The Muthashi Project: Keeping the Circle Whole

Dear Friends,

When women come to Rasa Ayurveda for group programs through our partner, AyurvedaTrip.com, one essential activity is interacttion with local Malayalee in a meaningful way thru The Muthashi Project. This week, women attending the Women’s Ayurveda Retreat at Rasa Ayurveda participated in our fourth Muthashi Project event. Sanju, Dr. Geetha, Sandia Bachman, Rema and all the staff and students did a fantastic job showing up to offer another great program, inspiring young Malayalee women to carry on valuable ancient traditional knowledge.

The Muthashi Project, founded in 2008, seeks to sustain the traditional relationships between Malayalee women and the native botanicals they’ve successfully relied on for medicine for thousands of year. ‘Muthashi’ means great-grandmother in Malayalam, the language of Kerala. ‘Muthashi’ represents the potential every woman has to live and heal thru her personal connection with Nature, the knowledge and experience of the generations of women that came before her, and the depth of her own wisdom.

The Muthashi Project sponsors Women’s Outreach Programs to inspire younger Malayalee women to continue the age-old practice of recognizing and using native plants as medicine. We usually offer these programs in communities lying just outside the city, where there is undeveloped land and backyard space for plants to grow, but where traditional knowledge and life-ways are evaporating quickly.

The Next Generation

The Next Generation

Most Women’s Outreach Programs feature the participation of western women who’ve come to Rasa Ayurveda for treatment or study. Their presence is intriguing to younger 30 and under women, who may be more focused on earning IT degrees, than on making sure they’re able to pass their grandmother’s knowledge on to the next generation. When light-skinned, western apparently successful women show their interest in Kerala’s traditional medicine and native botanicals, the younger local women often see the treasures of their birthright with fresh, appreciative eyes, and become eager to re-embrace a healthy relationship with their plants and healing culture.

 Women Gathered

Women Gathered

Planning for an Outreach Program begins when an interested woman invites other women of various ages from her local community to attend the program. An awning is erected. Chairs and tables are set up for the event, and a delicious meal is arranged. One the day of the program, all the participants arrive and settle in. Sanju acts as facilitator and translator, welcoming everyone in Malayalam and English, and explaining the purpose of the meeting.

Next he moderates a discussion, asking the local women questions such as:

  • What plant medicines did you take when your first baby was born?
  • How do you manage your husband’s headaches?
  • What do you do if your child gets a mucousy head cold?
Noting Down Instructions for a Traditional Remedy

Noting Down Instructions for a Traditional Remedy

The older women share their knowledge of specific botanicals sending young boys scampering off onto the land to retrieve fresh, wild-growing samples of the plants they like to use. They talk about how they prepare remedies for various minor or nascent ailments.

The western women usually tell stories of how grateful they are to Ayurveda for the resurrection of their own health, and how inspiring it is to spend time in Kerala, where life can still embody the harmonious relationship with nature, that gave rise to traditional healing ways.

Western Women Speak about their Personal Experience with Ayurveda

Western Women Speak about their Personal Experience with Ayurveda

When I’m present for the program, I jump into the talk and begin asking the younger women about their use of plant remedies. I quiz them in a jesting away about botanical recognition, and encourage them to talk about the home remedies and hair oils they use. I hope to inspire them to take a greater interest in learning what their Muthashi has to teach them, before it’s too late.

Taking the Quiz!

Taking the Quiz!

Everyone shares what they know, and the women compare the effectiveness of traditional vs. Western medicine for different diseases. In every program so far, the older women have mentioned the increasing scarcity of plant materials as their main obstacle to continued practice of their ancient healing ways.

After much satisfying group discussion, attention turns toward sharing a meal together, while the learning, sharing and cross-cultural pollination continue informally, and the men and children from the community help serve the food.

Enjoying Food Together

Enjoying Food Together

When the meal is over, the Western women make a gift of three medicinal seedlings to each Malayalee woman. This is a beautiful gesture, as the plants become a living reminder of our interdependence with one another and with nature.

Planting the Past, For the Future...

Planting the Past, For the Future...

Each woman plants and nurtures the tiny medicial plants. As they tend their seedlings, we hope they’re reminded of their connection to women in the west and the world over, and of nature’s healing bounty. Once the plants mature, the women can prepare their traditional medicines knowing that they are sustaining the existence of valuable knowledge and culture, while caring for their health and the health of their family.

Receiving Seedlings

Receiving Seedlings

Fostering the woman/plant relationship is so valuable, because:

  • personal relationship with plants enhances awareness of the state of the environment and increases a stewardship attitude
  • the ability to identify and use botanicals increases self-care at an affordable cost
  • the relationship sustains traditional healing and cultural knowledge, and strengthens inter-generational ties

The Women’s Outreach Programs are always great fun, filled with new connections, stimulating discoveries, laughter, and a revitalized reverence for the traditional knowledge and native plant resources of Kerala.

The Muthashi Project also…

  • …offers free clinical services and meals for local women in need
  • researches and documents Malayalee women’s traditional herbal home-medicine and nutrition practices, and the conservation status of the native plants women use for medicines
  • is working to preserve land for medicinal botanicals
  • funds scholarships for female students who intend to serve women by applying the principles of traditional Ayurveda in alignment with the values and spirit of the Muthashi Project.

The Muthashi Project is funded by proceeds from MayaShakti Ayurveda, Pvt. Ltd. and the Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women. Donations of any amount are welcome. Companies and individuals are welcome to sponsor an outreach program or donate any amount to the general Muthashi Project fund. Please email for more information.

We look forward to welcoming you to Rasa Ayurveda ~

Niika Quistgard, Director
Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women

Comments

  1. I am a Malayali working as a software engineer in Bay area, California. I have a nick name “The Go Green Person”. I came accross this site during one of my google search for Ayurvedic herbs and uses. I am delighted to know that there is a program like this where people in Kerala are educated of the use and care of these priceless medicinal plant and the need to protect and propagate these plants.

    However I was surprised to see after all the information, people are still eating food in plastic plates and cups. When you are in a land of Coconut trees and banana leaves, do you still need to use these unhealthy plates and cups?

    • @PNair

      Goodness, you are so correct! No one should be using these plastic articles, especially for the Muthashi Project. We relied on what the local people felt comfortable providing at the time, but as you so rightly point out, these are unhealthy on many levels and should be avoided. Besides, it’s SO much more enjoyable to eat from a banana leaf!

      I find it a daily challenge to garner cooperation with avoiding use of plastic shopping bags also.
      But from now, I’ll redouble my efforts to make sure we are using only Nature’s good materials for these kinds of practical needs both inside Rasa Ayurveda, and when we are out in the community.

      Thanks so much, PNair, for writing and encouraging the effort to keep Kerala truly green…

      ~ Niika

  2. Good work

    We need to revitalise the traditional knowledge of ayurveda, but scarcity of funds we could not do any more. Please write us about how we can get financial sources for this

    Thanking you

    dr devika

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