modernized?
The Research Protocol should contain the materials and methods of both modern medicine and ayurveda. But the primary objective should be the exploration and revalidation of the potentials of ayurveda for the benefit of humanity.
What are the advantages of ayurveda compared to other systems of medicine?
Ayurveda is not simply a system dealing with pathogenesis or therapeutics. It holds out an integral vision of health care and adopts holistic techniques to achieve its goals-namely healthful longevity and pure and effective treatment for the ailments.
Why is ayurveda called a holistic system?
Ayurveda is primarily a philosophy of life. It incorporates ethical, moral and spiritual dimensions to health and undertakes the task of making human beings capable of attaining the ultimate goals of life through integrated activities.
What are the features of the ayurvedic treatment for mental illness?
This is a unique ayurvedic tradition. A standard health care system normally holds out a clinician’s approach to health and disease. Ayurveda speaks on the nature of a happy and good life, code of conduct for healthy living, virtues of social and personal hygiene, measured diet, importance of exercise and ethical conduct. Treatment for mental illness depends upon the condition of the patient. Snehapanam, dhara to head, thalam on the vertex, internal medicines and appropriate panchakarmas are certain unique methods.
Do you think commercialization of ayurveda is diluting the purity of the system?
If commercialization is done properly, faithfully, there is nothing to fear.
What are your future plans?
Research and development, augment of medicinal plant cultivation and continuation of the work on health care. To uplift ayurveda to the status of cardinal health care system all over the world is the motto and our efforts would be directed to achieve this goal.
A century ago, people in India were hypnotized by allopathy, which enjoyed the patronage of the government then, and treated ayurveda with contempt. According to A.R. Sankaranarayanan, the General Manager of the Arya Vaidya Sala: ‘Ayurveda had suffered an eclipse as a result of the colonial rule. Sri P. S. Varier wanted to initiate a renaissance of ayurveda. Unlike allopathic medicines, which were readily available with prescription, the patients had to prepare the ayurvedic medicines as per prescription at home. There was the danger that the right ingredients may not be available and a patient may not know how to choose. P.S. Varier wanted to prevent that too. So he started a manufacturing center from humble beginnings in 1902.’
The prophet of Ayurveda
Before launching this venture, P.S. Varier had made an in-depth study of ayurveda under the late Brahmasri K.V. Mooss, a great Ashtavaidya of the time. He also acquired a sound knowledge of allopathy under the late Dewan Bahadur Dr Varghese, a distinguished physician and surgeon.
Varier always insisted on preparing the medicines strictly in accordance with authentic ayurvedic texts. Till his death in 1944, he ensured the quality, purity and efficacy of every medicine manufactured under his personal supervision. Within a short period, Arya Vaidya Sala grew exponentially both in size and scope. To meet the increasing demand, he opened branches at Calicut in 1916 and at Palghat (both in Kerala) in 1932.
Varier may rightly be called the Saviour of Ayurveda in the South. He was the first man in south India to organize the treatment of patients under ayurvedic system and the preparation and supply of ayurvedic medicines in a modern manner. He was responsible for giving ayurveda a prominent place among the medical systems of the country. He authored two valuable books Ashtanga Sareeram and Brihat Sareeram on anatomy and physiology in Sanskrit. The Indian Government nominated him to the Central Board of Indian Medicine in 1932 and the title ‘Vaidyaratnam’ was conferred on him by The Viceroy and Governor General of India in 1933.
Arya Vaidya Sala became a charitable trust after Varier’s death as per the terms of his Will. Among other directions, the Will states: ‘The primary and chief objects of the Trust are to carry on forever the two institutions, viz. the Arya Vaidya Sala and the Arya Vaidya Hospital on the lines followed now and with the object of enlarging and increasing their scope and utility.’ So from 1964 the entire earnings are being spent on running Arya Vaidya Sala (45 per cent), the Charitable Hospital (45 per cent) and for the Vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier Ayurveda College.
The Arya Vaidya Chikitsa Sala was established in 1924 at Kottakkal. Now it has 160 beds. Here accommodation, treatment and medicines are free. The hospital has ayurvedic physicians and a couple of allopaths. A maternity ward with qualified nurses is attached to the hospital. A modern laboratory, X-Ray unit and a minor surgical ward are also available. In the panchakarma ward of the hospital, special and costly treatments like njavarakkizhi, pizhichil and dhara are given to poor patients free of cost. Clinical research on cancer and rheumatoid arthritis is also conducted.
The Ayurvedic Hospital and Research Centre facility began as the Nursing Home decades ago. Later the Golden Jubilee Block, Platinum Jubilee Block and the Adi Sankara Block were added to cope with the increasing demand for treatment. In 1999, a seven-storeyed Centenary Block was opened conforming to modern standards and finally the whole facility was given the current name. It has 303 beds. In October 2000, a hospital complex was opened in Karkardooma in Delhi, which can accommodate 75 patients. All the classical panchakarma treatments are available there too.
