ENS, KOZHIKODE: A German national is working towards popularising Ayurveda in his homeland by encouraging students to travel all the way to Kerala to experience the traditional science firsthand.
Hendrik Wiethase makes it a point to spend at least two months in Kerala every year soaking in the culture and learning more about the vanishing traditional sciences. But when he is back home in Germany, he is busy searching for students who share his passion for Ayurveda.
“We have established an educational institution for Germans who want to study Ayurveda and we assist them in coming to Kerala and learning Ayurveda firsthand from Kalaris and various traditional doctors,” he says. He also directs Germans seeking treatment to Ayurvedic centres in the state.
A filmmaker by profession, Wiethase discovered Kerala by accident thanks to his passion for archery. “I learned archery at a very young age and when I grew up I began to approach it more scientifically. I then found out that the traditional Indian science of Dhanurveda contained many useful tips for archers and I first came to Kerala to research on the subject,” he said. That was eight years ago and now Wiethase said that he had developed his own archery techniques incorporating numerous tips from the Dhanurveda.
Meanwhile, Wiethase discovered the ancient martial art of Kalari and the various treatment methods taught in the subject that lead him to Ayurveda, in which he developed a deep interest. However, he said, his efforts to whip up the same level of interest in Germany has not been entirely successful.
“In Germany, most of the people interested in Ayurveda are only interested in the wellness aspects of it. They just want to learn about the fancy massages and other superficial techniques but are not interested in gaining a deeper knowledge of the subject,” he says.
Despite this, Wiethase is going forward in his efforts to make Germans aware of Ayurveda and the potential that it has to offer medical science. He is currently wrapping up the shooting of a documentary on Kerala that he plans to broadcast on German television. “I have had a couple of documentaries that I made, shown on it so it should not be too hard. I recently shot a segment at the Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala,” he said.
Dr Lal Krishnan, a consultant at the Hindustan Kalari in Kozhikode, at which Wiethase is a frequent visitor, is quick to recognise the contributions that the German has made to Kalari. “Dhanurveda is actually a part of ancient Kalari that was lost sometime during the British rule. Now it exists only among a few tribes. Wiethase stayed with these tribes and put the entire science of archery together. Pupils here affectionately call him Dronacharya,” he says.