At On his 100th birthday, Dr PKWarrier looks back on his own life and the growth of Arya Vaidya Sala (AVS) over the past seven decades and talks about some contemporary issues. Excerpts from the interview by e-mail:
Celebrating birthdays has never been a practice with me. The normal thing on such occasions is to sit with family members and have an afternoon meal. In my childhood too, birthdays were celebrated mainly by having the “Naivedya payasam” brought from the temple. It won’t be any different this time around either. However, when you are the head of an institution, the people who work with you insist on having celebrations on special occasions. Thus, we celebrated my 60th and 84th birthdays. These occasions were also used to compile and expose the history of AVS. Plus, in these times of COVID restrictions, it doesn’t make sense to have big celebrations. The whole world is suffering.
I am told that a few scientific seminars are organized. I have always prayed for the welfare of all mankind. Looking back, I have been running AVS for 67 years. I was apprehensive when I assumed responsibility after the untimely death of my older brother. Each step had to be taken with caution and, in the end, we as an institution came to the present in an overall balanced way. Memories of my uncle [AVS founder Vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier] and older brother [Aryavaidyan P.M. Varier] and the blessings of Lord Viswambhara have kept me active all these years. I’m also glad that in all these years I haven’t had the opportunity to bicker or speak out against anyone.
COVID AND AYURVEDA
When it comes to Ayurveda, there is nothing like an “unknown” or “new” disease. The principles of Ayurveda have the potential to analyze any type of disease and to advance a line of treatment. In the course of its history which spans hundreds of years, Ayurveda has seen many illnesses disappear and many more suddenly appear. Ayurveda’s “tridosha siddhantha” also incorporates these tendencies, both in terms of body and disease. Several experiences in India have highlighted Ayurveda’s potential to resist COVID, and many of them have also been recorded and published. However, we have not been able to compile and put them together exhaustively so that they can be useful for the good of society. Such a process should have been part of our public health system. Ultimately, it is a loss for our society as a whole.
If two systems are at war with something, it should be against the adversary called disease and not against each other. Like any other science, Ayurveda has also evolved through observations and experiences.
Read also: Alternatives and opinions
This should be kept in mind as a constant reference. In my humble opinion, the debates on Ayurveda which do not have this reference point to a lack of scientific awareness.
Indeed, it is fascinating to recount some of these experiences once again. Personal memories and thoughts on the science of Ayurveda are strewn throughout these countless memories. I will talk about some memorable ones. A child from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh arrived with intermittent bleeding from various parts of the body. In allopathy, the condition is called “idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura” and has no finite treatment parameters. I thought about the case for a long time and decided on a treatment line for scurvy. The child was completely healed within five to six months.
The personal relationship with the patient’s family continued. Later, during one of my visits to northern India, they came to Shimla to meet me. They said all they wanted was to say thank you in person, but the cane I am using now is a gift from this family’s visit to Shimla. Then, in the early 1990s, when the Hyderabad branch of AVS was inaugurated, a woman with pancreatic head cancer came to us for treatment. I had developed a special Ayurvedic blend for the treatment of cancer by this time. It was first administered to this patient. She recovered after a considerably long treatment. Many other patients have benefited from this special Ayurvedic blend for cancer in recent years.
There was a patient from Salem [Tamil Nadu] who had both oral cancer and AIDS. First day [of the treatment], the patient could not swallow food and the relatives were all ready to take him out. I convinced them to stay a little longer. The drugs we administered started to work relatively quickly and the patient was well relieved. Many more like this come to mind from time to time. Their words and expressions of gratitude remain with me as rewards.
Valiyammavan [elder uncle] Vaidyaratnam PS Varier set up AVS primarily in response to the state of Ayurveda at that time  with the clear intention of solving the multiple problems that have arisen in the system. The main objectives were twofold: to bring the unique healing potential of Ayurveda to people and at the same time to develop Ayurveda according to the needs of society. He led by personal example. It was a pioneering impetus that spilled over into many areas, blossoming into multiple and definitive undertakings. He realized the importance of maintaining the immaculate healing traditions practiced by AVS and Aryavaidya Patashala [Ayurveda college] began in 1914. This was followed by the publication of rehanwanthari, a magazine devoted to the science of Ayurveda.
