via PRADEEP RAMA KRISHNAN published on May 21, 2007


[Ageold Hindu tradition of making medicated clothes revived]



Thiruvananthapuram:  Kerala, the land of Parasurama and Adi Sankaracharya, for centuries  is much ahead in exploring the enormous hidden value of ayurveda, the Hindu science, for the benefit of mankind. Oral and other modes of treatments apart, a revolution is now set in motion in Kerala in the field of ayurvedic clothes. Though the know-how for the incorporation of ayurveda into the clothes was there in the thousands of years old Thaliyola (writing on plamleaf), in course of time, first the Britishers and then our own native rulers moulded with Western charachterestics completely ignored this great tradition.  A recent exploration in making medicated clothes was prompted by lack of demand for handloom clothe items in the face of high-tech competition from mechanized and automated composite mills. The initiative was taken by the Hindu weaving families of Balaramapuram in Thiruvanthapuram district who have the tradition of more than 600 years in the field.


The order books of the weavers in Balaramapuram are now thick with orders from leading dress material and garment merchants in Europe. The European people are tired with various ailments in a faster scale than their growth scale and they were in search of a solution.

A new act banning the import and export of dress materials or dresses dyed in azo-dyes (the chemicals which are harmful to the skin) are already in place in Europe. The act was promped by a study about the causes of the diseases that afflicted the European people in a large scale.

A Hindu family called Kuzhivila in Balaramapuram had explored and used the techniques of ayurveda dye many years ago. The family has found a means to boost the ailing rural economy with the knowhow handed down from their great granduncle Ayyappan Vaidyar, who was the chief physician for the erstwhile Travancore royal family. Incorporating the techniques they had woven cloths and supplied to the royal family as a solution to the various ailments that afflicted the members of the royal family. The Kuzhiviala family’s present generation revived the ayurveda-dye technique now and given life to the handloom industry that was dying in Kerala.

“As in many other cases, the family tradition was dying and we wanted to revive it. Moreover, herbs seemed a bright alternative to synthetic dyes,” says K. Rajan, chief technician at the society’s dyeing unit. “We renewed the practice and made these garments whenever people wanted. Later, we organised ourselves into a society as the demand increased,” he added.

Once patronised by the Travancore kings, the healer-weavers of Balaramapuram have added Saudi royals to their customer list. “We have been exporting naturally-dyed purdahs to Saudi Arabia. We have sold over a lakh pieces there,’’said K Vijayan, marketing manager of Handloom Weavers’ Development Society, the trade body that networks about 6,500 makers of medicinal garments..

Last year, Kuzhivila family alone manufactured and supplied cloths worth Rs 5 million to the Europan countries. When the demand for ayurveda clothes surpassed high-mark level, about 600 weavers’ co-operative societies of Balaramapuram formed a nucleus Society in the name of Handloom Weavers Development Society(HWDS). Orders are now pouring to this society from scores of countries. From America alone Rs 10 million worth order is already in the kit. Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Japan, Malaysia,Singapore, Taiwan and Jordan are in queue for order placement.

The products are manufactured as per the directions of Ashtavaidyars, Aryvaidyars, Siddhvaidyars and Marma chikilsa vaidyars, who are experts physicians. The quality test is done at Government Ayurveda College at Thiruvananthapuram.

For colouring and fragrance to the products the raw materials used are herbs and plants. For yellow colour – turmeric, woody turmeric, kasthuri turmeric and many other varieties of turmeric are used. For red – manjadi is used. For green – kurunthoti is the raw material. For blue – neelayamiri (indigo) and for black cuscus grass, promanagati, cardamom, cloves, nutmerg etc are the raw materials.

The technique employed for retaining the colour and fragrance too is ayurvedic. Preservatives for this are made from the roots of kathali plantain, gum of neem, chebula etc. The entire process is organic. The cloth is bleached with cow’s urine, which has high medicinal value. The dyeing gum too is herbal. It does not pollute like synthetic dye. And the waste is used as bio manure and to generate biogas.

The studies in India and abroad have established that ayurveda dress is a proven remedy for allergy, skin diseases, cancer, diabetes and many other diseases.

The shortage of herbs and plants is becoming a hindrance to execute in time the bulk orders pouring in from abroad and India. The Society managers say they are ready to buy all the herbs and plants, used in their production, cultivated in every inch of Kerala land. Still their input requirement will lag behind. The Society has developed many gardens of herbs and plants on its own. All are in high ranges and are entrusted to the tribals for maintenance. No chemical fertilizer is used. Only bio-fertilizer is feeded to the plants in order to maintain the quality of inputs.

Recently a delegation of Japanese government evaluated the herbal gardens and the quality of ayurvedic cloths. The impressed Japanese government gave Rs 2 million to the Society for the development of herbal gardens.

          Apart from dress materials, other types of ayurvedic cloths are also marketed in diffeent brands. In a shirt there are minimum 30 medicines. Surprisingly, ayurvedic cloths are comnparatively cheap.

          There are specific dresses and cloths for specific diseases. For psoriasis and other skin diseases, the saris and dress materials are made mainly with turmeric and karinochi. For blood pressure, the dress material is made mainly of chebula and thulasi. For arthritis, the cloths are treated in agathi and manjishta. For asthma, the cloths are incorporated with the ingredients of avanakku, adalodakam and vallipala.

          Ayurvedic bedsheets and mattresses are too manufactured and marketed.

          In Thiruvanthapuram Government Ayurveda College Hospital the Society has herbalised few rooms in which the cots are woven by herbally treated coir. The walls are concealed with herbally treated carpets while the blankets and mattresses are also herbalised. For arthritis treatment these rooms are very effective. There is great demand for these rooms in the hospital.

The main problem the French people confront is sleeplessness. They came to Balarampuram in search of a solution. They are now a satisfied lot with specially made dress material and specially made bed-spreads and mattresses. American people’s problem is obesis, cancer and skin diseases. They too wanted a solution from Kerala and came to Balaramapuram. Dress materials with more than 200 varieties of herbs and plants are readying for them.

Now many eyes and ears from different parts of the world are tuned towards Kerala to have a lasting solution for their health problems through never failing ayurveda science.

In one voice Vijayan, Rajan, Satheesan and Komalakumaran, who are the pivots of the HWDS say that India could “recapture’’ the world textile market as more and more Western countries strictly enforce eco-friendly norms. “The government aid will ensure standardisation of our products. We are already witnessing a huge demand for all kinds of garments, be it silk, wool or jute, dyed with medicines,” Vijayan said.

The contact address of the Society is: Ayur Vastra, Handloom Weavers Development Society, Thompodu, Balaramapuram P.O., Thiruvananthapuram. Kerala. Phone: 0471-2401438/2401750: Fax: 0471-2401438: E-mail: [email protected]




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