Traditional healers showcase their skills

July 10th, 2008 - 1:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Kozhikode, July 10 (IANS) It was a rare gathering of traditional medicine healers to showcase their skills in curing a variety of ailments, to exchange notes on different kinds of treatment, and to network to keep their ancient wisdom alive. Representatives from 30 tribes from nine states of India participated in the five-day workshop and exhibition on tribal medicine held at KIRTADS, the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes.

With all manner of leaves, roots, tubers and chipped wood spread out in front of them the tribals waxed eloquent on their healing properties during the workshop that concluded Thursday.

S.R. Kom, who represented the Kom tribe of Manipur, while handing over packets of a green powder to visitors, said: “This is a cure for a range of diseases which include cancer, diabetes and malaria. It is also beneficial for conditions like piles.”

He also displayed the plant from which the medicine was made.

“It’s called Ranhlui in Manipuri. The botanical name of the plant is Croton Caudatus Gieseler. We collect it from hills,” he explained.

KIRTADS and the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) of Bhopal, which functions under the ministry of tourism and culture, jointly organised the workshop.

“This is the fifth such workshop. The first one was organised in 1998 here,” KIRTADS director M. Sasikumar told IANS.

“Such workshops help the tribals provide their services directly to the needy by avoiding middlemen. Events like these also popularise tribal medicine,” he said.

“The interaction between the various tribal communities also helps them to learn from each other,” Sasikumar pointed out.

There were also specialists among the tribal healers.

Lakshmi, from the Kurumba tribe in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri district, only treats women.

“She is a specialist in the ailments of women,” said Jakka Parthasarathy, an anthropologist and a former director of the Tribal Research Centre of Tamil Nadu.

“There are six tribal communities in the Nilgiri district. Only three of them provide medical treatment,” Parthasarathy added.

Their method of examination is also unique.

“Diagnosis is mostly from physical features and personal traits; for instance, how the patient walks, how loud he shouts, and the colour of the eyes and skin,” Parthasarathy explained.

Nakul Kedari Javalkar from Karwar in Karnataka specialises in treating fractures.

“I can join any fractured bone in two weeks’ time,” claimed Javalkar, who uses special herbal pastes for the purpose.

Everything else apart, tribal healers never accept more than Rs.50 for a fee.

“Earlier, they used to accept things like rice or clothes,” Parthasarathy pointed out.

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