Namboothiri Websites, Calicut, Kerala
(A Voluntary and Non-profit-oriented forum for documenting Namboothiri traditions in web)


Aayurvedam had developed along two scientific streams - "Sasthrakriya" (surgery) and "Chikilsa" (treatment). The surgeons are called "Dhanwanthareeyans" and the physicians, "Bhaaradwaajeeyans". The luminaries of that period were Susruthan and Charakan. Since treatises, "Susrutha samhitha" and "Charaka samhitha" are observed to have been revised, it may have to be surmised that what we see today are not the original Granthams.

Since those days, it was the great Vaagbhataachaaryan who tried to rejuvenate and modernise Aayurvedam. It must be mentioned that Vaagbhataachaaryan was a liberal, when one looks at his life and works. His works reveal his intention to integrate the two branches. He composed his treatises in a meticulous and orderly manner, choosing apt words, and with even a poetic ring to them. Unfortunately, he had to suffer a lowering of his social status (a minor defilement) throughout his life for his Budhist beliefs. Consequently, most people did not accept his Granthham. During that period, when he reached Kerala, he was given a very warm and hearty welcome. That made him happy and it is said that he spent rest of his life here in Kerala. He is rightly considered as the "Aachaaryan" of the Aayurvedic tradition in Kerala. His work "Ashtaanga hrudayam" describes the eight branches and , also led to the popular "Ashtavaidyam" ( Click Here for "Aayurvedam"). The full form of this term should have been "Ashtangaayurveda vaidyam" (the eight branches of the medical/ health sciences). One has to view the Kerala situation which existed at that time.

It must be surmised that during that period, just as there was a dearth of an effective health science, there was also a dearth of Vedic Karmams and Yajnams. As if to fill that void, was born the great Mezhathol Agnihothri ( Click Here ). It must have been due to his singular efforts that the Yajnam culture was rejuvenated in this area. Vaagbhatan must have been born before Agnihothri, because, when Agnihothri started Yaagams, the hereditary practice of Ashtaangaayurvedam was already prevalent here. There are clear indications of the essentiality of a physician in Yaagasaala, (the place where Yaagam is performed) to take care of the medical problems of the performers ("Rithwiks") even during the Vedic period. It is believed that in those days, the "Aswineedevans" were given the physicians' lower grade ("Paathithyam") and prevented from entering the Yaagasaala, but then, sage Chyavanan, through his blessings, is presumed to have removed this problem. The same must also have happened in Kerala during the revival of Vedic culture.

The Ashtaanga Aayurveda doctors of Kerala, who follow the Vaagbhata school used to practice both streams - surgery and treatment, but the lowering of the grade was assigned only for the surgeons. Thus it became necessary to find an individual or a family of physicians to be assigned to the Yaagasaala needs. That is how and when the Vaidyamadham family of Mezhathur was honoured with this task, selected perhaps from one of the several families of the Vaagbhata tradition.

This assignment may not have been to an individual, since there is a 300-plus published and unpublished palm leaf Granthham collection pointing to the hereditary tradition of the "Vaidyamadham swaroopam". Such a huge ancestral collection would not possibly have been there if it were assigned to an individual. Historically, there were 18 families with Ashtavaidyam tradition, but many became extinct ( Click Here for Ashtavaidyans). Kaarathol Nambi was one such, and lived somewhere close to Aalathur Nambi and related to them. Considering the many commonalities in the treatment techniques of Vaidyamadham and Kaarathol Nambi, some believe that the latter was inducted as the Yaagasaala doctor through the efforts of Agnihothri and was resettled at Mezhathur. These conclusions are, at best, only logical conjectures, and beyond solid proof.

There is another possibility. Vaagbhataachaaryan apparently had two great disciples, one with pen name "Indu" and the other "Jarjatan", as mentioned in the Vaagbhata invocation song ("Dhyaana slokam"). Vaidyamadham may have their ancestry in the family of the greater one of the two, Indu. This surmise is derived from the fact that the two of the three palm-leaf copies of the "Vyaakhyaanams" (explanations) of "Ashtaangahrudayam" and "Sangraham" (summary) written by Indu were in the Vaidyamadham collection. One of these two copies was taken by an eminent and renowned member of the family known as Kunchu Apphan, some 130 years ago (say, around AD 1870) to Edappally where he was staying as physician to the Kochi Royal family. He used it for reference when he had to teach "Vaidyam" to students. It was apparently lost after this time. The other copy is still in the family collection. So much is the background of Vaidyamadham family.

Today, Vaidyamadham swaroopam is the only family in Kerala with the Bhaaradwaajeeya tradition. They are not permitted to do surgery ("Salyasaalaakya" or "Sasthrakriya") that causes "paathithyam". This was perhaps the reason for their Vedic rights and assignment as "Saalaavaidyan". The normal practice in Yajna culture is for the Yajamaanan (master, the person actually doing the Yajnam) to consult and get the permission from the Rithwiks and the Vaidyan before deciding on the Yaagam. Once decided, more than one person requests the Raja of Kollangode for the "Soma" ( Click Here ) and the leather. He is called the "Gandharvan" who protects the Soma. The age-old rule is for the Saalaavaidyan to be always present in the Saala from the beginning to the end of the Yaagam, for looking after the health and medical needs of the Yajamaanan and Rithwiks, as they are not permitted to leave the premises to the end. Till today the formality continues, though he may not be present always and every day.

The Vaidyan's position in the Yaagasaala is in the area called "Ulkkaram". He is the only person who is provided with an "Aavanappalaka" (a special low wooden seat) to sit on. If, for any reason (say "Pula" or defilement), he cannot be present, he usually sends a replacement. In his absence, the standard fee ("Prathipphalam") of 16 Panam is kept on his seat. It is of special interest to note that while the "Paradevatha" of all other Ashtavaidya families is Dhanwanthari, Vaidyamadham's Kuladevatha" is Dakshinaamoorthy (form of Lord Siva in meditation).

Vaidyamadham is supposed to participate as Saalaavaidyan in any Yaagam performed in Kerala, and this has so far been adhered to. In Sukapuram and Perumanam Graamams there used to be a practice of giving a share to the Karmis. It is done in any one of the eight days (only three in Perumanam temple) from Chithra to Uthraatam star of Medom (Malayalam month - mid-April to mid-June) after a bath in the temple tank followed by worship. The share is called "Pazhuthi". At Sukapuram the traditional way of wearing the cloth ("Thattudukkal") is necessary before worshipping in the temple.

| Article No:4.11 | Last update of this article:20th October 2000 |
Article prepared by: Ashtavaidyan Vaidyamadham Cheriya Narayanan Namboodiri
Vaidyamadham Mana, P.O.: Mezhathur, Thrithala - 679534, Palakkad Dist
Phone: [O] - 0492-672044, 672225 (PBX), 673172 (Telefax) [R] - 0492-672066, 672426

English Translation: K.D. Nambudripad

Home | What is New.. | Members | Welcome, Sponsors ! | Search For.. | Your Feedback

Copyright © 2000 Namboothiri Websites Calicut. All rights reserved.