Museum kindles new interest in Ayurveda

Last Updated 29 August 2015, 18:29 IST
The Thaikkattu Mooss family, studded with some of Kerala’s most revered experts of the Ayurveda system of healthcare, has influenced generations of Ayurveda practitioners home and away. The Mooss family has had a flourishing tradition of ashtavaidyans or masters in the Ayurveda system’s eight branches: Kaya chikitsa, Bala chikitsa, Graha chikitsa, Urdhvanga chikitsa, Shalya chikitsa, Damshtra chikitsa, Jara chikitsa and Vrusha chikitsa.

The Thaikkattu Mooss Vaidyaratnam Oushadhashala, founded in 1941 by Ashtavaidyan E T Neelakandhan Mooss, has stayed rooted in tradition in an age where traditional healthcare systems have come back repackaged in commercially-driven, quick-fix regimens. It was, perhaps, natural progression for the Mooss family to diversify into Ayurveda education and training and pass on the core spirit and methodologies of the 5,000-year-old healthcare system to future generations.

As the Vaidyaratnam Group of Institutions continues to venture into new areas of practice, research and education, the Ayurveda Museum it has set up in Thaikkattussery near Ollur in Thrissur district reflects the group’s attempts to dispel modern-day misconceptions about Ayurvedic practice and make it a more accessible academic discipline for youngsters. Under two years since it was opened to the public, the Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda Museum has managed to spur new interest in Ayurveda, especially among international travellers, according to promoters of the museum.    

Standing on a nearly two-acre property near the Vaidyaratnam group’s corporate office in Thaikkattussery, the Ayurveda Museum also serves as a memorial of Neelakandhan Mooss, conceived during his centennial celebrations. The museum was opened to the public in December 2013 by  former president the late A P J Abdul Kalam, eight years after construction and renovation of original structures commenced on the site. The museum’s promoters point out that the project’s concept was drawn from the Mooss family’s apprehensions that Ayurveda could some day run into issues of misinterpretation and a need to “demystify” the centuries-old healthcare system in an authentic, academic setting.

Anil Kumar, curator of the museum, says the idea was to trace the evolution of Ayurveda through different eras with the aid of literature and modern audio-visual tools. “There are strong sociological reference points attached to the evolution of this life science as well. For instance, there was a period when girls were not allowed to train in Ayurveda. Now, we have Ayurveda courses in colleges where most of the students are girls,” he says.

The museum traces periods that witnessed exhaustive documentation of Ayurveda methodologies and treatises till the modern era that is also marked by the rise of mass production and influences of technology. Through its line-up of ancient scriptures, artefacts and sculptures, the museum tries to tell the story as it is; for the tourist conditioned to promises of instant Ayurveda that comes as an add-on in tour packages, this could be a trip to the roots.

A 3D gallery of the museum showcases progress in treatment techniques and manufacturing processes made over centuries. Also on display are varieties of herbs that go into combinations as Ayurvedic medicines and a library with a collection of scripts used by ashtavaidyans.

The audio-visual theatre that traces a comprehensive history of Ayurveda is one of the museum’s major attractions. Apart from tourists, schoolchildren form a large portion of the number of visitors and it made sense to package the museum experience with the best of technology, says Anil Kumar. “For a start, showcasing the evolution of such a rich, extensive system of healthcare in a two-storey building itself was a tough ask. During the conceptual phase of the museum, we also had to constantly redo the installations to make sure that all the important milestones are covered. Further, we didn’t want to go in for a conventional museum setting and made it more interactive to attract more youngsters,” he says. 

Tourists from Japan and Latin American countries – most of them routed through tourist resorts – top the list of visitors at the museum; many of them also show an interest in the finer points of Ayurvedic practice.  Anil Kumar, however, maintains that the philosophy that drives the project goes against the very trappings of modern-day “versions” of Ayurveda. So capsule packages that promise instant rejuvenation are a no-no.

“There are people who walk into our centre asking randomly for a dhara (a form of rejuvenation) or other kinds of wellness therapy. Clearly, they don’t realise that most of these therapy modules are designed to address specific issues and also carry their own set of restrictions and stipulations during the course of treatment. Those massages that the tour brochures offer are not always Ayurvedic,” says the museum’s curator.

The museum’s promoters also organise classes in Ayurveda for schoolchildren that cover its theory and practice along with education on important lifestyle choices including good food. The museum structure also offers a look into traditional architectural styles of Kerala.
The museum is open between 10 am and 6 pm and is closed on Mondays. The museum is located eight km from the Thrissur railway station and bus stand.

(Published 29 August 2015, 17:51 IST)

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