Read also: Battle for recognition
A charity hospital for all sections of society was also established during this period. When he wrote his will, he made it clear that the AVS would be a trust. The organization has consistently followed this path it has shown. The annual seminar which has been held every year since 1964 has provided an opportunity to reiterate these ideals.
The research journal Aryavaidyan, published regularly since 1987, and the creation of the Center for Research on Medicinal Plants [CMPR] are all illustrations of the constant pursuit of his ideals. Likewise, the timely modernization of the production and distribution of drugs. The goodwill we get from all of these follow-up initiatives is our only marketing.
We have followed the fundamental principle that Ayurveda is an ancient science apt to modernize from time to time. The discipline has always imbued with new developments in science and technology. This adaptation has manifested itself through eons in diagnosis, treatment, and drug production. We are committed to these fundamental principles while modernizing the AVS.
When we set up a new factory for the preparation of drugs in the form of tablets, granules and syrups, we did so while keeping the traditional form of the preparations at the same time. A key element of the modernization was the creation of a special and permanent division for research. This unit has made tremendous strides in documenting and meticulously studying treatment experiences.
Another area of specialized development is cancer care. My mother died of cancer in 1965, resting her head on my lap. Thanks to her, I have experienced first-hand the pain and grief of a cancer patient. The impact of this experience led me to new explorations and initiatives to find solutions. The establishment of CMPR and the work it is doing to find new herbal remedies are some of the results of this exercise. The reflection on the future is, historically, a constant and strong component of all the activities of the AVS. In many ways, this consideration is our mantra.
Animosity between religions is not natural, but cultivated by people with narrow and vested interests. Some innocent believers fall prey to these machinations. This has been repeated over and over again in history. I must also add that the good examples of community harmony are not propagated enough, including in the media, while divisions, quarrels and riots are mediated without any logic. AVS can only see people as one, as the illnesses and sorrows they create affect people of all religions and castes. In 1903, when cholera hit the area, Vaidyaratnam PS Varier went from house to house to distribute medicine and awareness notes, and in doing so, he did not distinguish between communities and castes. His only concern was the suffering of the people.
Read also: Ayurveda under the scanner
The functioning of the AVS was not affected even by the Moplah rebellion of 1921, which was interpreted by many as a religious feud. While neighboring areas such as Malappuram and Tirurangadi have seen violence, Kottakkal has remained safe. The goodwill of PS Varier within the Muslim minority community was legendary.
The doors of ‘Kailasa Mandiram’ [the ancestral home of the Kottakkal Warriers] is a living symbol of community harmony. The symbols of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity imprinted here have inspired many generations and will continue to do so. The divisions of caste, community and class as well as the discrimination based on them have not had an impact on the functioning of the AVS. He will continue to follow this path forever.
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM
National movement; that’s how people of my generation described the freedom movement. The AVS was the center of the national movement in Kottakkal in the early 1940s, when it spread across the country. I was a student at the time and our main activity was to organize students under the banner of the Federation of Students of All Kerala. The students came from Raja’s High School and Ayurveda College. Of course, we also organized public debates.
It was KelappaI have [K. Kelappan], which was called “Kerala Gandhi” which inaugurated our first public debate. A left wing was developing within Congress at this time. Many friends and I were drawn to their ideals and eventually joined the Communist Party.
World War II coincided with all of this. Naturally, the anti-fascist struggle was a key element of the activities during this period. Many others from the family and from the region participated in the national movement. Some have been influenced by Gandhian philosophy and others by Marxian thought. Ultimately, the two visionary leaders worked to do good for humanity. I think the time has come for the followers of both historical figures to understand this and to work for the common good of the people.