Kirtads camp aims at preserving indigenous knowledge

Vellan Vaidyan from Thirunelli in Wayanad does not give any assurances. “I shall try” is his refrain to people from Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, and even foreign countries who wait in their hotel rooms in Mananthavady for an appointment with him. Vellan Vaidyan is a tribal healer in Wayanad who claims to possess a drug that can cure even cancer.

People from various places are thronging the five-day Ethnic Healers Camp inaugurated here on Tuesday. It is being organised by the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies of Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Kirtads) on its campus here.

The healers have remedies for almost every illness but patients are advised to adhere to a strict lifestyle regimen and diet for the medicines to be effective. Velayudhan Vaidyar here has a medicine that ‘improves eyesight.’ Sharada Madhavan, another healer, has a drug which, she says, can cure infertility.

Kattikkoottam Kelu Vaidyar is an accomplished orthopaedic ‘specialist.’ Pavizhakkodi Vaidya and Krishnan Vaidyan of the Muthuva community in Idukki have an antidote for all snake venoms.

Mallan Kani Vaidyan from Thiruvananthapuram has a drug that can ‘wipe away diabetes.’ This is the only drug in the camp, the efficacy of which has been proven in a laboratory and is on the run for a patent.

Kirtads Director Bindu S. told The Hindu that the camp aimed at preserving indigenous knowledge which faced the threat of extinction due to the lack of interest among the younger generation.

The knowledge is passed on from generation to generation and developed through trial and error methods over centuries.

Since these healers do not know how to read or write the vast repository is not documented, she said. Kirtads is offering a three-year certificate course in tribal medicine for members of tribal communities.

The students get an opportunity to learn from ethnic healers from various tribes and assimilate the knowledge in a systematic manner. The healers are also provided grants to grow herbs, Ms. Bindu said. The camp concludes on May 25.

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