Ayush And Veda
I am just back after three great days in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. Palampur is a part of the scenic Kangra valley and surrounded by the snow-clad majestic Himalayas. The atmosphere there is all the more ecstatic, thanks to the enchanting hill streams, lush-green tea gardens, and tall pine and deodar trees, not to speak of the ancient and famous religious shrines.
I was at Palampur at the invitation of Mr. Shanta Kumar, a Member of Parliament, who was Chief Minister of the state twice and a senior union minister during the Vajpayee regime. I have always admired Kumar as a great administrator and uncommon politician who values principles over populism. He is the one who as Chief Minister had enunciated the principle of “no work no pay”. No wonder why Kumar, despite being widely respected, is not exactly the person who can get you votes by indulging in cheap rhetoric, glorifying identity- politics, and using money and muscle power.
Be that as it may, I was not at Palampur to listen to Shanta Kumar’s views on Indian politics and the way it is rapidly deteriorating. He was kind enough to invite me to be a resident-guest at “Himalayan Research Institute for Yoga and Naturopathy” (HRIYN), which runs “Kayakalp” that offers rejuvenation treatment in traditional and natural way. Of course, I am sad that because of my pressing engagements I could not become a “patient” to undergo a course of minimum 10 days to discover the changes within myself, but I have decided to return there sometime later to not only rejuvenate my health in that idyllic paradise away from the maddening hustle of Delhi but also learn how to maintain it.
Kayakalp is run by the Vivekananda Medical Research Trust, a public charitable trust that has commissioned an integrated system of treatment through Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation, Naturopathy, Panchkarma, Physiotherapy, Acupressure, Magnetotherapy, Diettherapy & newly installed Colon Hydrotherapy under HRIYN. Shanta Kumar is the Chairman of the Trust. According to him, it is the only institute in the country that provides all holistic and drugless therapies under one roof and ensures that one’s stresses and tensions will melt away. This healthcare unit is spread over nine acres and is set amidst 52 acres of natural tranquility. Its architecture is simply magnificent, which, Shanta Kumar says, is the result of a superb team that drew from a lot of deliberations and best examples of the world. The buildings, including the residential blocks, offer the state-of-the-art modern and luxurious facilities, all in the lap of natural beauty. I think the crowning glory here is the “Meditation Centre” surrounded by specially planted trees that provide maximum oxygen.
It has been seven years since Kayakalp came into being. The response of the public has been slow but steady. In fact, over the last two years it has been “very good”, says S K Sharma, the Director of Kayakalp. Not only has it now competed well with the already well-known “Jindal Health Farm” (Jindal Nature Cure Institute) of Bengaluru, it is also drawing people from all over the world. As of July, 569 foreign nationals (including those from the USA, Canada, France, Britain, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Russia, Italy, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa) have been treated at Kayakalp.
Shanta Kumar stresses that the Trust has taken every care to ensure that Kayakalp is not reduced to be a centre where the rich come for relieving tensions. “It is not massage or a spa-corner that you can get in any good five-star hotel. It is essentially a healing centre where you get a holistic or integrated treatment for both your body and mind”, he says, adding, “Our doors are open to rich as well as poor.” Apparently, “Antyodaya” patients are entitled for free treatment. All BPL (Below poverty Line) persons are eligible for 50 per cent discount both for stay and treatment. Senior citizens get 25 per cent discount on stay and treatment. And whole-time social workers having no source of income are allowed stay and treatment on the same analogy as BPL persons.
Equally important, all patients, whether rich or poor, stay together and lead the same disciplined life while at Kayakalp. In a way, the life in the campus is quite regimented. Once admitted, you cannot leave the campus, unless of course some sort of emergency arises. You cannot eat outside food, quite obviously for the whole purpose of being there would be defeated. Food here is a part of therapy. You don’t/can’t sleep long hours. You will be woken up at 5 AM with a glass of warm water for getting ready for Yoga-session. Then you head back to the cafeteria, where you have your breakfast. Your food is served as per the chart worked out for you by the doctor, depending on the nature of your problem. Then after some rest, you head for treatment session. You are given some juice in the afternoon and then you go for meditation. You return for dinner by 6.30 pm. Then you return to your room and crash, unless of course you want to keep abreast with the rest of the world through television, a set of which is in every room.
Overwhelming majority of the patients that I interacted with were admitted with the purpose of reducing weights, lowering sugar-level, relieving joint pains and normalising blood pressure. There were some with the problems of allergy and Asthma. Parts of the treatments included “naturopathy”, “Panchkarma” (which I undertook; it is a cleansing and rejuvenation plan) and “physiotherapy”. Interestingly, I saw two college-going boys from Patiala in their late teens who had come to shed at least 30 KG each. “We are not returning before becoming lean and fit”, said one of them. “I have come with a lot of faith that I will succeed; after all a lot of people have returned from here happy and hearty.”
All told, like any journalist, I had some tough questions for Shanta Kumar. First of all, as his complex is going to run a multi-specialty allopathic hospital from July 23 (in fact, this new complex is a huge one), will it not dilute the value of Kayakalp which prides itself as curing without drugs? Secondly, since the Trust is essentially for reviving the glory of Ayurveda or ancient and natural way of eradicating diseases, why is it not giving due attention towards the aspect of pure research of Ayurveda, particularly when this branch of medical science has been given a raw treatment by the government?
But Shanta Kumar says that the upcoming hospital will complement Kayakalp, not otherwise, as according to him, “people will come for naturopathy and Ayurveda in any case for the real and long-lasting cure.” However, he did accept that Kayakalp must devote some attention towards the research. “Thank you for your suggestion. Unfortunately, in this country we do not have many institutes which do fundamental research on Ayurveda. We certainly will work towards that”, he said.
I hope Shanta Kumar will keep his word. After all, if Ayurveda, like Yoga, is attracting a lot of positive attention these days in India, it is mainly because people in the developed Western countries are becoming its fans. Left to ourselves, we would have given Ayurveda (or for that matter Yoga) a slow death, something we have done to Sanskrit, arguably the most scientific language so far in the history of the mankind. See the way our government neglects Ayurveda. The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) has got a total plan outlay of only Rs 990 crore in budget estimates for 2012-13; you can calculate what is the share of Ayurveda.
But then the fact remains that despite its new-found acceptance, the Ayurveda does not have any standard guidelines, often leading to its misuse and abuse. No holistic system of Ayurveda has been promoted in India. As a result, it is becoming an “item” in hotels, spas and resorts. Hopefully, institutions such as Kayakalp will arrest this dangerous and destructive trend. After all, Ayurveda, coming from two root words in Sanskrit: AYUSH (life or life span) and VEDA (knowledge), means the complete knowledge of the totality and longevity of life; it does not provide any shortcuts.
By Prakash Nanda
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