Ayurveda may be 5,000 years old but the prevalence still remains strong even today on a day-to-day basis.
Festivals define the cultural nuances of a community and India as a larger community is a festival we celebrate every day. Each part of India enjoys a certain privilege when it comes to festivals and celebrations, especially the regional characteristic of that said festival. Agriculture is so deeply penetrated in our system that a rain-shower is as important a reason to celebrate as the birth of a child. Harvest season is celebrated in different parts of the country and during this time of the year we sail through the coastline to arrive at Kerala where Onam, the annual harvest festival of the state, is celebrated in full swing enveloping unique and interesting rituals – all symbolising fertility and prosperity.
Kerala is truly enchanting during this time of the year and gives a spectacular glimpse of cultural glory that it so well deservingly boasts. Whether it is Kalivallangal, the local boat race that strums in perfect unison of the men who row the boat making the backwaters come alive, or the completely in sync Thirvathira dance gracefully performed by women in Kasavu sarees and jasmine flowers adorning their hair – Onam is a sight to behold.
Kerala is known to be home to some of the best Ayurvedic treatments in the world. People from all walks of life travel to Kerala to experience the most holistic approach to health and wellbeing and naturally tackle any issue. It is only possibly through the magic of Ayurveda and Onam season is no different. Ayurveda makes all the senses come alive with the right balance and to welcome the festive season through this experience, we’ve got Gita Ramesh, Managing Director of Kairali Ayurvedic Group to throw light on its principles.
1. Tell us about Kerala Ayurveda, and what are some of its basic principles?
Gita Ramesh: “Ayurveda is the oldest medical science in history of medicine. It’s a unique combination of traditional medical science and philosophy being practiced for over 5,000 years. Only Kerala has been following, preserving and practising it in its pristine form. It works on the concepts of three vital forces of life Vata (Ether and Air) that controls the nervous system, Pitta (Fire and Water) controls the metabolic system and Kapha (Water and Earth) controls the lubricating functions in the body are termed as ‘tridoshas’. Ayurveda believes that a person is in perfect health when the human body is in perfect balance of the vata, pitta and kapha.”
2. Ayurvedic ingredients have long been used in beauty. What are some of Kerala’s popular Ayurvedic ingredients for skincare?
Gita Ramesh: “Most of the Ayurvedic products will have turmeric, navara rice which is only cultivated in Kerala, coconut milk and saffron (kumkumadi). For face you can try Kaircin, a complete Ayurvedic formula (oil) with key ingredients like saffron and lotus. Saffron prevents skin problems and is enriched with antioxidants and anti-ageing properties. Almond and grapes can work wonders for your body.”
3. In the light of Onam, what are some of the skin rituals women indulge in before the festivities?
Gita Ramesh: “Various natural packs are made with navara rice powder and of course, turmeric with besan can be mixed and applied on the face. Fresh grated coconut mixed with turmeric can be used as scrub.”
4. Tell us a few beauty treatments that are slowly gaining momentum among women before their weddings.
Gita Ramesh: “Women aren’t just interested in facial beauty anymore. They are opting for full body therapies for hair, body and face for 14 days called Purvakarma. Purvakarma is part of Panchkarma treatment which is a three stage process. Ayurveda advises to practice Purvakarma because of the deep rooted imbalances in the body, which needs to be flushed out in the right way by Purvakarma and then by Panchkarma.”
“To undergo a purification therapy, it is highly important for the body to be prepared for the rigorous process to encourage the body to let go of the toxins. Treatments like Abhyangam, Shirodhara and Elakizhi are included to soften the tissues where the oil is applied to the entire body with a particular type of massage which helps the toxins to move towards the gastro-intestinal tract. Thereafter, therapies like Vamana, Virechana, Vasti, Nasya, Raktamoksha are used as per the body constitution (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) to complete the detoxifying process.”
5. Monsoon and haircare, what are some traditional remedies for hair care in Kerala?
Gita Ramesh: “Monsoon brings with it more humidity, which further leads to scalp problems, frizzy and damaged hair. Wet or damp hair can further lead to scalp infections, all of which leads to hair fall problems. A massage with Kairoil, an Ayurvedic hair oil, can increase blood circulation on the scalp, thus conditioning it thoroughly and promoting hair growth, strength and shine.”
“Thalapodhichil therapy is helpful, where the scalp is completely covered with high-value medicinal paste. The healing property of the herbs calms down the nervous system and soothes the nerves. This is followed up with the combination of Sirodhara-Abhyangam, an Ayurvedic massage for balancing mind, body and soul. Here a nonstop continuous stream of oil is made to drop gently on the forehead from a height. This therapy relaxes and rejuvenates the body, thus improving the immune system and resulting in healthier hair.”
6. Kerala is known for its Ayurvedic oils and powders. Tell us about their benefits and usage for beauty?
Gita Ramesh: “Yes, there are various oils for the head, face and body – all of which help to tone up the skin and bring glow to the face. Oils like Kaircin and Kairbal prevent pimples and pigmentation and gives the skin a natural glow by promoting cell regeneration. Kairoil comes with the goodness of Bhringaraj and Amla that are key ingredients known for hair growth in Ayurveda.”
7. In the fast-paced world we live in, what are some treatments to relieve stress and give peace of mind?
Gita Ramesh: “All the Purvakarma therapies like Abhyagam, Shirodhara and Pizhichil work wonders in relieving stress as the oils and massage techniques remove toxins from the body, making you feel instantly relaxed.”
8. What are certain natural oils that can be used for cell regeneration and replenishment of the skin? What is the correct technique of massaging them onto our faces?
Gita Ramesh: “Coconut oil is the solution to all our problems. A head massage with coconut oil can slow down problems such as thinning and premature greying. One can lightly massage the hair ends and apply a small amount to the scalp. Sesame oil is great for the hair as well. Use small amounts on your scalp and hair and leave it for an hour and then wash with amla shikakai shampoo.”
Ayurvedic treatments are worth experiencing once in your lifetime and Onam is a good excuse for you to be one with your mind and soul.