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Friday, 26 October 2012 12:00

The Mahatma Gandhi Ayurved Hospital

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For this special issue of News on Sunday, our weekly rendez-vous is scheduled at the Mahatma Gandhi Ayurved Hospital situated at Calebasses.
Away from the concrete jungle, we are welcomed by a cool breeze into the premises which overlook the Port Louis mountain range. Vast plantations of pineapples flank both sides of the buildings. Blossomed mango trees add a touch of beauty to the landscape while the litchi trees transmit a message of a promisingly bountiful summer.

The pristine white and beige building is spacious and very simple. Palm trees grace every nook and corner of the edifice. The soft Hindustani music emanating from the reception is completely in sync with the movements of the leaves of the palm trees, which sway in peaceful obedience to the command of the breeze. Nature conspires beautifully to make the compound of the hospital one which is laden in perfect harmony.

We meet Mr. Premchand Boojhawon, the general secretary of the hospital and Mrs. Deepa Bauhadoor, the officer in charge. Seated in the office, and constantly shifting from Hindi and Bhojpuri to Creole. Mr. Bhoojhawon tells us the history of the hospital.

In 1985, Vaidhs (Ayurvedic physicians) came to Mauritius. At that time our people were ignorant of the Ayurvedic system. It understandingly therefore, enjoyed no legal status, even if it was not prohibited by law.

The Indian citizen Jugdish Prasad Sharma proposed an Ayurvedic system in Mauritius, following which two doctors and free medicines were sent from India. “These people came as missionaries and to make the benefits of Ayurveda known, they held a march around the whole island for 30 days to educate Mauritians about this alternate medicine with no side effects. Gradually, from mouth-to-ear publicity, people started to realise what a boon it is and even VIPs started seeking it out. The service was free at that time,” he recalls.

Eventually, the Government passed the Ayurveda and other Traditional Medicines Act in1988. Hence, Ayurveda began enjoying the same legal status as allopath.

The foundation stone of the Hospital was laid by Shri Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister of Human Resources Development of India on 1 November 2001 in the presence of the Ashok Jugnauth, then Minister of Health and Shri Vijay Kumar, Indian High Commissioner. Construction works started on November 2, 2002, a date which marks the anniversary of the arrival of Indian indentured labourers.

However, after JP Sharma passed away, the free medicine from India was no longer a possibility. When the other voluntary pioneer doctors died, qualified doctors had to be brought in. Inevitably, the service started to be payable. However, as pointed out by Mr. Boojhawon, the cost is the bare minimum for they want Ayurveda to be accessible to everybody.

On December 9, 2006, the first phase of the hospital was inaugurated by H.E. Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Republic of Zambia. Today, there are three more centres, in Rose Belle, Paillotte and Goodlands.

The main services offered betwen 9am and 4pm at the hospital and its three regional centres under the guidance and supervision of qualified 'Vaidyas' (Ayurvedic Doctors) and masseurs are: consultation by qualified and registered Ayurveda Doctors; medicine dispensing; massage facilities; oil massage; steam bath; Shirodhara (special medicated oil bath for head); Nasya (treatment of nasal diseases); Netra Basti (treatment for eyes); Facial (for both men and women); Yoga and meditation and advice on special requirement for specific diseases (diet chart, slimming, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery etc.).

In 2004, a new wing was set up: Ayurveda Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Substance Abusers, especially alcoholics and smokers (ACTReSA). This free service treats addicted patients using Ayurvedic System. The treatment and rehabilitation of substance abusers is presently offered at all the centres.

The hospital aims at building a unique health care centre for the Indian Ocean and Africa Region. It is visited by different people and even tourists are showing an active interest. Mr. Boojhawon invites everybody to come discover and take advantage of the manifold benefits of Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic medicine, also called Ayurveda, originated in India several thousand years ago. The term “Ayurveda” combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda means “the science of life.” Ayurvedic treatment mainly comprises of powders, tablets, decoctions and medicated oils prepared from natural herbs, plants and minerals. Because the medicines are from natural sources and not synthetic, they are accepted and assimilated in the body without creating any side effects and on the other hand, there may be some side benefits. The aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to integrate and balance the body, mind and spirit. This is believed to help prevent illness and promote wellness.

Ayurvedic medicine continues to be practised in India, where nearly 80 percent of the population uses it exclusively or combined with conventional (Western) medicine. Most major cities in India have an Ayurvedic college and hospital. The Indian government began systematic research on Ayurvedic practices in 1969, and that work continues. Meanwhile, Ayurveda is of growing success in all parts of the world, and Mauritius is no exception.

Dr. Umesh Kumar Laxmanrao Patil from India who presently practises at the Mahatma Gandhi Ayurved Hospital believes that Ayurveda befits the Mauritian community, for it has answers to our most recurrent ailments: obesity and skin problems.

Also, “Ayurvedic treatment does not mean suppressing the main symptoms and creating some new ones as side effects of the main treatment. It is to remove the root cause and give permanent relief. We do not like having our patients coming to us again and again. When somebody comes to us, we want the problem to be solved for good,” he says.

Ayurvedic treatment is tailored to each person’s constitution. Practitioners expect patients to be active participants because many Ayurvedic treatments require changes in diet, lifestyle and habits. And if there is something that Dr. Patil laments over it is the poor eating habit of Mauritians. “I notice that you avoid ghee. But you are unaware that ghee can be very beneficial to your heart and intellect. Breakfast must be heavy, lunch lighter, and dinner must be half of your lunch. But here, I see the exact opposite!”

It is high time for an appointment at the Mahatma Gandhi Ayurved Hospital to remedy that, isn’t? Call 243 0772.

Mumtaz Soogund

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