Meet Mr Thomas Vallomthrayil, one of the chief evangelists of authentic Ayurveda in Europe, and Germany in particular. As head of the Castrop-Rauxel, the Germany- based European Ayurvedic Centre, and Kerala Ayurveda GmbH, Mr Vallomthrayil has not only strived for the propagation of Ayurveda but also fought relentlessly against the spread of its spurious versions. His long fight for the cause of genuine Ayurveda had the German authorities form guidlines for the practioners, including doctors and therapists, on the lines of those implemented by the Government of India. It also helped initiate close interaction between the authorities in the two countries for greater coopperation in the field of Ayurevda.
The fight of Mr Vallomthrayil for the cause of authentic Ayurveda has its roots in his gratitude to it for saving his life. When he was 42, Mr Thomas was diagnosed with a rarely spread and researched lung disease which doctors said was fatal, and granted him a life of a maximum five more years. He consulted some of the best physicians in Germany who offered him no cure. Disheartened, Mr Thomas, who hailed from Kerala, decided to visit his birthplace once again and meet with his near and dear ones for one last time.
During his stay, he met an old friend, an Ayurveda doctor, who convinced him to try Ayurveda. While he was undergoing panchakarma therapy, his two other doctor-friends – an allopath and a homeopath – also offered to pitch in with their treatment ideas. They sat together and designed a treatment course which took him out of the difficult situation. Fourteen years later, Mr Vallomthrayil is today a healthy businessman, busy expanding his empire across the globe.
On his return to Germany, Mr Vallomthrayil realised that Ayurveda, with its healing powers, could do a lot of good to millions of patients suffering from chronic diseases, especially those related to rheumatism, diabetes, heart and bone diseases. With international organisations such as the World Health Organisation acknowledging the scientific basic of Ayurveda, it enjoyed high acceptance among people.
Mr Vallomthrayil, however, realised that ordinary Europeans have no access to authentic and genuine Ayurveda. There are many Ayurveda institutes even in Germany, but they are not well-equipped or have no well-trained practitioners to offer quality Ayurveda. Some of them subject patients to procedures which are expressly banned by Ayurveda principles. Like the beachside ‘Ayurveda massage centres’ exposing patients to strong sea winds after panchakarma therapy. Mr Thomas realised that most ‘therapists’ in these massage centres had undergone just 12-30 days of theoretical course before joining, or even opening, ‘Ayurveda centres.’ The worse part of the story is that even Ayurveda doctors supported this unethical practice.
Mr Vallomthrayil decided not to watch the charade in silence. In the late Nineties, he launched a campaign propagating the real value and meaning of Ayurveda by holding a series of seminars on Ayurveda. He informed the North Rhine-Westphalian state Government about the possibilities of Ayurveda in the German Heath system and, at the same time, the dangers of the spread of the spurious variety. He also communicated with the Government of Kerala about the ill-reputation that badly managed centres brought to Ayurveda.
His crusade bore fruit in 2002 when the government invited him, along with officials from Kerala, for a meeting for setting up standards for Ayurveda practice in Germany. “It was a turning point,” says Mr Vallomthrayil. The next year, apart from officials of Kerala and NRW, secretary to the AYUSH department, Government of India, also attended the meeting. It was felt at the meeting that there should be a company which had the commitment to bring the AYUSH standards to Germany, and that led to him launching Kerala Ayurveda GmbH. German authorities agreed to help the company with regulatory issues.
The German government also formulated guidelines for Ayurveda therapists with the cooperation of various Ministries, Institutes and vocational schools apart from AYUSH and the Kerala Health Ministry. It designed a three-year course for Ayurveda practitioners with government recognition. The Medial Park Ruhr, a medical academy completed in 2007 under Mr Vallomthrayil, is now planning to offer various courses for therapists and post-graduate programmes for medical doctors. The Federal Ministry of Health, Germany, has now joined the project. Mr Vallomtharayil says the project will enhance the image and effectiveness of Ayurveda in Germany and other European countries.“Of the more than 6,000 Ayurvedic institutes now functioning in Germany, only about 20 have qualification equivalent to BAMS,” he said.
Mr Vallomthrayil was also instrumental in the visit of representatives form NRW Health Ministry and the Federal Ministry for Research and Education to Kerala and AYUSH to discuss the establishment of a concerted flow of patients from Germany to India, cooperation in clinical research and exchange of students. “It was a success in that the governments decided to implement new standards for Ayurveda education and training, increase the number of patients being sent to India.”
Today, Mr Vallomthrayil has the close links with professional ayurvedic centres in Kerala and refers patients there. The centre would direct European patients to appropriate Indian centres. After their return from India, the Centre would provide coordinated follow-up treatment and medication.