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Restorative power of massage on show

Staff Reporter
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Demonstrations by tribal healers formed part of week-long workshop for tribal youth

The vitality of different styles of massage practiced by tribal communities across the State, besides the curative use of herbal vapour among them, were on display during a week-long workshop for tribal youth organised by the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS) here on the KIRTADS campus.

The workshop, which concluded on Thursday, had renowned tribal masseurs and masseuses, besides traditional healers who use herbal vapour bath for curing different ailments, giving live demonstrations and sharing their knowledge among the youth.

Babu Vaidyar, a traditional healer representing the Kurichiyar tribal community in Wayanad, demonstrated the ‘Marunnaavikkuli’ (herbal vapour bath) treatment which was passed on to him by his forefathers. He said there was an increasing number of takers for the treatment. “It has been found very effective for allergy-related problems, skin diseases, cold, and chest congestion,” Babu Vaidyar said.

The vapour bath is a 20-minute affair inside a wooden kiosk into which herbal vapour is pumped from a pot fixed a little away. The patient is asked to enter the kiosk naked so that the herbal vapour is absorbed. The patient will also inhale the vapour. “It’s a mix of around 64 ingredients, including leaves, roots, barks, and nuts of different herbal plants, which are boiled in the pot in a specific amount of water to produce the herbal vapour required for the bath,” Babu Vaidyar, who runs a unit of his healing centre at Thiruvambadi in the district besides the one in Wayanad, said.

Rajan Vaidyar, another practitioner of herbal vapour bath in Wayanad, said the combination of the ingredients was changed depending on the nature of the disease. “Medicinal vapour bath is found very effective for retaining youthfulness in people,” he said.

Besides five students each from five ethno medicine centres in different districts of the State, nearly 45 youth hailing from the Paniya and Adiya tribal communities across Kerala participated in the workshop.

“The demonstration of different massaging methods practiced by the tribal communities was a real learning experience for the participants,” N. Viswanathan Nair, former director of KIRTADS and one of the organisers, said. More than five masseuses and over 10 masseurs representing different tribal communities interacted with the youth during the workshop. “Noted tribal masseurs, including Madathuvayal Kelu Vaidyar, Kasaragod Manikantan Vaidyar, and Odachan Para Mallankani Vaidyar, were among them,” Mr. Nair said.

KIRTADS director S. Bindu said the workshop comprised sessions by allopathic practitioners on various topics.

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