Medan, Kovermagz – Ayurveda is gaining popularity across the globe, including in South east Asia in recent years. We also noticed that the Government of India is actively promoting Ayurveda as an attractive medical alternative to conventional allopathic medicine, marked by the stipulation of Ayurveda Day on the occasion of the Dhanawantari Jayanti or Dhanteras, revered as a god of the traditional Indian medicine.
Today, India is celebrating the 5th Ayurveda Day. To learn more about the celebration and Ayurveda itself, through a virtual interview, Kover Magazine spoke to Consul General of India to Sumatra Mr. Raghu Gururaj.
Kover: Why is India celebrating Ayurveda Day, and what is its significance?
Mr. Gururaj: Ayurveda is believed to be one of the most ancient and documented systems of medicine with historical roots. It is said to have originated in India 5000 years ago. Today, conventional allopathic medicine is the mainstream medical system adopted by all countries. Since Ayurveda aims at prevention of disease and promotion of health and wellness, it is increasingly being viewed as a form of preventive medicine and wellbeing. The Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) decided in 2016 to observe Ayurveda Day each year, to encourage the practitioners and students of Ayurveda. This day is dedicated day to increase the awareness about Ayurveda in society.
Kover: When Was The First National Ayurveda Day Celebrated?
Mr. Gururaj: The first National Ayurveda Day was observed on October 28, 2016. Since then each year it is being celebrated. This year it is on Nov 13 under the theme ‘Ayurveda For COVID’.
Kover: The Government of India places high priority in the propagation and promotion of Ayurveda. I read from an online news that today, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi addressed the entire world today on Ayurveda Day where he spoke about the efficacy, relevance and importance of Ayurveda in today’s health scenario.
How would you describe the ancient Ayurveda practice?
Mr. Gururaj: Ayurveda is not, as some people think, a list of grandmother’s remedies put together. It is an elaborate system of medicine propounded by great saints of their times. Ayurveda is a complete science of balancing and maintaining one’s health. It derives from two words: “Ayur” means “life” and “veda” means “knowledge” in Sanskrit. It is based on the concept that each person’s body (prakriti) comprises three doshas or bodily humours (vata, pitta, and kapha) and that a disease is caused by their imbalance.
The approach of Ayurveda is holistic. By that I mean that Ayurveda views the body and mind as a whole and not just treats a person’s physical complaints that are manifested as symptoms, but aims to balance the body’s energy in such a way that the root of the ailment is addressed. In other words, Ayurveda aims at changing lifestyle practices of a person so that he or she is able to maintain a healthy life on a long term basis.
Kover: How is Ayurveda different from modern medicine?
Mr. Gururaj: The biggest difference between Ayurveda and conventional medicinal system is in the very definition of what health is. Western/modern medicine describes health simply as the absence of a definable disease, while Ayurveda defines health as the harmonic and vibrant functioning of mind, body and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems.
Kover: Ayurveda talks about Doshas and some underlying principles. What do they actually mean?
Mr. Gururaj: Ayurveda is built around the five elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth. The unique combination of these elements come together to make up the mind-body constitution, that is dosha. Ayurveda classifies people into three different body categories based on their body and energy levels. One is the Vatta (which can be thought of as Potential and Movement, represented traditionally by Space and Air), Pitta (which can be thought of as Digestion and Transformation, represented traditionally by Fire and Water) and Kapha (which can be thought of as Stamina and Structure, traditionally represented as Water and Earth).
Ayurveda helps you in mapping your own body and tells you what kind of mental and physical combination you have and what is your body and mental profile. In other words, it can tell you whether you are a Kapha, Pitta or Vatta. This knowledge about yourself helps you to regulate your daily life accordingly.
Kover: How does this mind-body constitution that you call Dosha, differentiate one person from another?
Mr. Gururaj: For example, a person who is classified as a Vata, he or she is generally has a thin slim body, skin would be usually dry, appetite would be irregular, but temperamentally would be energetic, creative, indecisive or even nervous. A Vata person could also be talkative, restless and not organized in life.
If one is a Pitta, Ayurveda says that person is generally muscular in build, has a great appetite, temperamentally bright, intelligent, arrogant, ambitious and not tactful, but is generally well organized.
A Kapha person would be a strong and broad personality, steady appetite, temperamentally calm, stable, grounded, but also greedy and stubborn.
According to Ayurveda, each person has all the three doshas in his or her body, but in each of them, one of the doshas may be predominant or dominating and because of that, each person would be different in body and psychological make up.
Kover: So what is the role of Ayurveda here?
Mr. Gururaj: According to Ayurveda, the doshas control the creation, maintenance, and breakdown of bodily tissue and elimination of wastes, as well as psychological aspects, such as emotions, understanding, and love. When the doshas are in balance, they maintain the systems of the body in a wholesome way. But when one of the doshas increases its influence on the body, it leads to emotional stress, psychological problems and leads to changes in lifestyle, habits etc, all of which lead to some physical ailment or disease.
What Ayurveda does here is that, instead of treating the physical ailment, whether its a cold, cough or fever or stomach problem, it instead helps to restore harmony and balance all three doshas so that the root of the physical ailment is addressed and the body returns to its normal health and creates a feeling of well being. This is the fundamental difference between Ayurveda and conventional medicine.