Medicines are prepared strictly according to ancient ayurvedic principles in the factories at Kottakkal and Kanjikode. There are also some special medicines developed by the chief physician and others to suit the patients. Suitable modern machinery has been installed to speed up production. The steam plant commissioned in 1967 was a great step forward since heating is done at a constant temperature to improve the quality of the medicines. Organic manure is made from the residue of the factories and sold at low rates.
The Arya Vaidya Sala cultivates herbs and medicinal plants at Kanjirapuzha and Kottappuram in Palghat district on a large scale. The correct identification of herbs used in ayurvedic medicines has always been a problem. To solve this a Research Garden on an eight acre plot has been started. ‘We have nearly 1,000 medicinal plants here in the garden at Kottakkal. We supply genuine and well-identified planting materials to the public and farmers at a subsidized rate. We give training to farmers and help them in harvesting scientifically,’ says Prof. N.P.K. Nambiar, Principal Research Scientist of the Research Garden.
Two projects on the cultivation and study of medicinal plants have been taken up under International Development Research Institute (IDRC) Canada, program. The first project covers 20 endangered medicinal species. The publication of an authoritative work on 500 important medicinal herbs used in the medicines of Arya Vaidya Sala is in progress. Two volumes have already been released by Orient Longman.
The full-fledged research wing aims to use modern scientific know-how for the development of ayurveda. Apart form the quality control of raw materials, this wing is also doing research for modernization of production. An MOU has been signed with CSIR, Government of India for doing modern research on ayurveda. There are joint programs with the Department of Science and Technology and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology to evolve modern standards for materials, processes and products. Arya Vaidya Sala has a continuing venture of Pain and Palliative Care in Medical College of Kozhikode. Research on cancer and other diseases is also carrying on.
‘Even now Ayurveda is not accepted completely as a mode of treatment in the West. Though there is a database, we don’t yet have a system of documentation acceptable to modern science because ayurveda treats a patient not the disease and the treatment varies from person to person. But we are trying to build up an institution where modern types of testing and documentation are possible,’ explains the General Manager, A.R. Sankaranarayanan.
Vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier had published a magazine Dhanwanthari for 23 years. Since 1987, Arya Vaidya Sala has been publishing a bilingual quarterly Arya Vaidyan. The works of Vaidyaratnam and other eminent ayurvedic physicians are also published.
The Ayurveda College was started by P.S. Varier under a registered society called Ayurveda Samajam for imparting free education in ayurveda. It has now been turned over to a society whose Chairman is the state Health Minister. The College is conducting the degree course, Ayurvedacharya, BAMS and the PG course Ayurveda Vachaspati and MD Ayurveda. The students are trained according to the CCIM syllabus of the Central Council of Indian Systems of Medicine. The PG course is in the subject of ayurvedic psychiatry. The ayurvedic mental hospital run by the government at Kottakkal has also benefitted from the college’s initiatives on ayurvedic mental health studies.
The hospital attached to the college has outpatient and IP facilities. There is also a Clinical Yoga and Research Institute where both hatha yoga and meditation are taught. Patients suffering from diabetes, depression, back pain and bronchial asthma are treated with yoga and minor medicines.
The Arya Vaidya Sala has come a long way since its modest beginnings. The dedicated successors of Vaidyaratnam followed the footsteps of their great forefather and built it into a vast organisation over the years. P.S. Varier’s nephew P. Madhava Warrier became the Managing Trustee and Chief Physician after him. He steered the institution for about 10 years. He was responsible for the introduction of many modern and scientific improvements to facilitate large-scale production.
In 1954, after the death of Madhava Warrier, his younger brother Dr P. K. Warrier took over. He continues to decide the destiny of Arya Vaidya Sala now. Dr Warrier has recently been awarded a Padmashri by the President of India. Under Dr P.K. Warrier’s leadership, Arya Vaidya Sala has grown into a multimillion organization employing 103 ayurvedic physicians, two allopathic doctors and nearly 250 masseurs. Last year 27 per cent of the in-patients were from foreign countries and the foreign exchange earned was over 1 crore or 10 million rupees.
Arya Vaidya Sala now has 16 branches all over India, including the ones at New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Kannur, Tirur, Kottayam and Palakkad. There is also a network of authorized agencies all over the country and abroad as in Malaysia and Singapore.
Now the Arya Vaidya Sala is planning to focus on research and educational activities. Branches will be opened in Mumbai and Bangalore. Its nerve center of will be shifted to the Centenary Block. A Centenary Memorial Adminstrative Block, P.S. Varier Memorial Museum and Medical Library and Information Centre are also planned.
The ayurveda boom Arya Vaidya Sala helped create is obviously going to take it to still greater heights.
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