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IN PREVIOUS INTERVIEW WITH BABY MATHEW, WE SPOKE ABOUT THE STORY BEHIND THE CREATION OF THE WORLD’S FIRST AYURVEDA TOURIST RESORT SOMATHEERM, WHICH BECAME SYNONYM FOR AYUVEDA TOURISM. BUT WHAT DOES AYURVEDA MEAN PERSONALLY FOR HIM?
BABY MATHEW, the man behind the Somatheeram Ayurveda Group, has proved his skill in many capacities and has been in the forefront in promoting ayurveda and Indian tourism nationally as well as internationally. A charismatic organiser and an environmental conservative is a very active public figure and works with several government projects. He participated in many national and international health therapy and ayurveda seminars in India and abroad.
I was born in a small village named Nadukani near Kothamangalam, in Central Kerala. The forests (not far from the Western Ghats hills), paddy fields and plantations surrounded the village, where you could find lots of plants and herbs. In that part of Kerala, ayurveda is still a lifestyle for a local people. They live a life according to ayurveda principals, cure themselves with local natural medicines and rarely visit a hospital.
That’s the way I've been brought up. As I have mentioned, ayurveda was the part of our family heritage. My grand grandfather and grandfather were vaidiyas (ayurveda practitioners) and although my father was a planter, he adhered to customs and traditions of our ancestors – we woke up before sunrise, washed our self in the well, our diet was based on local vegetables and fruits and etc. Simply expressed, ayurveda means a traditional Kerala lifestyle for me.
Yes, definitely. Those days, I'm talking about 100 years beforehand, there were no ayurveda colleges, no systematic education system or certificates. When you wanted to become a Vaidiya, you had to spend years practicing ayurveda healing under the guidance of another older Vaidiya. The knowledge and wisdom of ayurveda was passed verbally from generation to generation. Nowadays, if you want to become ayurveda doctor, you have to study at the university for 5 years, pass many exams and get approvals from government. Ayurveda is more institutionalized today, but at the same time it is more difficult to keep authenticity of it.
In our brochures is written, that we are ‘The Ayurveda People’. It is not only slogan - ayurveda is the soul and essence of Somatheeram. We have been providing ayurvedic treatment the traditional way for more than 20 years. All the treatments take place under the supervision of qualified doctors and well-trained therapists, who strictly follows traditional methods and values, but at the same time keep high level of modern standards.
We are very proud, that last year, Somatheeram Research Institute and Ayurveda Hospital of Somatheeram Ayurveda Group has received NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Health Care Providers). NABH is the highest recognition of the Indian government in the hospitals and health care sector.
Note: You can read more about ayurveda treatment programmes in interviews with Dr. Seena Rajendran, Somatheeram and Dr.Hemalatha Manoj, Manaltheeram.
Ayurveda and Yoga are science sisters, they complement eachother. During the day we are providing yoga lessons for beginners, intermediate and advanced level yogi practitioners. Every morning and evening, there is meditation session. It is very important to balance body treatment with the peace of the mind.
While ayurveda is mainly concerned with the health of the body, yoga deals with mental health issues. The main purpose of yoga is to isolate the mind of all thoughts, worries and fears, and to increase the strength and flexibility of the body. The regular practice of yoga can help keep stress and tension at bay and facilitate the mind to a state of well being and peace.
I was practicing it very actively together with our yoga teachers 10 - 15 years ago. Nowadays I do not have much time. I have a set of asanas, which in the morning help me to start a day.
According to NABH standards, astrology is not a part of accredited medical system. But personally I believe, that there is a certain connection between ayurveda and astrology. This concept is deeply connected with Indian philosophical system and also daily life of Indian people. In our resorts we have a visiting astrologer. Our clients can consult their personal astrology chart with him, but our doctors do not consult their treatments with astrologers. It is done only on request.
Definitely, Vastu Shastra is an ancient art, how to build and construct houses considering environment, flow of the energy and nature elements. These principles, although not always very scientific, were very important, when we have designed our resorts.
The architect, with who we have consulted plans, is a professor at the university in Cochin. He extensively traveled around Kerala and studied traditional Kerala wooden structures and houses. Even waste management was consulted with him, because according to Vastu Shastra standards toilets should not be built close to the kitchen, which had a sense in the past, when toilets were only holes in the ground, where all the waste was disposed, but not today.
Nature is part of the resorts. The houses and cottages are hidden under the shade of the tropical trees. The most of them have small herb and flower gardens in the front and provide a nice sea view. All the houses are built from eco-friendly materials, properly ventilated to allow natural airflow. Also sunlight movement during the day was taken into the consideration. All these small things make one to stay on for longer and to visit this place again and again.
"In our brochures is written, that we are ‘The Ayurveda People’. It is not only slogan - ayurveda is the soul and essence of Somatheeram. We have been providing ayurvedic treatment the traditional way for more than 20 years."
(Laughing) It is great to hear it, but the food in our restaurant is a medicine actually. Ayurveda says, we are getting the most of the diseases because of our food habits. It is very important how you prepare the food, what kind of ingredients you are using, from where come vegetables and fruits, who cook the food, how and etc.
It can happen, but it also depends on client’s diet plan. Buffet is divided according the doshas into three categories – vata, pita, and kapha. After the consultation with doctor (more about it you can read in interviews with Dr. Seena Rajendran and Dr.Hemalatha Manoj), clients get diet plan. For some serious cases or also for slimming programme patients, we cook separately or they can take some food from buffet after the consultation with Dietologist.
Yes, actually, she is also ayurveda doctor. Every day she consults diet plan with chef and his team. Sometimes the diet plan can be changed from one day to another, if health condition of the patient has changed. But mostly, she is there, to avoid confusions, because not all the people are familiar with ayurveda principals and local dishes. Although we try to serve vegetables and fruits, which are available also abroad, it helps foreigners to adjust to ayurveda diet.
We are trying to get maximum organic vegetables and fruits on the plates of our clients. The most of the items come from our own plantation, not far from the resorts. We cooperate also with local non-profit and non-government organization, which is collecting vegetables and fruits from local farmers all around Kerala and redistributing them, so we can get fresh seasonal deliveries from Palakkad or from Wayanad. But also we are supporting small local farmers. There are few ladies, who come to resort every day and bring us products from their homes e.g. papayas or jackfruits.
Not far from our resorts we have The herbal garden with more than 600 varieties of herbs, which provides the ingredients for various ayurvedic medicines made with due care and diligence at our own medicine manufacturing unit. We got GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) license by the Government of India. Ayurveda doctors supervise the selection process of the ingredients, it is very important from where the herbs are coming from and also sometimes it is not easy to distinguish duplicates. We are very particular about the plants and herbs we use. We have only limited production, only for our use, not for sale.
The most of the foreigners are visiting us in main tourism season from October to March, when is the best time to adjust to the warm climate, but do not be scared to come for an ayurveda treatment during the monsoon period. Months June, July, August and September are called rainy, but it does not mean it rains all the time - usually only in the afternoon for few hour. This period is considered as the best time for treatment and also the rates are lower than in main season - sometimes 20% - 30%.
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