Kover: What do Ayurvedic medicines include?
Mr. Gururaj: Ayurvedic medicines use a range of treatments, including panchakarma (‘five actions’), yoga, massage, acupuncture and herbal medicine, to encourage health and well-being. Panchakarma (‘five actions’) itself is a specialised treatment consisting of five purging therapies including emesis (vomiting), enemas and blood-letting, which are meant to detoxify the body and balance the doshas.
Kover: When you say herbal treatment, what kind of herbs are used in Ayurveda?
Mr. Gururaj: In India, Ayurvedic herbs are being used for last 5000 years. More than 3000 herbs have been identified as Ayurvedic herbs, but some of the common ones which are used are already known to us as we use them in cooking as well, such as Ashwaganda, Tulsi, Ginger, Turmeric, Neem, Brahmi, cardamom, cumin, manjistha, amalika (gooseberry), Triphala etc. Many are taken as tablets or ingested in liquid form, some are used externally in the form of ointments, powders etc.
Kover: In Indonesia, we have traditional medicines called jamu, although they are not extensively studied nor documented, hence jamu is not a popular choice for treatment. Is Ayurvedic treatment popular in India? Is it a mainstream medical treatment?
Mr. Gururaj: Ayurvedic treatment is becoming popular by the day in India. It is not yet a mainstream medical treatment, but in certain states like Kerala, Ayurveda is the preferred form of medical treatment. Generally speaking, Indian people are paying more attention to their health as hectic lifestyles and growing external stress have adversely impacted their overall wellbeing. Over 50% of the Indian population are is extremely or moderately concerned regarding heart issues and diseases, obesity and diabetes.
Home-grown brands and international companies are coming into the market to promote Ayurvedic products by putting consumers in the forefront of their business to ensure they effectively meet their changing needs and lifestyles. Emerging Ayurvedic companies are also creating awareness on developing holistic lifestyles through meditation, yoga, healthy diets and sleep – creating a new wave of Ayurveda (2.0).
At the Governement level, there is a major push towards mainstreaming of Ayurvedic treatment. The Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) is actively pursuing policy initiatives to increase medical research in Ayurvedic treatment, regulatory issues and other policy matters in this regard. Several insurance companies are coming forward to cover Ayurvedic treatment.
Kover: The theme of this year’s celebration of Ayurveda Day is Ayurveda For Covid. Could you explain the role of Ayurveda in dealing with COVID?
Mr. Gururaj: Ayurveda emphasizes good health and prevention and treatment of illness through lifestyle practices and the use of herbal remedies. It prescribes ways and means to boost immunity and good health through natural remedies. So even a healthy person could follow Ayurvedic medical practices and treatments for well being and boost immunity. Therefore, you can see how Ayurveda has assumed special relevance during the COVID Pandemic.
Kover: You mentioned about Ministry of AYUSH. What is its role in promotion of Ayurveda?
Mr. Gururaj: Ministry of AYUSH is the nodal agency for the promotion of Ayurveda in India and also to evolve policy decisions, frame regulations and deal with international medical regulations to align Ayurveda. It has come out with many recommendations and policy decisions for the mainstreaming of Ayurveda and application of Ayurvedic formulations for commercial use. It is responsible for formulation of guidelines for various forms of traditional medicines in India, whether its Ayurveda, or Unani or Siddha.
Kover: Is AYUSH playing a role in this COVID situation?
Mr. Gururaj: There are some traditional medicine remedies from Ayush systems which provide relief and alleviate some of the symptoms of COVID-19. The current understanding of COVID-19 indicates that good immune status is vital to prevention and to safeguard from disease progression. The nature of Ayurvedic medicine is such that it primarily aims at immunity development and therefore is of direct importance in dealing with COVID. Ministry of AYUSH has come up with clear recommendations for following self-care guidelines for preventive health measures and boosting immunity with special reference to respiratory health. The Ministry has also come out with the National Clinical Management Protocol based on Ayurveda and Yoga for management of COVID 19.
Kover: You had mentioned about the active role of Government of India in recent years to promote Ayurveda, what specific steps have been taken?
Mr. Gururaj: I would like to highlight that India has taken steps to include Ayurveda in International Classification of Diseases, an effort that will help in globalization of Ayurveda through standardisation of its diagnostics & terminologies. Nearly 30 countries have already endorsed inclusion of Ayurveda as Module-2. This would enable Ayurvedic practitioners and researchers to come out with pragmatic health solutions.
Secondly, on Ayurveda Day, Prime Minister of India dedicated to the nation two Ayurveda institutions,namely, Institute of Teaching & Research in Ayurveda, Jamnagar & National Institute of Ayurveda Jaipur. This is a significant step to step up and streamline research and a more scientific study of the science of Ayurveda as a major traditional medical science.
Kover: What is your role in promotion of Ayurveda in Indonesia?
Mr. Gururaj: Many of the ayurvedic herbs being used are also grown in Indonesia. And some of these herbs are also being used on a daily basis in Indonesian cuisine. But there has to be created an awareness of the beneficial effects of Ayurveda. We are running a social media campaign through our official handles to highlight many aspects of Ayurveda from time to time. We do conduct webinars and encourage those involved in commercial transactions of ayurvedic products.
Full video about Aryuveda: