Nestled amidst the healing greenery of Kottakal in Malappuram district is the Arya Vaidya Sala, founded in 1902 by the late Vaidyaratnam P S Warrier. A 119 year old institution, it is tens of kilometers away from the nearest railway station of Tirur, and the nearest airport at Kozhikode. Year after year, people from all around the world wind through low hanging cashew-nut groves, thronging to this sanctified medical space. This year on June 5th, the world marked the celebration of the 100th birthday of the founder’s nephew Vaidya Panniyampilly Krishna Warrier, who shaped the values and success of AVS over 70 years, after the mantle passed to him.
Vaidya P K Warrier guided the institution as its Chief Physician and Managing Trustee, after the demise of his elder brother in a plane crash. With several hospitals, Ayurvedic drug manufacturing, many illustrious clients, and scores of satisfied patients, AVS is now the hub of world-renowned Ayurveda practice.
Wishing him on his 100th birthday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “An eminent Ayurveda practitioner, Dr P K Warrier’s indefatigable efforts have served to expand the outreach and popularity of Ayurveda within the country and across the world. His devotion and commitment to further the understanding of Ayurveda as a holistic system of medicine that promotes good health and wellness are admirable.”
Dr P.K. Warrier, say those close to him, is the very epitome of ‘right living combined with right attitude’. “He is also a shining example of how the wholesome combination of these would lead to attainment of productive and fruitful longevity. He lives almost fully abiding by the tenets of “Swasthavritha” in Ayurveda.” We are privileged to be granted this interview.
Adds a close relative, “His belief in right living is reflected in interactions and communication with his patients during consultation. He enquires about the routine of a patient from the time he wakes up to the moment he goes to bed. If he finds the lifestyle erroneous or not in compliance with the principles of right living, he tries to correct the same, along with the right amount of medication. Actually, even before doctors belonging to modern medicine universalized the principle of right life style, Dr Warrier began to propound this philosophy. In that and many other ways, he has been always futuristic and a visionary who travelled ahead of times.”
CSP wishes Vaidya P K Warrier on his 100th birthday. In this interview we ask him about the standing of Ayurveda today in the global health care scenario, and also the journey of AVS over the decades.
What in your opinion is the most important legacy of the Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal, in its over hundred years of existence? What was the vision of Vaidyaratnam PS Warrier, which you took forward?
To present the legacy of our illustrious founder briefly would be like attempting to put an ocean into a capsule. However, I shall try to summarise some of the highlights of this legacy, which are our guiding lights, though I know that this will be a veritable misadventure:
Vaidyaratnam P S Warrier succeeded in setting up a good factory to manufacture genuine Ayurvedic medicines. This was indeed an unheard of and pioneering venture, atleast in this part of our country.
He was meticulous and conscientious in maintaining the quality of his products.
He could build a distribution network, which at that time was scarcely heard of, in the case of Ayurvedic medicines. His biographers record that he even exported his medicines to foreign countries like Singapore.
He took initiative to fight an epidemic, cholera, with innovative medical methodology and saved a whole village and adjoining areas from the clutches of that epidemic.
He rendered genuine Ayurvedic treatment services to people from near and far away places. Great personalities like Jayaprakash Narayan, were his patients. He even sent medicines for the personal use of Gandhiji.
He started the Ayurveda College in 1917, which was first of its kind in the Malabar region of Kerala. He started the Charitable Hospital in 1929 to render free Ayurvedic and Allopathic treatment and also to facilitate internship of Ayurveda College students.
He was meticulous in “updating” (that was always a favourite buzzword of his) his knowledge about his profession and all worldly and literary affairs.
He organized one of the biggest and most well-equipped drama troupe and later Kathakali group and was a literary and musical genius himself.
He started a temple of Lord Viswambhara in Kottakkal, in 1932 which was thrown open to the people belonging to all castes, creed, religion etc., which at that time was a revolutionary step. He gave moral and intellectual support to the Temple Entry Proclamation Movement, which attained fruition in 1936.
This, in short, a legacy encompassing industrial, intellectual, literary, philanthropic, inclusive greatness is our guiding light. What more I should say about this.
The vision of the Founder is clearly laid out in his will which is a unique document. The main components of this vision are: Preparation of Ayurvedic medicines, Sale of the same, treatment of patients, receiving from them compensation according to their capacity, to conduct research into Ayurveda with a view to make it more and more useful to the public.
He did his maximum during his time to take forward the institution, with a great sense of direction provided with this vision, utilizing the facilities and amenities available in his time. We, the personnel of Arya Vaidya Sala, are just trustees entrusted with the job of taking forward the institution on these lines. It is our mission to propel the institution forward towards fulfilling this vision, with the amenities and facilities available in these modern days of advanced technology.
How has the status of AVS changed since your youth when it was started as a village clinic? Today, you are producing pioneering cutting edge research in cancer treatment. What led to this exponential growth?
The inception of the nursing home along with the implementation of the technology in research and manufacturing were some of the important turning points. The expansion and development of our research activities into areas like Medicinal Plant Research, Product Development, Process related research, Quality Assurance, Clinical Research, Phyto-chemical and chemical profiling etc., are also major turning points. The starting of our Centre for Medicinal Plant Research and the inauguration of the same by the great APJ Abdul Kalam, are again all vital turning points.
As we have been conscientiously maintaining the quality of our medicines, through research and quality control measures and also have been maintaining the quality of our treatment services, the demand for the same has been ever increasing. To cater to this increasing demand, we expanded our sales network considerably. Presently we have a large network of sales outlets in India and some countries abroad. All this was made possible only by the aforementioned vision, which guided us always and the dedication of the different cadres of our employees.
At the age of 100 years, you are clearly a great brand ambassador for Ayurveda. What aspects of Ayurveda do you personally strongly practice in your daily life?
I wake up early in the morning and engage in exercise and Yoga. I read the Ashtanga Hridayam daily, get updated with the latest developments in socio-economic, political fields, read professional materials, attend to my administrative duties and policy making activities, attend to clinical activities, talk to executives and other people waiting for a hearing etc. My food is simple, light, but always very nutritious. I use very little medication, that too only if necessary.
As we stand at the crossroads of healthcare in India, in the midst of a global pandemic, there are calls to integrate Ayurveda and Allopathy. What are your ideas for such an integration?
Arya Vaidya Sala Kottakkal from the time of the founder, has always believed in utilizing the best of all the medical systems. The founder himself and all his descendants believed that all systems of medicine actually aim at the alleviation of the sufferings of ailing public.
My uncle, the founder, Vaidyaratnam P S Warrier, after his Ayurveda education in the traditional Gurukula system, got tutored by a great practitioner of Modern Medicine, Dr. Varghese, who was a Government Doctor. He thus had great admiration for Modern Medicine.
In the case of our institution, we have been resorting to the methodologies of modern science in conducting research. We are also using modern diagnostic tools for clinical management of ailments. We have well equipped clinical laboratories to facilitate such diagnosis. Our hospitals are all NABH accredited.
The expansion and development of our Research activities into areas like Medicinal Plant Research and standardization, Product Development, Process related research, Quality Assurance, Clinical Research, Phyto-chemical and chemical profiling etc., are all based on modern scientific principles. The starting of our Centre for Medicinal Plant Research and the inauguration of the same by the great APJ Abdul Kalam, were strong steps towards adopting scientific methodology for our R&D activities.
This has been recognized by the Government of India as a Centre of Excellence in the field of Standardization of Ayurvedic Medicines. This centre collaborates with premier Research Organizations in the country for various areas of research. Some of such organizations are: Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medicinal Research, Department of Science and Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, BARC, Department of Ayush, etc., Manipal Institute of Higher Education and NIMHANS and Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
During the present pandemic situation, my studied advice is to make use of Ayurveda with utmost care and after in-depth studies. This approach brought out momentous research studies, conducted by a group of physicians and scientists of Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal, that proved the anti-viral capabilities of many of the well-known classical products. This study got published in the reputed peer-reviewed scientific journal, Springer Nature and was adopted by National Institute of Health, USA under Nature Public Health Emergency Collection - “COVID 19 is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation”.
We are also using most modern scientific technology for Quality Assurance, like Herbas, High Power Thin Layer Chromatography etc. Further we are using Bio-technology techniques for creation of quality saplings and propagation of rare medicinal herbs. We have Allopathy and Ayurveda wings in our Charitable Hospital, working hand in hand.
I was very keen to start a Special OP (set up in the year 2000), attached to the Charitable Hospital, especially for lending Ayurvedic therapeutic help for cancer patients. The objective was to render advice for the right life style to prevent Cancer, ameliorate suffering among patients undergoing cancer treatment procedures like radiation therapy, Chemo-therapy etc. This special OP is open to patients/their relatives (in cases where the patients are not able to attend the OP) every day. About 40 to 50 patients, on an average, avail of free consultation and medicine supply facility daily. The clinical data compiled over last two decades is being subjected to research in collaboration with MVR Cancer Centre, which is a leading Cancer Hospital in Kerala and similar institutions.
So it is very evident that we believe in the principles of integration of scientific disciplines, in a very profound sense.
What were the early factors for Kerala becoming the hub for Ayurveda and attaining global recognition?
The practice of Ayurveda in Kerala, both with regard to medicines and treatment, has always been accepted as very genuine, effective and based on the classical principles of Ayurveda. Great contributions have been made in this by my great uncle and the eminent practitioners trained by him. I also acknowledge the great thinkers and clinicians in the field such as Ashtavaidya families, the rural and small time practitioners and highly accomplished genuine practitioners in the various localities of the state. Relatively moderate climactic conditions, year-round available of water and herbs, less turbulent socio-political ambience etc. might have also helped.
You have modernised Ayurveda education, streamlining it with contemporary health training standards. What elements of the traditional, gurukula system are retained in your colleges?
Even while adopting the most modern technology for research, diagnosis etc., we have always kept up the great values of maintaining the quality of our medicines and services, humaneness in our approach, philanthropic approach etc. We spend 45% of our incidental surpluses for charity, another 10% for the upkeep of the highly rated Ayurveda college and 45% for being ploughed back to the reserves of Arya Vaidya Sala. Thus, the profits do not go into the coffers of any individual or group. These values are passed on to the young students of Vaidyaratnam P.S. Warrier Ayurveda College, our young physicians and all our employees. Hence, we believe that the great values fostered by our forefathers are passed on to the young generation.
We are facing a shortage of resources - herbs and ingredients for Ayurveda medicines today? AVS cultivates is own herbs. What has been your strategy for self-reliance?
We are cultivating our medicinal herbs in an area of about 300 acres, as a measure for overcoming the shortage in supply of medicinal herbs. Besides this, as mentioned above, our CMPR is engaged in creating high quality saplings using modern techniques like biotechnology and distributing it to Self Help Groups like “Kudumbasri” in Kerala and other cultivators for propagating the medicinal plant species.
AVS is known for its high standards and quality of its products. What can other institutions learn in terms of best practices?
Quality, we believe, is always the result of high intentions, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
We believe that under any trying circumstance, this wise choice should not be forgotten or abandoned. Just have a look around and you will easily see that the institutions or corporates do survive and more importantly grow, over a period of time, only if they hold on to high standards of quality and values. As mentioned, before we are always meticulous and conscientious in maintaining the high quality of our products and services.
What are your thoughts on the West adapting Yoga and Ayurveda in their societies?
The human race has great survival instincts and intelligence assisting it to surmount several threats to the overall health and well-being. Anything that is basically and genuinely good and meritorious will be accepted globally. Ayurveda and Yoga are branches of knowledge, developed in India with a global outlook. Therefore, I believe that the Indian thought of acceptance and tolerance, our positive Shastras like Ayurveda and Yoga, contributing to wholesome living, inner peace, strength etc. will continue to receive more and more acceptance world over.
(Inputs from Varsha Venkatraman)