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"Vishachikitsa" (Toxicology)

Kaaraad Namboothiri (Kurumbranaad, N Malabar) was the foremost among Namboothiris in the field of toxicology ("Vishachikitsa"). This detoxication expert's work ("Grantham"), "Jyolsnika" and his methods continued to be followed especially by Namboothiri students and practitioners of toxicology. For higher studies, the Grantham, "Prayoga Samuchayam" of the renowned Kochunny Thampuran of Kochi Royal family is used.

Kokkara Namboothiri's (near Tripunithura) techniques of Vishachikitsa based on "Jyolsnika" is what is being practised in Kerala. This very gifted person is said to have studied under a Samnyaasi (seer, an ascetic) who lived in a forest. Earlier, the treatment for rabies consisted of controlled and salt-free diet and a 90-day course of "Kashaayam" (medicinal concoction). But Kokkara did it with a medicine in the morning followed by a mere three-day dietary and other controls. Through trials he developed antidotes for poison from all kinds of animals; and transferred this knowledge to his disciples, prominent among whom was Tharananalloor Namboodiri.

Tharananalloor stayed at Kirangatt Mana for many years and taught one Kirangatt Nambudiripad, Avanaparamb Godan (Anujan) Nambudiripad and others. The latter was exceptionally brilliant, and could even predict the onset of poison; and would correctly say : "he would be dead, no need to see", "may look like dead, but may not be", "no need to treat, the patient will certainly die", and so on. He always looked as if he was out of his mind. It was he who taught his uncle (Apphan, father's younger brother) Nambyathan Nambudiripad. The Government appointed him as a Vishavaidyan in Thalappilly Taluk and retired in 1946. Thereafter, he was appointed in Kottakkal Aryavaidya Sala to start a separate Vishavaidyam wing and taught several people there for about four years. It was he who taught the present head of Avanaparamb, Maheswaran Nambudiripad.

Mankulam Govindan Namboothiri (brother of Vishnu Namboothiri, the famous Kathakali artiste) was renowned for treating snake-bites and rabies. After his studies in the Ayurveda College at Thiruvananthapuram, he took his "Visha Vaidya Visaarad" in 1940 and took to private practice. By 1952, he became an "A-Class" practitioner and got Government grants. After half-a-century of practice and a large number of students to boast of, he died on April 22, 2000, but with no one in the family to continue the tradition set by him.

There was one Thamattur Namboodiri who was a renowned Vishavaidyan. Among his students was the famous (late) Cherukulappurath Krishnan Namboodiri, who was very proficient also in paediatrics, Ashtaanga Vaidyam, Tharkam, Meemaamsa and other Saasthrams; many had learned under him. Prominent among them were Poomulli Neelakandhan Nambudiripad, Pakaravur Thuppan Namboodiri, Panjavur Krishnan Namboodiri, and Vallur Sankaran Namboodiri.

Cherukulappuram had contributed much and developed his own lines of treatment and antidotes. Slightly different from the traditional Kokkara method for rabies, he treated victims with three days of medicines and strict controls (Patthyam), followed by three days of controls alone. This was highly effective and had saved many a victim. In addition, a special medicine for "Sarvaangya Soppham", a specially treated buttermilk ("Kotamoru") for intestinal problems ("Grahani") among children, an oil for "Cheeru" ("Thaalukandakam" or mumps), etc. are his own contributions, and disclosed only to his students. He has also published a treatise in Sanskrit, "Visha Vaidya Saara Samuchayam".

Among the several other Namboothiri specialists in Vishachikitsa, some prominent ones are: Avanaparamb Nambyathan Nambudiripad, Andaladi Achhan Nambudiripad, Pakaravur Neelakandhan Namboodiri, Paduthol Nambudiripad, Panjal Thottam Neelakandhan Namboodiri (who revived their family tradition in toxicology and paediatrics), Attuthala Achhan Namboodiri, Athiriyedath Namboodiri, Kunimadham Vishnusarman Namboodiri and Vallur Agnisarman Namboodiri.

Among the present day practitioners of Visha Vaidyam are: Avanaparamb (with a family tradition for generations) Maheswaran Nambudiripad, his son Dr Sankaran Nambudiripad, Vadavarkodu (Maattippatteri) Krishnan Bhattathiripad, Vallur Sankaran Namboodiri (continuing the family tradition), his daughter Ullannur Vimala Antharjanam, her son Brahmadathan (Anu) Namboodiri, Thottam Neelakandhan Namboodiri, etc. Mallisseri Aparna and Kongorppilly Krishnan Nmaboodiri's daughter Sangeetha are now studying under Vallur Sankaran Namboodiri.

Udiyannur Namboodiri family uses an antidote for rat poisoning handed down (through "Upadesam") from generation to generation. The "Valiya Amma" of Mannarasala also treats rat poisoning by administering a paste made from a particular green leaf. The Paruthipra family near Ottapalam uses their age-old traditional practice of detoxication by making the victim to vomit the poison.

Pambumekkatt and Mannarasala do not actually practice Vishachikitsa. After the snake bite-victims are brought there, they spray Theerttham (sacred water) and drop Bhasmam (sacred ash) on the victims. It is believed that the victims are saved through the blessings of the serpent gods.

Amedamangalam, Pathirikkunnath, Athippatta, etc. are famous for eliminating the wrath of serpents ("Sarpakopam") and also ritually relocate sacred serpent groves ("Paambinkaavu").

Kerala has seen numerous Namboothiri families who used to practice Vishachikitsa in very effective yet inexpensive manner, absolutely free. It is a pity that today only a handful continue that tradition.

| Article No:20.3 | Last update of this article:22nd February 2001 |
Article prepared by: V M C Sankaran Namboodiri, Vallur Mana, Kundalasseri (P.O.), Keralasseri (Via), 678 641, Palakkad Dist. Phone : 0492-845123

With inputs from: A S Maheswaran Nambudiripad, Avanaparamb Mana, Kumbalangatt (P.O.), Wadakkancherry, Thrissur Dist.

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