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Family Traditions in Ayurveda, Ashtavaidyas of Kerala

March 23rd, 2007 | admin

Ashtavaidya is an Ayurvedic practitioner who is proficient in all the eight different branches of Ayurvedic treatment. Kerala’s rise as a prominent center for Ayurveda is in a great way indebted to the selfless service of ashtavaidyans. Their service can’t be fully appreciated without mentioning the social situations that prevailed in India and Kerala till less than a century ago.

Racial discrimination was prevalent in this land and the veda or science knowledge was restricted to upper class Brahmins. They were the only vaidyas. A vaidya is a practitioner of Ayurveda or an Ayurvedic physician. It was impurity for the Brahmins to touch or even see people of lower castes. The ashtavaidyans denied this tradition and practiced salya tantra (surgery technique) on people from all castes. Thus ashtavaidyans got their place in their community lowered. Other Brahmins that did poojas at temples didn’t recognize practitioners of vaidya (vaidyans). Thus, marital alliances between Brahmins practicing vaidya and Brahmins that remained pure from touching people of lower castes ceased.

Learning and practicing Ayurveda to practice vaidya caused the vaidyans not pursuing education of Vedas and pooja rituals. However, later this condition changed and now marital alliance is possible between all Namboodiri or Brahmin families.

Vaidyamadam family, a family that traditionally practiced asthavaidya was a bit different and they practiced Vedas and participated in Yagnas and poojas. History suggests that this family was not known for salya thantra (surgery). They give and take women to and from almost all Namboodiri families.

These ashtavaidyas or ashtavaidyans have recorded their treatment methods. Tracing down descendents of Ashtavaidyas is a difficult task today because of the relative indifference of such families with other Brahmin families.

Thaikkattu vaidyar, Kuttancheri, Vaidyamadam, etc are some of the families usually associated with ashtavaidyans.

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